Italy


Day 3 was not a public holiday and the streets of Milan finally bustled again. Everything was open and we had our choice of cafes and bakeries for breakfast. We ended up at Panarello, a Genoan chain that is excellent. Our pastries were fantastic and if you have space for a box of their canestrelli (a buttery, ring-shaped biscuit), do get them.

Breakfast

Panarello
Piazza S. Nazaro in Brolo, 15
20122 Milano, Italy

We spent a long morning at the Pinacoteca di Brera, the main art gallery in Milan. The collection is amazing but poor Blai’s heart was broken as its Caravaggio was currently on loan elsewhere. Ah, an excuse to come back surely!

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We kept things simple for lunch, knowing that we would feast in the evening. We stopped into a cafe near the Pinacoteca which seemed to attract a huge lunchtime crowd. They had the usual primi and secondi for those who wanted a relaxed meal but it struck us that Milan was very much like London with its quick lunches on the run. Most people opted for the piadine and toasted sandwiches for their lunch; actually, this cafe seemed to specialise in piadina sandwiches, boasting a long list of them.

This was my piadina, a thin flatbread folded over a number of fillings and then toasted.

My Piadina

And inside? I chose the one with smoked ham, a bitter chicory similar to radicchio (I believe), mushrooms and tonnato sauce. Yes, that rather brilliant creamy sauce made with tuna. Delicious.

Tonnato Sauce!

Caffè Ponte Nuovo
Via S. Marco, 14
20121 Milano, Italy

There was more wandering around Milan, some sitting in a cafe, and then while Blai browsed a bookshop in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, I worked up an appetite by climbing up to the roof of the Duomo! It’s good fun and it wasn’t at all as busy as I expected up there.

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And that night, we finally had Milanese food! I had had a few people recommend the Antica Trattoria della Pesa for classic Milanese cuisine and that was our one blowout meal. It’s not cheap but it was excellent. We were offered a few bites of a saltfish fritter and one with peppers as we perused the menu.

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OK, so we shared a Roman salad first but I do love an Insalata di puntarelle so! It was fresh and bitter and salty and tangy here.

Insalata di puntarelle

We had to have a Risotto alla milanese, though their risotto al salto (a fried pancake of rissoto alla milanese) was also tempting. It was utterly fantastic, smelling strongly of saffron, and with a wonderful bite to the rice and an overall savouriness.

Risotto alla milanese

A pasta dish that was shouting at us was their Tagliatelle ai carciofi , which was brilliant, with a touch of tomato.

Tagliatelle ai carciofi

And then we eschewed the ossobuco and the cotoletta for Cassoeula, which is a very typical wintry Milanese dish. It’s a heavy dish of pork sausages and other pork bits (not offal exactly but not common cuts) cooked for ages with lots of Savoy cabbage and served with soft polenta. This massive platter (the photo doesn’t seem to show its size) was really a serving for one that we split between the two of us! This was a hearty dish that filled us up and I can see its appeal and its necessity on a cold, wintry day.

Cassoeula

The desserts on offer were simple but after all that rich food, simple is all one desires. We split a Gelato di crema con marmellata fatta in casa. The fruit used in the homemade jam was some kind of plum. Again, simple but perfect.

Gelato di crema con marmellata fatta in casa

It’s not cheap, however, as the bill came to about €100 altogether but nothing could be faulted. It was a fantastic meal; do try to book ahead as it fills up quickly.

Antica Trattoria della Pesa
Viale Pasubio, 10
20154 Milano, Italy

Our final morning and our final breakfast in Milan (I barely eat breakfast here in London but if all cafes and bakeries here were like Milanese cafes and bakeries, I would have breakfast every day). This was the weakest bakery of our trip but was still better than many places in London. A pistachio croissant was fine while my cappuccino was too milky.

Pistachio Croissant

A savoury salame sandwich was excellent though.

