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.
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.
Tagliolini with pork cheek and artichokes:
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.