Tag-Archive for » Venice Restaurants «

Aug
15

Murder at Venice Beach

Early Morning.

“Why don’t you take a morning off? ” Brad sighed. “And come back here, my love.” Kelly smiled as she pulled running shorts over her long tanned legs. “You know I can’t miss a day; Not, if I’m going to win that marathon. Keep me company.” She tied her sneakers. “Not today babe. I’m real tired.” Brad replied with one eye closed. “Besides, I can’t keep up with you at my best.” Kelly blew him a kiss. “Keep the bed warm. I’ll be back real soon.” She locked the apartment door behind her.

It was a damp, overcast morning at Venice Beach. The sea mist quickly enveloped Kelly, as she went through her leg stretches. “Maybe I should forget it this morning?” She thought and suddenly yearned to be safe in her lover’s arms. The mist felt like icy fingers that pinched her skin. “But I must train every day.” Reluctantly, she slowly began to run along the sidewalk. A drunk was passed out next to a trash dumpster, empty bottle by his side. He had been using it as his sleeping place for the last three nights; probably his diner as well, she suspected. Kelly wondered how old he was? It was impossible to tell with his long mattered hair and beard.

She encountered the homeless almost every day and it always depressed her, but when she turned onto Wave View street her spirits were raised as she passed by the quaint houses. Wave View is one of the many pedestrian alley ways that criss cross the city of Venice. The houses are an eclectic community of brightly painted wood bungalows and modern multi-level dwellings. The mist began to clear as Kelly ran passed her favorite house. It was shaped similar to a light house, with a stained glass dome of a roof. The front yard was open and she noticed the young man as he arranged fold-up tables. “He’s having another garage sale.” She thought. “Every Saturday, like clockwork.” The man caught her gaze for an instant and then shyly turned away to set up his wares. “He’s cute,” she smiled and joined the cycle path that winds along the beach from Santa Monica through Venice and beyond. Kelly kicked her pace up a notch and began to pass most of the others already on the pathway; joggers, dog walkers and skate boarders.

These days the Venice beach community is a diverse group of the rich, poor, street performers, vendors and many vagrants. It is in some ways still a throwback from the sixties, with the ever present legacy of Jim Morrison on billboards, posters, and a even a tribute band that performs

Aug
11

The Grand Canal Shoppes in Macau is an exact replica of its sister property in the gambling city of Las Vegas. It is a shopping mall inspired by the Italian port city of Venice and has exquisite baroque themed architecture which gives it an authentic Venetian feel. However, at 968,000 square feet of shopping space the mall is twice as large as its sister property in Vegas.

The Grand Canal Shoppes in Macau is the epitome of luxury shopping malls with its elaborately themed decorations, architecture and appropriate street entertainment, the mall feel as if a part of Venice were transported to Asia and leased out to designer stores. The mall has three large indoor canals through which visitors can take a relaxing ride on a Gondola- an open air boat that is unique to Venice and to add a bit of Asian flavour, visitors can opt to also have a Dragon boat ride.

The shopping mall features more than 350 outlets by luxury and designer brands, an 86,000 square foot Spa, twenty high end restaurants, a thousand seat food court and a hip and happening night club. Even live theatrical performances are available on evenings with crowds usually in excess of 1800 in attendance. Some of Venice’s landmarks have been replicated at Grand Canal Shoppes, places like St. Mark’s square hosts carnival like events and also features a bevy of street performers.

There is absolutely no shortage of hotels in Macau, as it has become the most popular vacation spot in Asia. A number of international hotels and resorts have ventured here to capitalize on the booming tourist arrivals to the area. Luxury Macau hotels are some of the best in the world with many internationally renowned brands involved in the sector.

Aug
09

Knowing a few things about the restaurants and the way they charge you will help you to get the best service and pay only a reasonable amount for it. While one would like to say that all eating spots are fair and list everything upfront, sadly, it is not so.

There are a number of places that put a footnote in the menu saying tat a certain dish is only to be ordered for two. That means that either you end up wasting the stuff or that your companion eats something he or she did not really order.

Most Venetian eateries routinely add a service charge of around 10 to 15% to your bill. You can take it that the tip has been added. Unless the service is exceptional, there is really no need to pay an additional tip. Remember also that by law you are required to take a receipt from the restaurant after your meal. I do not think you will be ever required to produce it anywhere; it is to ensure that the owner does not cheat on his taxes.

So if a local guide tells you that the custom in Venice is to tip 15% after a meal, you know whose side he is on!