Salame Sandwich

Our last morning was spent at the Museo Poldi Pezzoli, a small and intimate collection of art and antiques that doesn’t seem to attract the usual crowds of tourists (though to be fair, it did seem to be generally quite quiet in Milan – perhaps most tourists in Italy don’t bother with this city?).

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After a couple hours in the museum, there was time for an early lunch, which started in a queue in a fishmonger’s. Oh yes, the Pescheria Spadari is a fishmonger’s that’s been situated in central Milan (a 5 minute walk from the Duomo) for around 80 years. In addition to selling fresh fish, they run a lunchtime bistrot with delicious fresh fish dishes. I think the menu changes a little each day but there’s always fritto misto, which we bought to takeaway and eat outside. It was about €10 and was as fresh and amazing as you’d expect.

Fritto Misto

Pescheria Spadari
Via Spadari, 4
20123 Milano, Italy

A final bite, before taking a tram to the main station, from where we caught a bus to the airport, was at Princi – yes, my beloved Princi in London is the only international outpost of this Milanese chain. Two slices of fantastic focaccia – one topped with sliced vegetables …

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… and the other sliced and filled with Parma ham. Yes, it’s as good as the one in London and while writing this up, I realise I need to make another visit to ours soon to get a taste of Milan again.

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Princi
Via Speronari, 6
Milano, Italy

I love Milan! Of course, with more time, I think we would have ventured out of the city centre more, especially to eat and I bet I would have fallen in love with it even more. Next time….there will be a next time. As is usual, all the photos from our trip can be found in this Flickr album.

Right, about a month ago, I realised we didn’t have anything planned for Easter (one of the few free holiday days I get off from work) and after a bit of a discussion, we came to the realisation that we were both jonesing to go back to Italy. A little while later, after a bit of googling, we had booked two cheap flights to Milan and a budget hotel as well.

And the next thing we knew, we were on a plane from London to Milan! Italy! The city of fashion! The city in Easter! Oh yeah, Easter. Easter in a very Catholic country turned out to be quite a difficult one for a couple interested in food. Many of the cities top eateries were closed on both Easter Sunday (many restaurants are closed on Sundays anyway) and Easter Monday and we ended up eating not the food of Milan or Lombardy but the cuisine of Parma, of Naples, of Emilia-Romagna. Eventually we got some Milanese cuisine (that’s for the second post).

We landed to beautiful weather – blue skies that were the perfect background to the glistening Duomo.

Duomo

Unfortunately, within about two hours, it started pouring with rain and we found ourselves trudging through empty and dead streets trying to find some dinner. We ended up in one of the only restaurants that seemed to be open – Salsamenteria di Parma.

After we placed our order, bread and a couple of sauces were dropped onto our table. These were the sauces for which they made their name – the two turned out to be whichever random two our waiter grabbed but they turned out to be scallion and artichoke. And they were excellent.

Bread and Sauces

It was a brilliant start to a fabulous meal. Here was polenta fritta e mariola, the latter being an incredible spiced cooked pork sausage.

Polenta Fritta e Mariola

Tripletta rustica was a selection of excellent salames and mortadella.

Tripletta Rustica

The Tripletta Parmigiana was a trio of pasta dishes – tortelli di zucca (pumpkin), tortellli d’erbetta (Swiss chard), and anolini di San Secondo. The first two were dressed simply in butter and parmesan while the last was served with a creamy tomato and cured ham sauce.

Tripletta Parmigiana

I had to get some vegetables in us and a padellata di verdure was a selection of vegetables slowly cooked with lots of olive oil.

Padellata di Verdure

For dessert, we shared a doppietta del goloso, a selection of torta sbrisolona, zabaione, and salame di cioccolato con panna. That torta was an incredible crunchy nutty biscuit and that salame! I’ve got to learn the recipe for it.

