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Barcelona & San Sebastian

Here’s a run down and guide for all the food I had in Barcelona and San Sebastian. If you followed a link here for a specific restaurant, just scroll down until you see the restaurant name in bold – I did a bulk review here for all of them. In summary, here are my top dishes of the trip:

  • Mountain and Sea Fideua; Xiringuito Escriba (BCN)
  • Grilled Prawns; Xiringuito Escriba (BCN)
  • Roasted Piquillo Peppers; Lomo Alto (BCN)
  • Mussels in Tiger Sauce; La Mejillonera (SS)
  • Ham, Cheese, Sardine & Candied Pistachio Pintxos; Txalupa (SS)
  • Ham & Mushroom Sailboat Pintxos; Karrika Taberna (SS)
  • Cheesecake; La Vina (SS)
  • Potato Tortilla; Bar Nestor (SS)
  • Cream Puff; Izar Pasteleria (SS)
  • Iberico Pork Shoulder; Kokotxa (SS)
  • Suckling Lamb; El Asador de Aranda (BCN)
  • Suckling Pig Tacos; Hoja Santa (BCN)
  • Vanilla Custard Filled Churro; Random Churro Truck (BCN)

You might notice that the reviews go from BCN to SS and then back to BCN. Very astute of you. That’s because I wrote these in semi-timeline order. We travelled to BCN first, then spent a few days in SS before returning to BCN to finish the trip. In any case, read on and salivate.

TAPAS SIN FRONTERAS (BCN)

We ate here, which was across the street from our AirBnB, to kill some time before check-in on day one of the trip. We got some paella, salumi, and anchovies. Everything here was just mediocre. Not the best way to start the trip, but at least there was some jamon iberico involved.

XIRINGUITO ESCRIBA (BCN)

This beachside paella joint was slammed! There’s a great open-air dining room that overlooks the beach along the Mediterranean Sea, and, as you might imagine, the seafood here is amazing.

The “mountain and sea” paella was visually the star of the show here. Check it out:

 

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But the version that’s made with pasta (fideua) tasted better and had better texture.

We also had some ceviche, guacamole, “pan con tomate,” Galician style octopus and grilled head-on prawns to start.

The prawns were amazing, and one of my top dishes of the entire trip.

The ceviche was just okay, but the guac, the tomato bread and the octopus were all excellent. In fact, that octopus was a close contender for another top dish of the trip. This place was just incredible over all.

Another standout starter was the jamon “air bag.” The crispy cracker-bread pillow gets broken and you eat the ham with it. Awesome.

 

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The highlight of dessert was the pistachio cake with orange sorbet. So delicious!

The other selections weren’t too shabby either, one being a multi-layered combo of dolce de leche and tiramisu, and the other a classic puff pastry and cream combo.

In sum, Xiringuito Escriba is a “must go” spot if you’re looking to eat at the beach in Barcelona.

LOMO ALTO (BCN)

I came across this spot in my research for all things meaty in Barcelona.

This place is all about the beef! Dry-aged, “vaca vieja” (old cow) to be specific. The old cows, some as old as eight years at slaughter, are dry aged for months here, on site. Typically this type of meat is turned into burgers in the US, but here in Spain it is a sought after delicacy.

They offer 12 different breeds of beef to choose from.

Pro tip: say no to the bread. They will automatically bring out bread portions for each person at the table and then charge you upwards of four euro per head at the end. We got them to remove the charge since it was pretty much all stale and we barely touched it. The olives, however, were awesome.

We started with some very meaty items. Tartare, carpaccio and beef tongue. This was a great way to get to know the flavor of dry-aged dairy and old ox meat, which is what these were prepared from. Bold, savory, unique. I really liked all of these, and they came with a pair of nice spiralized potato chip things.

The croquettes were nice as well.

The steak we had was a rib chop from an 8yr old dairy cow that was dry aged for 90 days:

 

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Here’s a quick video of the presentation and slicing:

 

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Some scraps left after eating:

This had some of the most interesting and unique flavor from the dry aging. It tasted like blue cheese. The texture was a little bit aggressive – not tough, but more chewing involved. Some folks love that. Over all I’d say this was an 8/10.