Many visitors are surprised to see a plate of pretzels on their table and cannot (naturally enough) resist munching. Everyone assumes that the plate is complimentary. It is only when you get the bill that you realize that you are billed for each pretzel you eat! If you are not careful, you can easily double your bill this way.

In almost every trattorie (a small and simple eating place), and rosticcerie (a common Italian snack bar) you will find a place to sit and a counter where you can just stand and finish your meal. There is a difference in costs between the two. And the difference can be substantial. Most people simply pick up their food and walk. If you choose a restaurant with a view of the canal, good seating and table service, you can expect to pay about twice what the menu shows by way of service charges. So choose accordingly.

There is no dearth of watering holes in the city and you can find some really good ones on the Campo di Santa Margarita. This is an area favored by students from the university and is especially active on weekends.

Enjoy Venice, stretch your euros and have fun. After all this is what you are here for is not it?

Aug
06

It may not have the bustling squares of Florence, the imposing monuments of Rome or the flowing canals of Venice, but Naples is where you will get to know the ‘heart of Italy’. The city may be noisy, polluted, overcrowded, and slightly intimidating, but it is equally intriguing and engaging, and boasts a spectacular selection of tasty dishes.

Neapolitan cuisine owes much to the fertile soil which offers up some unique crops, above all the San Marzano tomato, as well as the sea which is the basis for all the seafood dishes. Mussels, clams and other shellfish all play a huge part in the cuisine of the city. From the simple ‘impepata di cozze’ (mussels, hot pepper, parsley, lemon juice and some bread), to far more elaborate recipes, the mussel rules. The rest of the local seafood is treated equally well. A classic ‘frittura mista’ might include ring sliced squids, small whole fishes, little shrimps and big prawns.

One of the best places to enjoy a traditional Neapolitan meal is behind Castel dell’Ovo, in the small district known as ‘Borgo Marinari’ where many small and pretty tratorias offers a good selection of dishes based on the typical southern Italian fare. This is also a relatively cheap area in which to eat, especially when compared with nearby Santa Lucia or Mergellina. If you are on a tight budget, the ‘Centro Storico’ has plenty of places serving traditional dishes at reasonable prices. Needless to say, this is where you will have the chance to eat along with the locals.

Naples is the proud birthplace of pizza: halfway between refined cuisine and traditional working-class meal, Neapolitan pizza became one of the main dishes and a symbol of Neapolitan cuisine in the 18th Century. It was finally consecrated in 1889, when the famous pizza maker Raffaele Esposito offered it to the Queen Margherita di Savoia. The recipe the queen liked best, topped with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, was later named ‘Pizza Margherita’ in her honor.

If you are interested in history as well as food and want to visit the place where this pizza was invented you are in luck because it is still around and is now known as Pizzeria Brandi. At this moment you could consider that place a bit of a tourist trap but it should be worth the visit just to say that you have ate in the pizzeria where the pizza was invented. There are other well known and notable pizzerias as well such as Da Michele, Di Matteo, Trianon da Ciro, as well as Cafasso but to tell the truth, it is really difficult to eat a bad pizza in Naples. You could even grab a pizza from one of the street-side stalls, eating it folded into quarters and find it to be tastier than the ones made by your local pizza maker.

Unlike pizza, pasta was not invented in Naples, but it was in the nearby Gragnano that the industrial production of pasta started, together with the techniques to dry and preserve it. Made out of durum wheat, harder to manipulate than soft wheat, the industrial made pasta was more successful here than in northern Italy, where home-made pasta was (and still is) more popular. Pasta from Gragnano is still acknowledged for the quality of the wheat and the slow drying process. The most popular variety,, besides the classic spaghetti and linguine, are the ‘paccheri’ (large hollow tube shaped pasta) and ‘ziti’, long pipe-shaped pasta, broken by hand before cooking and usually topped with rag?r />

In Naples you can have pasta with almost everything: vegetables, meat, fish, butter or even olive oil alone. Even with so many recipes to choose from, Neapolitans have their “holy trinity” of pasta sauces: ‘pummarola’, ‘rag?nd ‘genovese’. Pummarola, a basic tomato sauce without extra flavors except basil,only tastes the way it should only if made with the proper ‘san marzano’ tomatoes. Rag? actually a tomato based stew where the meat is eaten on the side. Genovese is similar to rag?t, instead of the tomato, there is a large amount of onions which are stewed with the meat.

Genovese and rag?e two of those dishes that need time, three hours being the absolute minimum, to be cooked. As a result they are classical home-cooked dishes not too popular with restaurants. If you want to taste a good genovese or rag?our best bet is to get invited to a Neapolitan home since restaurants either didn’t serve them or only knock up a poor version.