Doppietta del Goloso

Salsamenteria di Parma
Via S. Pietro All’Orto, 9
20100 Milano, Italy

The next morning was equally grey and drab but what immediately picked us up was a standing-by-the-bar breakfast at Panettone Vergani, one of the few places open on Easter Monday between our hotel and the centre of Milan. Blai’s chocolate croissant turned out to be freshly filled with a chocolate cream – two pumps worth!

Chocolate Croissant

My chosen colomba was similar to a panettone but without the raisins…. so hence it’s better! It’s only really for Easter and there was plenty of candied citrus peel within. And a cappuccino – gotta have my morning coffee. Blai, on the other hand, developed a daily spremuta di arancia habit – freshly squeezed blood orange juice!

Cappuccino and Colomba

Vergani
Corso di Porta Romana 51
(MM Crocetta)
Milano, Italy

Walking around in the grey drizzle wasn’t great but we did manage to see lots of Milan and its churches that morning (most museums are closed on Mondays). We were ready for lunch and we stopped at the first place we could find that was open. This turned out to be Osteria al 29, an osteria that served Neapolitan food, including pizzas. But we were not in the mood for pizzas nor pasta and so we each ordered what was normally a secondo. My salsicce e friarielli hit the spot and caused me to fall in love all over again with the bitter greens.

Salsicce e Friarielli

Blai’s salmon was also delicious and served with all the vegetables one needed.

Salmon

Others were ordering pizzas which really did look excellent.

Osteria al 29
Corso Magenta, 29
20123 Milano, Italy

The highlight of the afternoon was a visit to the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, an outstanding church built in the Lombardy Renaissance style (this is the same style of all the little churches in the Vall de Boí which we visited last year). If you visit (it’s free), do pay the extra €2 to see the ‘treasure’ of the basilica. Oh, and take a look down in the crypt for the somewhat traumatising peek at the remains of three of the most important saints in Milan, one being Sant’Ambrogio, its patron saint.

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Finding dinner that evening was equally challenging. I thought that perhaps Easter Monday wouldn’t be as bad as Easter Sunday but our first choice of trattoria was closed. We weren’t going to risk going to yet another one on our list (much of the good stuff is located far from the centre) and so we went to Eataly in Piazza XXV Aprile. I’d visited Eatalys in Genoa and New York and knew what to expect – food!

We went to the section focusing on meat and fish (along with other tourists and Italians also looking for a place to eat) and ended up with a good selection. Our starter of arrosticini, thin grilled skewers of lamb, were fantastic – all juicy and lamby – and an Easter special.

Arrosticini

We split two main courses – one was veal cheeks cooked in red wine and served with soft polenta …

Veal Cheeks with Polenta

… and the other was grilled amberjack on a lemony potato puree. Both were excellent and as we’d never eaten at an Eataly properly, we were impressed.

Amberjack on Potato Puree

Dessert was found downstairs at a soft-serve gelato outlet, specialising in soft serve made from some fresh Alpine milk. Our stracciatella was milk soft serve topped with chocolate sauce that hardened on contact – good stuff! Thank goodness for Eataly at Easter!

Eataly Milano Smeraldo
Piazza XXV Aprile, 10
20100 Milano, Italy

Days 3 and 4, coming up!

Another travel post! I was in Genoa in Northern Italy for work a few weeks ago (my first trip there) and despite it being a very short visit, I managed to pack in quite a lot of eating. I really wasn’t very prepared for the trip, having to spend more time on the work part of things, but the city surprised me – it turns out that Genoa has the largest medieval city centre in Europe, an entirely rejuvenated old port area, and plenty of affordable and excellent eating. I also had a short list of the food highlights of Genoa and Liguria (thanks for the list, A!) and I did manage to eat all the main things on it!

It all started on my first lunch break when I wandered into Zena Zuena on Via XX Settembre. This “fast food” eatery had a number of foccacias and pizzas on display and locals were crowding the counter to get a couple slices for their midday meal. I joined the scrum and ordered a bowl of minestrone alla genovese and slice of Focaccia di Recco.