The steak came with roasted piquillo peppers, fries and a salad. The best part of this entire meal was the dish of peppers! They were amazing, and oddly enough a top dish of the trip.

This place is heaven for folks who love dry aged beef, and who also love Spanish beef. A definite must try if that fits your bill. I personally like US beef better, but “when in Rome” … (or, in this case, “when in Barcelona”).

VARIOUS PINTXOS & BARS (SS)

La Mejillonera

This San Sebastian pintxos joint specialized in mussels and served them something like five or six different ways.

The door handle is even a mussel.

We arrived just as they opened, and as a general matter I found that this is the best way to eat pintxos: Get there early, before the crowds and while the pintxos are freshly made and not collecting bacteria as they sit out on the counter, sans sneeze guards and subject to all kinds of touching.

We tried two mussel dishes: Spicy “tiger” sauce, and wine/herb sauce. Both were incredible, but the spicy tiger sauce (orange/red) was a bit better. Great for bread dipping.

We also had fried calamari two ways: one with shishito peppers and one with a bravas style spicy, creamy sauce. Both excellent.

This unique place was the first and one of our best stops in San Sebastian. It’s definitely worth a stop on your pintxos crawl.

La Vina

At this place, you need to focus your attention on the cheesecake.

It’s fantastic. Rich, creamy, and delicious.

One order gets you two slivers, so if you’re planning to hit a bunch of places for tapas/pintxos, you can just get a single order to share among two or three people.

Bar Martinez

This is one spot that every guidebook will tell you is great.

We enjoyed it, but it was mostly more of the same type stuff that you see at other places. In my opinion, it can be skipped.

Txalupa

This joint had one of my favorite bites of the trip: A ham, cheese, sardine and candied pistachio crumble pintxos bite. It blew me away.

Izar Pasteleria

When you need a sweet fix, hit this little shop and get the cream puff. I picked the one that looked like a hot dog shaped bun. It was one of the best bites of the trip.

These pine nut clusters were great as well.

Loco Polo

If you need a cold sweet fix, this is your place. They have various flavors of ice cream pops, and you can have them dip the pops into various flavors of chocolate and then sprinkled with various toppings. I went with an oreo ice cream pop, dipped in dark chocolate and then hit with crushed waffle cone bits. Awesome.

Karrika Taberna

We hit this spot on a whim before lunch on our last day in San Sebastian and tried a handful of pintxos that looked unique and different from the standard pieces we kept seeing all over the place. Turned out to be a great decision, as that sailboat looking thing (ham and stuffed mushroom) turned out to be one of my favorite pintxos of the trip. Also a great place to have a spritz.

Kutixik

This little spot is essentially a deli/meat shop with some dry goods products for sale as well, but they have a window on the street side where they sell meat cones and sandwiches.

Of course I picked up a cone of ham to walk around with and snack on. The aged flavor was immense on this ham! So good.

 

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Urgulleko Polborina

My new favorite bar in the world sits on top of Monte Urgull in San Sebastian and overlooks Santa Clara Island and Bahia La Concha. The walk there is half the fun, and the bar itself is in an isolated nook of the castle/battlements of Castillo Monte Urgul. Take a look:

 

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Bare Bare

Talk about AVERAGE! Everything here was just meh, but this place is always on pintxos lists for tourists. Pass.

MARINELA (SS)

We ate dinner at this seafood joint along the docks.

This was a mediocre meal, but there were a few highlights that were good. This side of asparagus was not fresh. It was canned or pickled.

The grilled octopus was one of the highlights here. It was cooked nicely and had some spicy flavored potatoes with it.

The grilled squid skewers were okay. Nothing special, but not bad by any means.

These prawns were good as well, but not nearly on the same level as Xiringuito Escriba.

The bay scallops were pretty, but a little overcooked.

I enjoyed the baked langoustines though.

BAR NESTOR (SS)

This place is iconic in San Sebastian for all of the main items they serve. Get there at 11:45am and wait to reserve your slice of potato tortilla at 12pm, when Nestor opens the window and starts taking names (they only have 12 slices a day).