A typical Neapolitan menu may start with a ‘mozzarella in carrozza’ (literally ‘mozzarella in a carriage’, the carriage being two slices of bread dipped in beaten egg and deep-fried) or a ‘caprese’ salad (mozzarella, tomato and basil) and then continue with a pasta dish such as ‘spaghetti alle vongole veraci’ (spaghetti with clams), or ‘maccheroni al rag?As a main course, you can have either ‘impepata di cozze’ or oven-baked mullet. Then to freshen up your mouth after fish dishes, there is nothing better than a good mature cheese like ‘scamorza’ or ‘caciocavallo’.

Finally, you just cannot miss out on tasting one of the typical Neapolitan pastries such as ‘bab?(made with light flour, eggs, and yeast and bathed in rum or limoncello), ‘sfogliatella’ (a shell shaped pastry made out of several thin layers of dough filled with orange-flavored ricotta), ‘struffoli’ (grape-size, deep-fried dough balls dipped in honey) and, last but not least, ‘pastiera napoletana’ (an orange blossom flavored wheat and ricotta pie, traditionally made at Easter). Needless to say, these delicacies are always accompanied by a cup of coffee or a glass of flavored liqueurs (namely rosolio, limoncello or walnut-flavored nocillo).

This article is part of a series covering the most important italian travel destinations and regional cuisines. You can find similar articles about eating out in Rome, Florence, Milan. Venice. Elba Island and the Tuscan Archipelago.

Aug
02

Twenty-three miles north of Miami on the subtropical Atlantic Coast, Fort Lauderdale is a sophisticated resort destination as well as the yachting and cruise capital of the world. There are numerous options for airfare to Fort Lauderdale with three major airports in the area that service the city: Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International, Miami International, and Palm Beach International.

Fort Lauderdale is known as the “Venice of America” for its intricate network of canals and Florida’s deepest port, Port Everglades, which makes this beach city a major hub for the boating industry. The canals offer a twist to sightseeing, with many water taxis and aquatic city tours. From the sea you can catch a glimpse of Florida’s most beautiful waterfront mansions that line the bays and canals. Also, Fort Lauderdale’s proximity to the Bahamas and Caribbean makes tropical cruise travel extraordinarily convenient out of Port Everglades.

Fort Lauderdale’s Fine and Funky Enclaves

Travel to Fort Lauderdale is diverse and eclectic due to the city’s various districts, each with its own personality and character. The Strip, or Fort Lauderdale Beach, was put on the map as a Spring Break mecca during the 1970s and 80s due to the film Where the Boys Are. Elbo Room, the famous spring break bar that was featured in the film, is still standing today at the corner of Las Olas Blvd. and A1A. That intersection may not be as wild today, but its ocean breeze and string of lively bars and restaurants still attracts spring breakers and local beach-goers alike.

Further down Las Olas Blvd. in Downtown, the entertainment district has experienced a major rebirth, attracting waves of locals and visitors alike. Enjoy an evening at the Broward Center for the Performing arts and then wander by the many new restaurants and shops lining the boulevard. This area is also home to Fort Lauderdale’s museums, including the Museum of Art and the Museum of Discovery and Science as well as some historical exhibits covering the Native American and European settler history of Fort Lauderdale. Just to the north, Wilton Manors is a very popular gay and lesbian community within Fort Lauderdale, packed with lively bars, blaring nightclubs and all inclusive resorts. Whatever your orientation may be, this place is certainly worth a visit.

Get In and Get Out

Travel to Fort Lauderdale and experience all of what the southeast Floridian coast has to offer. The city is conveniently close to Miami’s South Beach resorts, clubs and restaurants and just a short drive to the expansive biodiversity of Florida’s Everglades. Additionally, booking your airfare to Fort Lauderdale today will get you that much closer to a luxurious Bahamas or Florida Keys vacation. Treat yourself to a tropical getaway right here in the United States.

Aug
01

South Louisiana: From the Vieux Carre to Venice

This year for Spring Break we went to South Louisiana and back to our home town, New Orleans, or NOLA. While we have lived in Nashville, Tennessee for 13 years, we decided to head to “Cajun Country” to check out the status of things and give that grand ole city our business. To say the least, we were pleasantly surprised. Yes, there still were many empty houses in the eastern section of the city, but as a whole, it has brilliantly restored itself and is emerging from the looming economic despair it was facing.