Lunch

The minestrone in Genoa is tinged green, being laced with the fabulous pesto of the region, and was served with a slice of the typical bread of the region – focaccia, topped with lots of olive oil and a bit of rosemary (tucked in the napkin in the corner). The foccacia di Recco is also known as focaccia al formaggio; it’s not like the usual thicker focaccia but is made of dough as is used with pizza, rolled very thinly and is used to sandwich a layer of cheese (usually a fresh stracchino). The entirely thing is cooked in a pizza oven until the bread is cooked and the cheese is oozing out.

After work, while wandering around the medieval centre, making the most of the fading light, I encountered many enticing food shops and bakeries and not having a moment for aperitivo, I stepped into one bakery with trays of farinata in their window.

Farinata

A snack sized portion of farinata was sliced off for me – only 60 cents! I think many people do this when alone as they didn’t blink when I asked for it.

Snack Sized Portion of Farinata - 60 cents!

As for the farinata – it was a thin baked pancake made of chickpea flour, not unlike the socca of Nice. I loved it.

Anyway, that little snack was a precursor to a proper meal – I had identified Trattoria Ugo as a place serving traditional Genovese cuisine at very reasonable prices and I went early to ensure I’d get a seat. I needn’t have worried; the trattoria was quiet on a Tuesday night but not worryingly quiet – many locals trickled in through the evening.

In the Trattoria

For my primo, pansotti con salsa di noci, a very typical pasta dish from Genoa. Pansotti are a type of ravioli that’s normally shaped as triangles but here were made into semicircles; they’re filled with wild greens and the intensely creamy and cheesy walnut sauce paired incredibly with them.

Inside the Pansotti

For my main course, I ordered the house special – acciughe ripiene (stuffed anchovies), served with breaded and fried mushrooms, a slice of aubergine prepared the same way, and grilled vegetables. I tried asking what the anchovies were stuffed with but there didn’t seem to be an actual answer – I believe they’re always stuffed with the same thing: cheese, garlic and breadcrumbs. Here they were fried but I saw many delicatessens also selling them roasted. Delicious.

Acciughe Ripiene

For dessert, I chose a budino alla vaniglia con cioccolato fondente – a homemade vanilla pudding with dark chocolate. This smooth pudding was a little firmer than a pannacotta but was no less delicious for it.

Budino alla Vaniglia con Cioccolato Fondente

Three courses (without drinks) totaled €27.

The next day, I used my long lunch break to trek to Antica Sa’Pesta, an old restaurant in the medieval part of the city. The place looks like time stood still from the beginning of the century, with its old wooden tables with shared seating.

Antica Sa' Pesta

I ordered only a single dish, their gnocchi with pesto (there’s usually something with pesto each day) – I had heard great things about their pesto and I wasn’t to be let down. The gnocchi were excellent but it was the pesto that stuck with me – it was an extraordinarily vibrant green and with a great basil and cheese flavour. If it was one thing that surprised me, it was the amount of cheese that went into the pesto here.

Gnocchi with Pesto

Various baked pies and dishes were also on offer for takeaway. I wanted to try one of the vegetable pies that are so common in the region and went with a slice of torta di bietole, made with Swiss chard, to takeaway.

Torta di Bietole

I ate it later after work and though it was a bit on the soggy side, it was fantastically delicious. There was a thick layer of a fresh cheese on top of the cooked chard and the flavour of it all had me wolfing it down with my fingers.

After the pesto lunch, on the way back to work, I grabbed a gelato from Cremeria della Erbe, meant to be one of the best gelato purveyors in the city. I was surprised by how soft the gelato was but was reassured by a local that this was how it’s meant to be. My strawberry sorbet and coffee-ciok (coffee gelato studded with milk chocolate bits) were fabulous.

Gelato number two

That evening, I sought a shop that has been selling candied fruit for centuries – Pietro Romanengo fu Stefano.