It’s one of the best things I ate on the trip. Crispy, gooey, delicious.

Come back at 1pm when they open and sit for a meal. You can reserve a table or spot at the bar when you give Nestor your name for the tortilla. Once seated, they’ll bring out a pair of steaks for you to choose from.

Say yes to the tomatoes; they’re fucking amazing.

Say yes to the peppers; they’re great, too.

The steak itself is 8/10. There’s not as much dry-aged flavor as Lomo Alto in BCN, despite the restaurant and street smelling intensely “dry-agey” and beefy-delicious. That aroma – that Spanish “vaca vieja” – is unique and intoxicating. It doesn’t always translate to flavor, but this cut was more tender and had a better crust than Lomo Alto, so it evened out.

Two slices of potato tortilla, tomatoes, peppers, steak, and two glasses of wine: €63.80.

What an experience! Here’s a short video of the process.

 

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KOKOTXA (SS)

We did the market tasting menu at this Michelin-starred restaurant. It started off with some fancy breadsticks.

Then a trio of snacks – seaweed cake, creamy fish puff and a relatively flavorless bite of something that I can’t seem to remember at the moment (the orange thing).

This white tuna ceviche was fresh and delicious.

I really enjoyed this grilled calamari dish as well.

Kokotxa means cheek in basque, and this hake cheek was a delicious bite for the restaurant namesake.

The crispy skin hake filet was great as well – probably one of the best bites of the meal.

But the star of the meal for me was the iberico pork shoulder, and it was mainly why we chose the market tasting menu instead of the chef’s tasting menu (it wasn’t on that menu). One of the best dishes of the entire trip right here. I wanted three more plates.

The two desserts were both good, and both featured interestingly flavored and balanced sorbets.

Petit fours for the finish:

I definitely recommend Kokotxa if you are in San Sebastian and looking to change up the diet from pintxos. It’s one of the cheaper Michelin-starred places in the area too.

TXULETA (SS)

Our final meal in San Sebastian was this chop house. We started with foie gras, lomo (cured pork loin) and roasted piquillo peppers. The foie and peppers were mediocre but the lomo was outstanding.

Another “txuleta” (chop/steak in basque, and the restaurant’s namesake) was consumed here as well. This one had less aged flavor than both Bar Nestor and Lomo Alto, but it was nice and tender. In fact, it was more tender than both of the others, so we evened out again at an 8/10.

Having loved the hake cheeks from Kokotxa the night prior, we went in on two styles of them here as well. Bad move. Should have gotten more meat. The fried ones weren’t as battered or seasoned as I expected, and they were also a little soggy (not crisp). The sauced ones were even worse – they were slimy and seemed almost undercooked.

DINNER AT HOME (BCN)

One of my favorite things about travel in Europe is just hitting the local supermarket (Mercadona) and snacking at home for a meal. High quality stuff for very cheap!

 

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EL ASADOR DE ARANDA (BCN)

This place specializes in suckling lamb, as well as beef chops. We went big on a feast here so let me get into it right away.

Excellent marinated olives and gherkins came to the table.

This beef bresaola with arugula, tomato juice and truffle was awesome.

The roasted piquillo peppers were just okay – not on the Lomo Alto level.

Awesome cheese platter – hard to choose a favorite among four great selections.

This crispy blood sausage was incredible. Awesome texture and crunch, really nicely cooked, and not greasy like many tend to be.

This fried egg dish was fun as well, though I didn’t eat much of it. I was saving room for all the meat.

Hot stone beef!

This cut comes out sliced thin and ready for searing. If I had to guess, this was some part of the chuck.

The meat sizzles away and creates an awesome aroma at your table.

A nice crust develops. 8/10.

Check out the video:

 

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We also got an extra strip steak just for fun… Another 8/10.

…And some lamb ribs as well. These were incredible! I would have called this the best dish of the night if it weren’t for the next one…

The real star here was the 1/4 suckling lamb; a leg:

This crispy skin, fork tender beauty is fall-off-the-bone soft. Simply put, it’s the best lamb I’ve ever had. This dish is reason enough to book your trip to Spain. Skip the vaca vieja and get this!