We stayed in the heart of the French Quarter, Vieux Carre, at an exquisitely restored boutique hotel, Hotel St. Marie. We had an inner room with a balcony overlooking the courtyard and pool, which isolated the traveling sounds of nearby streets. We had determined to spend this trip as tourists and see the city as though we were new to it. We dined at old traditional neighborhood restaurants and newly created bistros. The recently established, Cochon, in the warehouse district, was a supreme surprise. With an in-house Boucherie (butchery) the chefs were able to prepare cultural favorites such as boudin and andouille. We sat at the “Chef’s Counter” where we watched Chef Stryjewski and his staff prepare our meal. After ordering the traditional N’Awlins cocktail, Sazerac, we were ready to begin our dining extravaganza. We were so enamored by the combination of ingredients that we were inspired to order one of everything on the menu well almost everything. Let’s just say that the spoon bread with tomatoes and okra, fried alligator with the chili garlic aioli and andouille with sweet potatoes and black-eyed pea vinaigrette were all equally amazing and thoroughly tantalizing. Other favorite dining adventures included Brigtsen’s and their delectable tuna with corn sauce, Muriel’s turtle soup and Upperline’s roasted duck with ginger peach sauce – all seemed to be on the same path, to recreate NOLA one dish at a time.

The Vieux Carrie also boasted of hosting the first-time ever exhibition of the Vatican Mosaic Studio. This was truly a breath-taking exploration of both cut enamel and filament enamel art work from ever-patient artisans. The filament enamel work entitled “Roman Forum” was my favorite as it truly looked like an oil painting rather than stretched glass.

Another highlight of the trip was an excursion to Plaquemines Parish and the fishing town of Venice, Louisiana. This is where the eye of Katrina passed and pushed approximately 4000 boats over the levees. However, the people have been working hard and we only saw about 10 boats left to recover. We went with family on a chartered, flat-bottomed, marsh boat down to the mouth of the mighty Mississippi River and proceeded to do some “catchin” as we weren’t just fishing. Among the fish we caught were red fish, speckled trout and sheep’s head; enough for a grand ole fish fry and plenty to bring home. In this Cajun girl’s opinion, NOLA and Venice looked, felt and tasted great. South Louisiana is back and better than ever.

Jul
30

In the distant past chandeliers were so rare and expensive that only royalty could afford them. Nowadays, there are so many different styles of chandeliers available at all price levels that it is easy to get overwhelmed by all the choices! The right choice of a chandelier is extremely important as it is one of the most important details of the interior design. That is why people who care about the look and style of their home and want to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere often look for a unique, one-of-a-kind chandelier. Just such a chandelier can be found in Murano, Italy.

Murano island, located just north of Venice, Italy, is a world-famous center of glassmaking that has been housing the glass producers since the thirteenth century. All of the glassmakers were moved to this island in 1291 from Venice as a result of dangerous fires jeopardizing the largely wooden structures of Venice. These days, all the major Murano glass producers are still based on this small island, and they keep up the ancient glassmaking traditions.

Murano glass chandeliers are entirely hand-made in the ancient traditions of the craft using the same techniques and tools that were employed by the artisans’ predecessors centuries ago. That is why when you are purchasing a Murano chandelier, you are not simply purchasing an object that was made to light a room, you are actually purchasing a one-of-a-kind piece of history that has been created by master artisans with care and passion. Murano glass is extremely high-quality and certainly one of the best types of art glass in the world, so when you buy a Murano chandelier, you can rest assured that you are buying the very best.

If you happen to be looking for a Murano chandelier, there are many things to consider before you purchase one. First of all, if you are not buying your chandelier physically in Murano, make sure you are dealing with a reputable seller who carries only authentic Murano glass. For that you need to know whether the seller or the maker of the chandeliers are members of Consortium Promovetro – the only Venetian Glass industry organization that promotes authenticity of Murano glass against the multitude of counterfeits and fakes available in the world today. Quoting from the Consortium’s website, “it represents over 70 craft and industrial businesses on Murano and in Venice. Since its foundation, Promovetro has worked hard to promote the image of Murano’s artistic glass with the declared intent of conserving, safeguarding and defending Murano’s thousand year old art of glass, and at the same time to promote, develop and assist in properly marketing this important cultural heritage in the world.”

Secondly, decide on a style you like, the size, and the number of lamps you need. Murano glass chandeliers come in multitude of designs from classic ones that vary little from the antique pieces hanging in Venetian palazzos to art deco or modern ones with clean lines and bold colors. Usually due its handmade nature, each chandelier can be further customized to your requirements in terms of the colors and number of lamps. Keep in mind that Murano artisans can create anything from small and simple wall sconces to large and intricate concert-hall pieces.