Pietro Romanengo fu Stefano

Inside, I found the saleswoman wrapping Christmas pandolce … for Carluccio’s! So yeah, Carluccio’s pandolce is from this most famous of Genovese shops. I’ll be trying one this Christmas for sure! Anyway, I returned home this time with some of their candied chestnuts (scented with a bit of orange blossom) and chocolate covered candied orange peel, some of our favourite things.

On my last morning, I returned to a cafe just a few doors down from Pietro Romanengo fu Stefano – this cafe was Fratelli Klainguti and it and the candied fruit shop were both greatly favoured by Italy’s most famous composer, Giuseppi Verdi, who spent over 30 winters in the city.

Fratelli Klainguti

I decided to try their Falstaff, Verdi’s most loved hazelnut paste filled brioche.

Verdi's Falstaff

With a cappuccino, that was my breakfast that morning. The Falstaff was very good (the hazelnut paste was incredible) but to me, didn’t need that extra sugar fondant on top. Verdi clearly liked his pastries very very sweet!

A Cappuccino and Falstaff

There’s even a signed picture from Verdi himself, proclaiming that the cafe’s Falstaff is better than his own!

Verdi

Right before I headed to the airport, I visited the Mercato Orientale in search of some fresh pasta and pesto to bring home. I did find some but I also discovered a busy, vibrant market with beautiful fish, meat and produce of the region. Oh, how I wished I could have brought it all home!

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If you’re looking for more Ligurian specialities, the ones I didn’t have time to seek out were: stoccafisso accomodato (a stew of dried unsalted cod), coniglio alla ligure (Ligurian-style rabbit), trippe (tripe). And you know what? The city is extremely pretty too – make sure you find time to visit the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo (avoiding lunchtime when it’s closed!) and the numerous palazzi.

Cattedrale di San Lorenzo

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Porto Antico

All my photos from my short trip can be found in this Flickr album.

I was going to go all out for my last dinner in Ischia – could I get through perhaps four courses: antipasto, primo, secondo, dolce? I was very keen to try one of Ischia’s most famous dishes – Ischian-style rabbit. While one might think that the only food on the island is sea-based, it turns out that rabbit is a popular meat there, with farmers raising them inland. After wandering through Ischia Porto and Ischia Porte for a while, I found Da Raffaele, which was one of the few restaurants that served individual portions of the rabbit. Many other restaurants require one to order an entire bunny in advance. Good, the place looked promising and busy and the restaurant’s location along Via Roma made for some fantastic people watching during my meal.

I started with Brushetta, that famous toast lavished with plenty of olive oil and beautiful tomatoes. I liked that you could order it by the piece here, perfect for the solo diner.

Bruschetta

Pasta time! Linguine alle Vongole was exactly what I wanted. Perfectly al dente pasta with salty clams and sweet tomatoes.

Linguine alle Vongole

And here was my secondo of Coniglio all’Ischitana. Here, portions were stewed with olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, chilli, rosemary and parsley. It was delicious if a little freaky when served with its lungs and heart intact!

Coniglio all'Ischitana

I couldn’t fit in any dessert! What a shame – I bet their offerings would have been good!

Ristorante Da Raffaele
Via Roma, 29
Ischia Porto, Ischia
80077 Province of Naples
Italy

The next day, after a slow and leisurely breakfast, I checked out of the hotel, transferred to the ferry port and while waiting for the ferry, I ogled a nearby fruit stand.

Look at those stacks of cherries!

Fruits

What an amazing variety of tomatoes! I wish I could have carried some back with me.

Tomatoes

Anyway, a ferry ride and I was back in Naples. I caught the bus to the airport and then found myself there at lunchtime. Perfect. A Fratelli La Bufala (there are branches of this Neapolitan chain in London too) pre-security was a good choice.