For dessert, us adults decided to eat some of what was meant to be for the kids. Ice cream in the shape of a dick, and some chocolate cake with whipped cream and ice cream.

This bottle of sweet licorice flavored amaro type liquor came out with the bill. Very nice digestif.

What a meal! This place is a must on your trip to Spain.

HOJA SANTA (BCN)

Hoja Santa customized a tasting menu for us based on a handful of things we were interested in and pointed out to the waiter on their a la carte menu. This Michelin-starred restaurant ended up being the best all-around meal of the trip.

Here’s what we had:

Trio of snacks: gastronomic/spherized olives and peaches, along with a Caesar salad tostada with chicken skin.

Trio of solid cocktails: michelada, mezcal and margarita foam ball. So cool.

Corn tamales.

Ceviche with catch of the day white tuna and octopus.

Trio of tacos: conchinita pibil taco puff, beef brisket taco with jalapeño tortilla, and bone marrow with sesame tortilla. All awesome, but the brisket with jalapeño tortilla was incredible. One of the best bites of the meal.

Foie gras mole with thin crispy bread and some sort of quinoa meatball things.

Arabic lamb tacos with tomatillo, avocado and sour cream sauce, radish, limes and crispy flour tortillas. These were incredible, and almost shaped up to be the best bite of the meal if it wasn’t for the final savory dish.

Check out how tender this meat was!

One of my lamb rib tacos:

The final savory bite, and best part of the meal – possibly even the best dish of the trip – were these suckling pig rib tacos with cilantro cream, herbaceous pig drippings sauce, pickled cabbage, lime and fresh corn tortillas with pig stamps on them.

Here’s a video of the process.

 

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THAT CRISPY SKIN! You can actually hear it…

Dessert was a frozen orange foam with amaranth, custard and some kind of tahini-like sesame butter.

And finally, and most impressively, corn ice cream with goat cheese, caramel and chocolate truffles. One of the better sweet bites of the trip.

I highly recommend Hoja Santa – you should definitely hit this spot on your trip to BCN.

RANDOM CHURRO VENDOR

These stuffed churros from a churro cart by the famous Gaudi park “Park Guell” (near the Alfonso X metro stop) were awesome. One vanilla custard (best), one dolce de leche (second best) and one chocolate.

Holy fuck I think that about does it! What a ridiculous amount of great food. I hope you take some of my recs if you ever make it over to BCN or SS. Salud!

Food of the Azores

The Azores are quickly rising in the ranks as a vacation destination for Europeans and Americans. While it is no secret that Portuguese and many Europeans have been visiting for quite some time, the Azores are a relatively recent “discovery” for many Americans.

The Azores are a volcanic archipelago of Portuguese-owned islands in the northern Atlantic, well off the western coasts of Europe and northern Africa. As volcanic islands, they’re very similar to Hawaii in topography and geology, only more temperate and with seasonal changes. There are elevated volcanic crater lakes, hot springs, sequoia forest hikes, waterfalls, gorgeous black sand beaches and incredible mountain and cliff views all over the place.

It’s a short flight to the Azores from Boston (4hrs). My wife and I became obsessed with the idea of going when we saw an episode of one of Bourdain’s shows set on the islands, so over the Summer we took a trip to the Azores (Sao Miguel) with my sister, my brother in law and their kids. Let me give you a run-down of the trip, focusing chiefly, of course, on the food.

DAY 1

Our first stop was in a little coffee shop for some caffeine fuel. Coffee is a big part of the culture here, and lots of people hang out in these little shops for pastries and espresso before work or heading out for the day.

We did some hiking up near a volcanic crater lake.

Yes, these are Giant Sequoias.

After working up a good appetite we ate at Tony’s Restaurant in Furnas, a place that’s known for serving a traditional Azorean meat stew called cozido.

The story is that this stew of meats is cooked in a cauldron that’s heated by lava rocks and/or the source of all the volcanic hot springs in the area. Here’s what the plate looked like:

Like many traditional stews, it contains a variety of meats. This featured a mix of pork belly, sausage, blood sausage, and lean meat. We pretty much ignored the cabbage and potatoes.