Thirdly, consider the price ranges for the chandelier styles you are interested in and definitely do your research to ensure you are getting a good deal. A quick online search will bring up multiple results that will not only allow you to locate the online retailers that will sell a Murano chandelier, but will also let you explore the various styles and compare prices. Just keep in mind as you are doing that to always ensure authenticity, as counterfeit pieces from China and other places outside of Venice will cost much less than the genuine ones. If you cannot buy in Murano, you are usually better off going with a direct importer than with a reseller, who not only has limited knowledge of the market and the products, but also will often charge a higher price and add extra fees to your order.

Last but not least, you need to consider where you are going to put it. A Murano chandelier is not just a light fixture, but a beautiful masterpiece with rich history. It is a treasure that, if placed right, will create a special atmosphere in your home or office. Hanging it in a formal entryway, over a dining room table or in a living room are some of the options, but keep in mind that it needs to work well with the rest of your dcor and color scheme.

While there is a multitude of chandeliers on the market today, there is simply nothing that compares to a Murano glass chandelier. The unique design, the amazing heritage, combined with the perfect skill and passion that goes into making these beautiful pieces of art is unparalleled in the world.

Jul
26

If you are hankering for a European tourist destination, why not consider the Veneto region of northern Italy on the Gulf of Venice? Venice is its best-known city and one of the most popular tourist destinations on earth. Don’t forget that the Veneto region is a lot more than this great city. It hosts many other excellent tourist attractions, and you won’t have to fight the huge crowds. With a little luck you’ll avoid tourist traps, and come back home feeling that you have truly visited Italy. This article examines tourist attractions in the university city of Padua in central Veneto. Be sure to read our companion articles on northern Veneto, on southern Veneto, and on that Shakespearean city of Verona.

Padua, population over two hundred thousand, is only about twenty-five miles (forty kilometers) west of Venice but has always had a life of its own. It was the setting for Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Padua claims to be the oldest city in northern Italy, founded early in the Twelfth Century B.C. It held out against the Lombards for twelve years at the beginning of the Seventh Century only to be burnt to the ground. Padua was the headquarters of the Italian Army in the First World War and the site of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s surrender.

The historic city center surrounded by seven miles (eleven kilometers) of Sixteenth Century walls is home to the City Hall, whose wall is covered by the names of the Paduan war dead. Other sites of interest include the Palazzo della Ragione described next and the Nineteenth Century Neoclassical Caff?edrocchi. This caff?s one of the largest in the world and the hub of the uprisings in 1848 perhaps not surprising given its proximity to the university described below.

The Twelfth Century Palazzo della Ragione (Palace of Reason) in spite of its name is not a philosopher’s hangout, but a huge centuries-old marketplace. The hall itself is about two hundred seventy feet (eighty meters) long so when people say you can’t miss it, they aren’t kidding. This magnificent building was heavily damaged by fire early in the Fifteenth Century, unfortunately completely destroying a great collection of frescoes. So the frescoes you’ll see are somewhat more modern. By the way, the collection includes one of the few complete sets of the zodiac signs. The palace is no longer the seat of the Padua government and often hosts art shows.

Padua University in the city’s historic center at the Palazzo del Bo’ (Ox Palace, named for a inn that it replaced) was founded in 1222 when many professors and students left the University of Bologna over the issue of academic freedom. Jurisprudence and theology were the first courses offered. From the Fifteenth Century to the Eighteenth Century the university was renowned for its research, particularly in the areas of medicine, astronomy, philosophy, and law. On June 25, 1678, Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia became the world’s first woman graduate when awarded a doctorate in Philosophy in the Padua Cathedral. In addition to mathematics, philosophy, and theology Piscopia mastered the following languages: Italian, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Spanish, French, and Arabic. Other famous professors and graduates include Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, and Giacomo Casanova. You should visit its Anatomy Theatre, the oldest in the world built in 1594. To deal with the issue of overcrowding many university faculties have recently moved to other cities in the Veneto region.

Along the Piazza dei Signori (Seigneurs’ Square) you’ll see the early Seventeenth Palazzo del Capitanio, the residence of the Venetian governors with its great door. The palace included its own church, the church of San Nicolo. The nearby Duomo (Cathedral), remodeled in the mid-Sixteenth Century after a design by Michelangelo, is not one of his best works. The Thirteenth Century Baptistry includes a series of frescoes illustrating the Book of Genesis by an early Renaissance Italian painter. This piazza is home to the city’s St. Mark’s Lion. If you read my companion article on southern Veneto you’ll know what to look for when you get there.