I started with a small plate of the vegetables on display at the front. The tender dark green leaves of the Neapolitan Friarielli saltati were perfect – dark, bitter and so so moreish. Melanzana a funghetto was not with mushrooms as the same may imply but silky soft aubergine cooked with tomatoes.

Friarielli and Melanzane

A Margherita pizza was very good. Sure, it wasn’t da Michele but it was excellent for airport food.

Margherita

Fratelli La Bufala
Viale Fulco Ruffo di Calabria
Aeroporto di Napoli Capodichino
80144 Napoli
Italy

I’ll just quickly mention here how fabulous the food was at Milan Linate airport too, where I changed flights both ways. Are all Italian airports like this? Ah, not just airports I’ve just discovered but also railway stations, highway rest stops and big downtown shopping districts – it’s the Ciao Ristorante! It’s self-service and affordable and the food is very very good indeed. All the airport workers lunching there were a good sign. Here’s some of my lunch on my flight out – bresaola with parmesan and rocket and a fantastic strawberry cake.

That’s it from Italy this time! All my photos from Naples and Ischia can be seen in this Flickr photoset.

I didn’t have much time in Naples, the reason being a wedding to attend on the nearby island of Ischia! It’s a short ferry ride away, first past the island of Procida and in our case, arriving at the town of Forio. Our hotel was not too far away and they had sent some transportation to move us and our luggage.

We soon were back in Forio town that night in search of a place to eat. After walking round the town and finding the Chiesa Soccorso, we ended up at Il Soccorso, just at its foot and had a feast while watching an all-night outdoor performance by the town’s children. A few bits and bobs were first shared by the table for antipasti and my favourite was the incredibly tender octopus salad with chunks of potato and lots of olives.

Octopus Salad

A friend and I split two dishes. Paccheri with clams and zucchini was perfectly al dente and the combination of clams and zucchini is one I hope to replicate at home!

Paccheri with Clams and Zucchini

Scaloppine di Vitello al Limone was indeed very lemony and tender and delicious. The entire region is famous for its lemons and I certainly got my fill of lemony goodness on this trip.

Scaloppine di Vitello al Limone

A bit of a delay with the pizzas on the table (some were incredible, with ricotta stuffed crusts) resulted in chilled glasses of a local liquor arriving as an apology. It’s a dark sweet fruity liquor called rucolino…and yes, it’s made from rucola (rocket)! Fascinating!

Rucolino

Il Soccorso
Via Soccorso, 5
80075 Forio
Isola d’Ischia, Italy

On the day of the wedding, a few of us hopped on a bus for the town of Ischia Porto from where we would walk to the neighbouring town of Ischia Ponte where we could access the Castello Aragonese.

Castello Aragonese

It wasn’t too taxing a walk to the top and we were rewarded with amazing views and a delicious lunch at the restaurant. My stuffed omelette (with ham and cheese) hit the spot. Best to avoid their pizza though.

Stuffed Omelette

Ischia Ponte

The wedding that evening was beautiful and I’m so happy for the now married couple. And what a reception it was – I think it was pretty epic, even for Italian wedding standards! Highlights included a boat of oysters,….

La Barchetta dell'Ostricaro

…a dedicated chef for deep fried nibbles from Naples,…

L'Angolo dell'Olio Caldo

… and sea bream baked in a salt crust.

Il Secondo - Il Filetto di Orata in Crosta di Sale

I was utterly stuffed.

The next day (well… the same day…as the night was long) I woke late and could barely stomach the thought of more food. It was time for a day rest and relaxation and I hoped to achieve it at the Giardini Poseidon Terme, a thermal spa with multiple pools of  naturally heated water and water jets. But just before I entered, a man with a fruit cart (more like a fruit van?) outside had me distracted and I ended up entering the spa with a bag of the juiciest cherries and sweetest giant figs. Then it was an afternoon of soaking and napping and soaking again.