We also tried another Azores specialty, limpets.

Limpets are shellfish. They’re often served cooked, and taste like a cross between a mussel, a scallop and a clam, only a little tougher. A mossy vegetation beard grows on their outer shells like mussels, so unless they are scrubbed clean before cooking, they can have a very briny and “right from the sea” flavor (but not in a good way – more like in a stagnant water kind of way). I think I would have liked these better if they had been thoroughly scrubbed and then cooked in butter, garlic and wine, like I do with Little Neck clams, JUST until they pop open so as not to overcook.

Another item that’s popular in the Azores is blood sausage. You saw some up in the cozido, but those were stewed. These were grilled to a delicious crisp and served with grilled pineapple. Absolutely delicious, and who would have guessed those two were such a nice pairing? The sausage was smooth in texture, not grainy, iron-flavored or filled with rubbery chunks of shit meat.

Tony’s also had a great selection of local cheeses. The cheese industry is huge in the Azores. In the countryside you will see tons of cow pastures and dairy operations.

I was really excited to try these, and they were all awesome, especially that farmer’s cheese on the right, which is typically served with a spicy pimento pepper sauce (peri peri).

Oh yeah – we also tried a bunch of Azorean and Portuguese wines. The Azores is known for its “Green Wines.” They’re not a different colored grape in any way. They’re just sourced from a particular area, geographically. The one we tried tasted like young white wine.

Since I generally like reds, I wasn’t a huge fan. I was, however, a big fan of the reds we came across here in the Azores – especially the price point. More on that in a bit…

After dinner we hunted some rainbows that were forming when the sun poked through he rain clouds (up in the mountains there is generally a more overcast and temperate atmosphere, hence the wildly different foliage and vegetation).

DAY 2

We started again at a small coffee shop, this one called Senhora do Pao (a little more common as a chain).

This time we consumed a variety of pastries along with our coffee. This one here, pastel de nata, is an egg custard in a crusty, flaky baked crust.

A croissant style doughnut with chocolate icing and sugar cream filling.

And this was like a chocolate and phyllo sandwich.

This was a beach day though, so we soaked up some rays and drank some refreshing Sagres beers on the shore at Bar Praia de Agua de Alto. Sagres tasted like a Corona or a Bud Light. The Radler is lemon flavored.

We even tried some local gin. Very nice.

On our way home from the beach we stumbled upon a festival going on in one of the hilltop towns called Agua de Pau.

Those were strawberry and pineapple swirls of syrup on the soft serve vanilla. Awesome. But what really got my attention was this:

A vendor selling lupini beans.

What’s so great about a bucket of beans, you ask?

When my siblings and I were kids, our parents used to give us these to snack on. I always thought it was an Italian thing, but when we were in Italy I don’t recall seeing them anywhere (though we didn’t go any further south than Rome). For $0.60 we got the equivalent of what costs about $5 in the US.

They’re disc-shaped and enclosed in a soft shell. You squeeze them to get them out. Then you munch away. They’re soft but with a slight crunchy snap. Usually stored in a brine water, they’re a little salty.

I was so psyched about that.

DAY 3

On this day we went up to a beautiful old volcanic crater that became a lake called Lagoa do Fogo.

So fucking beautiful.

We hiked for a bit in the mountains too, to another hidden lake.

We also visited a tea plantation called Cha Gorreana.

We tried some tea, of course, some more pastries, and the Portuguese equivalent of empanadas. Everything was delicious.

After more driving and sight seeing, we ate at a restaurant near our apartment called Paladares da Quinta.

This was an assorted sausage platter – again featuring blood sausage and pineapple. These were superior to the other ones. So crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Awesome.

We also did some cheeses.

As you can see, the farmers cheese was again served with that pimento sauce.

Garlic bread with herbs.

Octopus stew. We learned pretty quickly that stews are a big part of Azores cuisine.

Pork belly and clam stew. Also delicious.

This was a steak covered with melted cheese and topped with ham, served with fried eggs and French fries. This was similar to “Loco Moco” in Hawaii (which is curious, since Sao Miguel was very similar to Maui in many ways, physically and geologically).

Chocolate cake.