The Fourteenth Century Cappella degli Scrovegni (Scrovegni Chapel) is Italy’s best-known chapel after the Sistine Chapel. It is also known as the Arena Chapel because it stands on the site of a Roman-era arena. The chapel’s fresco collection devoted to the life of the Virgin Mary is virtually unmatched. Before entering the chapel you must spend 15 minutes in a climate-controlled air-locked room reducing the temperature difference between the outside world and the inside of the chapel. Nearby you will find the Musei Civici degli Eremitani (Civic Museum) a former monastery with its collections of Venetian paintings, ancient coins, and other archeological treasures.

Padua’s most famous church is the Basilica di Sant’Antonio da Padova (Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua) started around 1238 but only completed after the turn of the century. His remains repose in a beautiful chapel. In front of the church is a Donatello statue of a Venetian general riding horseback. This statue, cast in the middle of the Fifteenth Century, was said to be the first full-size equestrian bronze statue cast since antiquity. Nearby are the Thirteenth Century St. George Oratory and the Sixteenth Century Scuola di San Antonio (St. Anthony’s School) both of which boast great fresco collections, the first by Altichiero and the second by the more famous Titian. There are several other churches to see if you have the time and energy.

Padua’s Orto Botanico (Botanical Garden), founded in 1545, was the first in the world. The Botanical Garden still maintains its original layout, a circular central plot symbolizing the earth surrounded by a ring of water. It has expanded over time. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a center for scientific research. Nature lovers will appreciate the Eighteenth Century Villa Pisani (Pisani Palace) about eight miles (thirteen kilometers) southeast of the city on the Brenta River, home to many fancy, fancy homes. This Palace contains 114 rooms in honor of the 114th Doge, a member of the Pisani family. Napoleon spent a night here before giving the palace away. Make sure to see the trompe-l’oeil frescoes on the ceiling. The adjoining park is a-maze-ing if you get my drift.

One of Padua’s best-known symbols is the Prato della Valle (Valley Meadow), often called the Grassless Meadow, the largest square in Europe after Moscow’s Red Square. It measures approximately one million square feet (ninety thousand square meters) or about fifty football fields. In its center, if you don’t mind the hike, you’ll find a wide garden surrounded by a ditch and lined by 78 statues portraying famous citizens. The site includes the abbey and the basilica of Santa Giustina (Saint Justine), with an interesting art collection. This complex was built around the Fifth Century tomb of Saint Justine of Padua. Napoleon suppressed the monastery in 1820 and it didn’t reopen for more than one hundred years. You can find tombs of several saints as well as relics of the Apostle St. Matthias and the Evangelist St. Luke.

What about food? Padua is a unique city. It claims a variety of food specialties, some of which may not sound all that tempting. Specialties include torresano allo spiedo (pigeon raised in tower lofts), sfilacci (salted, dried, and smoked horsemeat), mushrooms and truffles (that sounds better already), and peaches. Like I said, Padua is a unique city.

Let’s suggest a sample menu, one of many. Start with Prosciutto Veneto Berico Euganeo (Montagnana Sweet Cured Ham). Then try Bondole (Smoked Pork Sausage). For dessert indulge yourself with Crema Fritta (Fried Cream Custard). Be sure to increase your dining pleasure by including local wines with your meal.

We’ll conclude with a quick look at Veneto wine. Veneto holds third place among the 20 Italian regions both in terms of the area planted in grape vines and for its total annual wine production. About 45% of Veneto wine is red or ros?leaving 55% for white. The region produces 24 DOC wines and 3 DOCG wines, Recioto di Soave, Soave Superiore, and Bardolino Superiore. DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which may be translated as Denomination of Controlled Origin, presumably a high-quality wine The G in DOCG stands for Garantita, but there is in fact no guarantee that such wines are truly superior. Nearly 30% of Venetian wine carries the DOC or DOCG designation.

Bagnoli di Sopra DOC also called Bagnoli DOC is vinified in many styles from a variety of international and local red and white grapes in the area approximately between Rovigo and Padua. Colli Euganei DOC is made in a wide variety of styles from local or international white or red grapes on the volcanic hills southwest of Padua.