Cherries and Figs

Giardini Poseidon Terme

Though the food offerings at Poseidon did look very good, I thought I’d explore the beach area a bit and so for lunch (ok, I found some space in my stomach later in the day) chose a place called Bar-Ristorante Bagno Teresa, the only restaurant along the beach that advertised daily specials. I started with a classic melon and prosciutto …

Prosciutto e Melone

…followed by one of their daily specials – linguine with lemon and scampi. This was incredible, with the shellfish as fresh as it could be and the island’s famous lemons very clear in the simple sauce.

Linguine al Limone e Scampi

Bar-Ristorante Bagno Teresa
Via Giovanni Mazzella
Forio, Isola d’Ischia
Italy

That evening (a Sunday), I headed into the town of Forio to find it packed with families out for la passeggiata, the evening’s promenade. Feeling only a little peckish, I joined the queues of families buying little snacky bits from stands outside on the street.

Fried

I stopped at a stand in front of a rosticceria and picked up a small pizza (average but outstanding tomato sauce that I licked up) and this excellent fried potato croquette filled with salami and cheese. It was not exactly light but it was good. I sat by the Chiesa Soccorso and watched the sun go down.

Fried Potato Thing With Salami and Cheese

Oh, and if you see this little drinks stand below in Forio, do try their lemon granita. It was the best I’d tried on the island.

Lemon Stand

On my last full day on the island, I headed for Sant’Angelo, a beautiful town on the south coast of Ischia.

Sant'Angelo

The pastries in the display case outside Bar Pasticceria Rosticceria Dolce e la Vita caught my attention. After failing to get into the Terme Cavascura (ugh, after a water taxi ride and walking through a gorge, I found it closed), I headed back to  Sant’Angelo and entered the cafe, grabbing one of the prime seats-with-a-view in the back, in the shade.

Lunch with a View

As suggested by IschiaTown on Twitter, I tried a zingara, a sandwich invented on Ischia. The toasted sandwich I ordered was filled with mayonnaise, prosciutto, cheese, tomato and lettuce. Delicious though perhaps a hot toasted sandwich wasn’t the best choice in the heat!

Zingara

I was really looking forward to my sweet – a Dolci Pensieri, according to the label in the window. The wild strawberry topped confections had been calling out my name since I first saw them and I greedily chose the one with both crema and nata (or was it panna? What’s the word for Italian for whipped cream?) inside.

Dolci Pensieri

More specifically, it was a crisp flaky pastry cup lined in dark chocolate, filled with crema (custard), then a layer of sponge cake, a layer of nata/panna and then the wild strawberries. It was insanely good.

Inside the Dolci Pensieri

Bar Pasticceria Rosticceria Dolce e la Vita
Via Nazario Sauro
Loc di Serrara Fontana
Sant’Angelo, Serrara Fontana
Isola d’Ischia, Italy

Anyway, this has become a bit of a novel so my last two meals on Ischia and in Naples will be in the next post! I’d just like to end this post by saying how surprised I was that there was never a dud meal on Ischia – everything is just extremely fresh, simply and expertly prepared and delicious. You won’t eat badly if you holiday there!

It was about 4pm Thursday afternoon when we landed in Naples and 5pm when we dropped off our bags and went out in search of pizza. We needed to eat and fortify ourselves as my friend and I were soon off on a stag night and hen night, respectively (egads). My copy of Saveur featuring pizza in Naples had a good list of places in the old town and the hotel receptionist was adamant that the best on the list and the best in Naples was at Michele. So, to Michele we went.

The tiny restaurant was still empty when we arrived (just shy of 6pm) but started filling very quickly after we sat down.

Da Michele

A wood burning oven was sitting in the corner but we barely felt the heat from it (was there air conditioning?). A few pizzaioli were moving swiftly about, preparing the pizzas, slipping them into the oven and then whisking them out, all hot and steaming.

Wood Burning Oven

I love their very minimal menu. Two kinds of pizza (margherita and marinara), a few size options, a double mozzarella option and drinks – that’s it! We both had drinks and normal margherita pizzas.