Crepe wrap with ice cream inside.

Very affordable for all that we ordered.

DAY 4

We spent our fourth day taking in the sites on the eastern and northern sides of the island, landing at a beach called Praia dos Moinhos.

I really liked this beach, mainly because there was a kickass beach restaurant called O Moinho Terrace Cafe that served up some decent burgers and boozy slushee drinks.

The burger won some local awards.

Here’s the view from the restaurant:

The burger needed some work to hang with the big guns of NYC, but overall I was happy with it. The atmosphere sells it too.

That night we ate in Ponta Delgada, at a restaurant called Rotas do Vinho. Melon and prosciutto:

Potato chips for the kids:

Wine for the grown ups:

Cod:

And then some ice cream at a place called Abracadabra.

Day 5

On this day, we hit the northwest side of the island, and went up to Sete Cidades, another crater lake area. We had crazy overcast and rain, however, so we didn’t get any gorgeous vista photos. Instead, we explored an abandoned 1980’s hotel called Monte Palace. I would wager that these photos are more interesting anyway:

We ate at a restaurant called Brisa do Mar in Mosteiros. My wife had the winning dish; a plate of grilled sardines.

I went with something more basic – chicken and sausage with fries.

We checked out the beach there too, which was really view-worthy. There were surfers and boogie boarders all over.

There was a stray dog:

We hit the beach for one last hoorah before the sun set on our final full day in paradise:

On two of the nights here (night five being one of them) we ate dinner at home in the apartment. We hit the grocery store and recreated some of our favorite dishes to snack on.

Great local brewery – there were five or six varieties:

Our favorite wine, $3 and amazingly smooth:

Spicy lupini beans:

Sauce of the Gods:

We also crushed some welcome pastries and booze that the apartment owners left for us. Very nice gesture, and we were able to eat whatever we wanted from their garden out back.

The next morning before heading to the airport, we had one last coffee in Ponta Delgada and tried some panini ham and cheese type specialties at a place called Azores Forever.

That about does it. The Azores really excels in cheeses, pastries and breads, stews, seafood and, of course, lupini beans! I really would love to go back. It’s just a four hour flight from Boston.

The Food of Italy

I just got back from a trip to Italy, and, as you can imagine, the food was, on the whole, pretty fucking incredible. My wife and I did three stops: Rome, Venice and Milan.

This could get crazy long so I’m just going to jump right into my truncated reviews.

ROME

L’Archaeologie

We hit this place for a quick lunch after touring the catacombs. Excellent pasta dishes, and this was technically our first meal in Italy. We only had two pasta dishes.

Pici carbonara:

Tagliolini with porn cheek and artichokes:

Osteria Barberini

This place had some amazing pasta. This was our first dinner in Rome, and it was a joint that was highly recommended by friends and family who had been here before.

We tried two pasta dishes; cacio e pepe, served in a bowl made of crisped cheese, and a chitarra pasta with shrimp and a ground pistachio pesto.

We also had a stuffed artichoke, and dessert…

Roscioli

This salume joint turned restaurant was highly recommended by friends and fellow foodies.

It was pretty crowded, so we sat at the bar. We kept it somewhat simple, with a plate of meats and cheeses, pasta and meatballs.

We also took in some dessert, because “when in Rome.”

Baladin (Local Brewery Bar)

This place had a great selection of local craft beers.

Bonci

Anthony Bourdain featured this pizza joint on his layover show, so we had to check it out. It was pretty fantastic.

My favorite slices were the traditional and the onion with ham.

La Prosciutteria

One thing you see a lot of in the cities of Italy are meat shops that offer amazing platters of salume for very good prices.

This is one of them. I was pretty much in heaven here, and I was annoyed that we had just eaten and couldn’t do a bigger platter.

Da Enzo

Nestled on a small street near the river, this Trastevere staple was known for their fried artichoke (which was incredible) and their ox tail. We got both, of course, along with some lasagna.

Tonnarello

I had to stop into this place just because I saw that they had “chocolate sausage” on the menu. I was thinking “Lexington Steele,” but what came out was like fudge and cake pressed into a delicious dessert log and then sliced up, served cold.