Jul
20

Rome may be Italy’s political capital, but Milan is the country’s industrial and financial capital. In short, Milan is a dynamic city that is to Italy what New York is to the US. And like New York, it’s a culinary hotbed, attracting much of the best talent from throughout the country. This may be good for those with a taste for the exotic and innovative but it is not necessarily good for the traditional cuisine, which too often has been taken for granted. Luckily for travelers hoping for a more authentic taste of Milan, however, the city is currently rediscovering its own traditional cuisine.

Traditional Milanese cuisine has its own distinctive flavor and many travelers may be surprised by how the northern regions of Italy fail to live up to their expectations of Italian food. Olive oil is less frequently used in cooking than butter while pasta is passed over in favor of rice or ‘polenta’. Luckily enough, the initial surprise is soon to be replace by a inner sense of satisfaction as the local dishes of Milan and Lombardy, when prepared well, can make for some wonderful eating experiences.

A typical Milanese meal may start with a traditional antipasto, made of ‘nervetti’ (boiled calf shank and knee cartilage cut into strips) and mixed with thinly sliced onions. As a first course you cannot miss the classical ‘Risotto alla Milanese’, made with a full-bodied beef broth (the original recipe includes bone marrow) and flavored with saffron. As a second course, a classic Milanese dish is ‘cassoeula’, an extremely filling dish made with various parts of pork meat (tail, ribs, rind, feet and ears) cooked with green cabbage and other vegetables. If you are not feeling so courageous, go for a Milanese cutlet that is probably nothing like you’ve ever tasted in other places: Milan restaurants actually serve a very tasty, crunchy cutlet, made with a veal chop, including the bone. If you are lucky enough to be in Milan during the holiday season, you could end your meal with a huge slice of ‘Panettone’, the typical local Christmas cake, that is even tastier if you eat it with traditional Mascarpone cream.

Even though the Italian riviera is a hundred miles away, Milan has a well-deserved reputation for offering the freshest fish in Italy. ‘Branzino’ (sea bass, known elsewhere as ‘spigola’) and ‘orata’ (gilthead) are the most common offerings, but you can also find ‘San Pietro’ (John Dory) and ‘dentice’ (seabream). ‘Scampi’ and lobsters are plentiful here, too, and an antipasto of turteaux (Normandy crab), rare on Italian menus, can be found easily as well. If you like seafood, however, be advised as a seafood dinner in a proper place may cost you an arm and a leg. If you are looking for something more typical and cheaper, head for the city surroundings where you may find plenty of places serving freshwater fish and even a number of frog based dishes, starting from the unfailing ‘risotto’.

Milan is an important business centre, so expect all of the restaurants in the centre to be very expensive. An average complete dinner costs around 35 Euro per person. Pizzerias are a little bit less expensive but they cannot be considered cheap either. In order to have a cheap, non-fast-food dinner, join the young Milanese crowd storming local pubs every night for Happy Hour.. Between 6:30 pm and 9:30 pm, for 5 to 8 Euro you can have a drink and enjoy an open buffet with a large variety of food. Corso di Porta Ticinese and the whole ‘Navigli’ area are crowded with such places. Corso Como and Brera are also popular ‘happy hour ‘ destination and they are closer to the city center.

Despite the steady flow of foreign businessmen, the city’s restaurateurs are not waiting to fleece the occasional guest. There are not the usual tourist traps you may find in other Italian cities. Also, contrary to popular belief, do not take for granted that the hotel where you stay is not a great place to eat either. As a matter of fact, many hotels in Milan have excellent restaurants run by some of the city best chefs. If you are not confident about your choice, take a look at the menu before entering a place. Watch out if you see an overuse of salmon, arugula and ‘carpaccio’ (thinly sliced raw beef or fish) as this may be a sign of the uniformity plaguing a number of mid level restaurants.

Not all products of Milan can be found in restaurants, so a little food shopping may be in order before leaving. If you ask a local where to buy some specialty food, chances are you wull be directed to Peck, a fancy grocery store laid out on four elegant floors not far fron the Duomo. Here you will find a stunning wine cellar and at least 25 local variations on salami including the thin ‘luganega’ and ‘zampone’ (a pig’s foot stuffed with peppery, coarsely ground pork meat). In late fall and winter, you will also have the chance to buy a very special treat: a terrine layered with four creemy cheeses (gorgonzola, mascarpone, stracchino and taleggio) and slivers of aromatic white truffles.

This article is part of a series covering the most important italian travel destinations and regional cuisines. You can find similar articles about eating out in Rome, Naples, Florence and Venice.

Jul
17

Florence does not simply regard itself as home to the greatest of Italy’s regional culinary traditions, but as the birthplace of all Western cookery. Florentines will tell you that it was the sixteenth-century Catherine de Medici who taught the French to cook by taking with her a team of Tuscan chefs when she married the Duke of Orleans, later to become King Henry II of France.