Menu

Our pizzas arrived very quickly.

Pizzas

Mine was a thing of beauty. The crust was beautifully blistered from the intense heat of the oven and was amazingly tender yet chewy. Oh, it was delicious. How delicious it was.

Pizza Margherita

And I couldn’t get over how delicious the tomato sauce was; I can see now the point of a marinara pizza. While the cheese was excellent, I could see how it’s not always necessary!

Was it the best pizza in Naples? I have no idea as I’d need to try them all but I know that this was the best pizza I’d ever had (possibly). Highly recommended if you’re in Naples. A queue was already forming when we left so get in there early to get a table immediately.

Oh, and the hen night? Yeah, I survived (and even fit in a second pizza that night!).

L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele
Via Cesare Sersale, 1-3
80139 Naples
Italy

I saved La Matricianella for our last dinner in Rome. Yes, the name of the restaurant does bear a striking similarity to the restaurant where we ate our first dinner in Rome but this is just coincidence! La Matricianella is located more centrally and according to this article by the New York Times, is recommended by locals. We didn’t book (though it is recommended) but walked up just as it was opening at 7:30 in the evening. We were sat at one of the last available tables by a grumpy host/waiter who looked like he’d just rolled out of bed; they started turning people away soon after. So, I’d really recommend booking!

The place gets seriously busy and is a good mix of both locals and tourists. And like all the other Roman trattorias I’d eaten in, the tables were packed tightly together. This resulted in our waiter being unable to actually walk up to our table and he had to hand us our dishes with outstretched arms! All along the walls are framed reviews of the restaurant from both local and international publications.

How about another plate of fried to start with? We split this platter of fritto misto consisting of artichokes, cauliflower, potato croquette, and mozzarella chunks all in batter. We never ate a single dud fried item in Rome; everything was gorgeous.

Fritto Misto

Because we obviously didn’t have enough artichokes on this trip, we ordered the tonnarelli with artichokes as our pasta course, to split. Turns out tonnarelli is a fresh long pasta with a square cross-section. It was delicious with a very simple sauce of olive oil, garlic, and the fresh artichokes. I also detected just a tiny hint of pepperoncino.

Tonnarelli with Artichokes

To follow, polpettine, rucola e tartufo – light meatballs in a rich dark sauce with rocket leaves and shaved black truffles…

Polpettine, Rucola e Tartufo

… and arrosto di vitalla – roast veal with roast potatoes.

Arrosto di Vitella

The meatballs were ethereally light but still very rich – plenty of breadcrumbs and cheese in there! And plenty of peppery rocket and earthy black truffle to balance the richness. The veal was well roasted with a lovely light gravy. The potatoes were tinged with a hint of rosemary and though they could have been a bit crispier, they were fine specimens.

Along with a bottle of water and the bread basket, the meal came to a total of €56 (the initially grumpy host/waiter turned on all the charm when bringing us our bill!) . Not bad for enough food for us to feel a little uncomfortable afterwards.

Did you notice that we didn’t have dessert? For some reason, nothing on the dessert menu looked interesting to me (I’m guessing that the uncomfortableness had a role in this). We ended up walking round the block and suddenly the need for a gelato arose. We went into Ciampini (just around the corner from the La Matricianella) and bought a cupful of pistacchio and marrons glace gelati. Lovely chunks of candied chestnut in the latter and the former was the best pistacchio gelato we’d tasted in Rome. And that was dessert sorted.

Ristorante la Matricianella
Via del Leone, 4
Rome, Italy

And that rounds up my Rome posts! Thank you again to everyone who gave us recommendations for places to eat – I’m just sorry that we didn’t have enough time to visit all of them (I suspect I would have needed lunches and dinners for a month to cover the whole list!). All my photos from Rome (and the Vatican City) can be found in this Flickr photostream.

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