But look at the fried artichoke they had on display outside.

Gelato Shops: Giolitti and Fatamorgana

Giolitti was in the main part of Rome, and Fatamorgana was in the Trastevere neighborhood. Both served up some amazing pistachio gelato, and we even tried some Sicilian Cream flavors as well. So good. Giolitti was a full-on pastry shop as well, while Fatamorgana was just gelato.

Pasticcerie (Pastry Shops)

Pasticceria da Te is small Trastevere shop goes almost unnoticed, as there is no signage out front. We tried some chiacchiere or crostoli, which are crispy fried snacks that are often eaten when celebrating Carnivale.

 

At Forno Campo de Fiori, we tried some little doughnut balls and other patries, like sfoglie.

VENICE

Un Mondo Vino

Happy hour is big in Venice. Wines are even cheaper than usual, and they serve up “chichetti” – which are pre-prepared savory snacks – to go with the wine.

We found this little hole in the wall, called “A World of Wine,” as we were walking around. It was filled with locals, so we knew we were in a good spot. We warmed up with some hot mulled spice wine, as it was below freezing and crazy windy that day.

Osteria Ai Promessi Sposi

This little joint, tucked away down a lonesome alley, was recommended by friends of ours as a great place to eat.

Venice is known for seafood, so that’s what we were after (though the steak on the menu was really tempting). We came here at 6pm, right when they opened, and it was still crowded. Usually people don’t eat dinner until about 8pm or 9pm. But now I know why it was so crowded – the food was amazing.

Super tender braised cuttlefish with a rich, buttery black ink sauce. Usually I hate ink sauces because they taste way too fishy. This was amazing. I was slurping it up.

My grilled calamari just didnt compare to that cuttlefish dish, but it was still excellent.

Starters were burrata and mixed seafood in broth.

Gam Gam

We stopped in this joint when another restaurant nearby that we wanted to try was too crowded. This is Israeli Kosher food. I wasn’t overly impressed, but the artichoke heart dishes were delicious. One fried, one sauteed.

We also had some meze type dips, and a pappardelle pasta dish with mushrooms.

La Cantina

This joint sort of fell flat for us. The meat platter was expensive, although it was good quality and all hand cut. The seafood platter was nice too, but way overpriced. Perhaps they were trying to recoup some funds after their flood a few years back.

Alla Palazzina

After meandering around Venice looking for a late night spot to eat, we stumbled across this corner joint. Ravioli with mushroom and truffle, and a scallop and shrimp dish.

Rialto Market

What an amazing market. Fresh produce and fresh fish. And the artichoke hearts!

And all around the area are cheese vendors and butcher shops, too. My kind of spot!

Yeah – that’s horse salami.

Coffee & Pastries

These coffee shops could put Starbucks out of business if they were in the US.

And the frittelle in Venice are fucking outstanding. They’re like zeppoli, kind of, but they are often made with a flavored dough or filled with raisins, nuts, etc.

Cookies that look like fish.

A lot of these shops also sell savory items too, like pizza and panini sandwiches. Venice style pizza is more like NY thin crust.

So freaking good.

MILAN

Meucci Pizza

This was a quick lunch. We each ordered a mini pie and shared. The pizza styles are different in every city. Rome was like puffy square (what we would call Sicilian), Venice was circular and flat (like NYC style, as I mentioned above) and Milan was somewhere right in between: circular and slightly puffy.

Salsamenteria di Parma

This is another one of those wine and meat shops I mentioned above. This one was incredible. We got so much food for $20, along with free amaro afterwards. I want to go back right now.

Osteria di Brera

For our last meal in Italy, we had to try the osso buco in Milan, which is supposed to be one of the region’s specialties. It was pretty tender and flavorful! Also hit some pasta as well.

Pasticcerie (Pastry Shops)

We did a lot of browsing in these hops. I think we had a bite at one spot but I can’t remember what or where.

Like all over Italy, the bakeries also sell savory breads.

Conclusion

Italy is absolutely amazing. On our next trip, we plan to hit six more distinct locations: Amalfi coast, Sicily, Tuscany, Florence, Lake Como and Capri.