While it is hard to tell if the above is true or false, there is no doubt Florence can reward the wise traveler in search for good local food, especially if he/she manages to get off the beaten track. The key is to find a place that looks as though it’s popular with locals. If you find such a place, you’re probably onto a winner, both price and taste wise.

As in most cities, the cheapest eating places can be found in the area surrounding the main railway station, with the more upmarket restaurants being located in the central area. Some excellent, moderately priced establishments are located in Oltrarno, the traditionally less respectable south side of the river.

As it is always the case in Italy, it’s preferable to order dishes that are traditional to the region, not least because this helps ensure the freshest ingredients. Tuscan cuisine, and Florentine in particular, continues to adhere to many peasant traditions, combing basic ingredients and simple cooking methods. Nevertheless, the finished result is nothing if not impressive..

The Florentine steak (‘bistecca allla fiorentina’), believed to date back to the Etruscans, is a perfect example. Many in the English-speaking world would call this a Porterhouse or a T-Bone and wonder what the fuss is all about. In reality, a ‘Florentine steak’ is cut closer to the center of the steer than a North American T-bone, so it includes a full circle of the tenderloin. Apart from the cut, much of the secret is the breed of cattle: the best steaks come from the Chianina breed, which is known as the oldest breed of cattle in the world, and they are thick cut, weighting at least 800g. Cooked on the grill, served rare and, on occasion, with a wedge of lemon on the side, a Fiorentina can easily satisfy two people, but there are those brave enough who will attempt to eat one all by themselves!

The soups are well worth trying as they are derived from peasant traditions as well. The most delicious, famous Florentine soup is ‘ribollita’, made with a mixture of stale bread, beans, ‘cavolo nero’ (a black cabbage grown in Tuscany, similar to kale or Swiss Chard) and other typical Tuscan vegetables. As with many leftovers, ribollita always tastes better the day after! Other delicious soups are ‘pappa con il pomodoro’ (a tomato-based soup that’s thickened with bread) and ‘minestra di farro’ (spelt or barley soup with beans, tomatoes, celery and carrot). While some of these soups might not sound terribly appealing to your palate, they are absolutely delicious, simple and hearty.

Extra-virgin olive oil is held in pride of place in Florence, and it is never missing from the Florentine table. Olive oil is used as a dip for foods such as celery, artichokes and ‘pinzimonio’ (a selection of fresh vegetables). It is also used in cooking, and as a dressing for salads and delicious ‘bruschetta’ (grilled slices of unsalted bread topped in a variety of ways). The one made with red cabbage and beans is a local favourite and must be tasted to be believed!

Other Florentine and Tuscan specialities to look out for are ‘crostini’ (a smaller variety of bruschetta topped with pate’ or diced tomatoes), ‘panzanella’ (a cold mixed summer salad with breadcrumbs), ‘pappardelle sulla lepre’ (ribbon pasta with hare), ‘pappardelle al cinghiale’ (pappardelle with wild boar sauce) and ‘fagioli all’uccelletto’ (beans in tomato sauce usually served as a side dish).

If you have a sweet tooth, try to get your hands on a slice of ‘schiacciata alla fiorentina’. It is an orange-flavored sponge cake, covered with confectioner’s sugar and filled with pastry or whipped cream. Although typically served around Carnival, it can be found at Florence’s pastry shops year round. ‘Cantuccini di Prato’ are dry almond biscuits that are dipped in ‘Vin Santo’, a sweet, aromatic dessert wine.

Tuscany produces some of the finest wines in Italy, the most famous of which is probably Chianti. ‘Chianto Classico’ is produced in the area to the south of Florence – one of several production zones for Chianti. ‘Vernaccia di San Gimignano’, a white wine which was a favourite of Lorenzo de’ Medici, is another good local wine to try. If you are serious about your wines, pay a visit to an enoteca, where you can taste, enjoy and buy a range of quality wines.

Finally, if a quick snack is what you are looking for, head to a ‘friggitoria’, to have some ‘polenta fritta’ or ‘crocchette’ – or to one of the tripe stands which can be found all around the city. These traditional Florentine stands usually serve sandwiches filled with ‘lampredotto’ (stuffed cow’s stomach). They may not sound too appealing to your taste, but to paraphrase an old adage ‘When in Florence…’

This article is part of a series covering the most important italian travel destinations and regional cuisines. You can find similar articles about eating out in Rome, Naples, Milan and Venice.