Friday, January 9, 2009

Goodfood in Italy Part 9: Eating in Italy

My best meals in Italy

I had decided on a very simple food strategy before going to Italy. I would eat only at small local establishments, ideally family-run and with no English menu. I would only eat the specialties of that region and only drink the wines that come from nearby vineyards. And I would try to eat as 'simple' food as possible, unadorned and frills-free, for simplicity is the soul of Italian cooking.

Happy to say that I met all my objectives. Each meal was an emotional experience.

Osso Buco
Tender chunks of veal, like butter in the mouth.
And a rich, warm stew. Tratorria La Torre, Siena

Tratorria La Torre, just steps away from Piazza Del Campo, Siena
A simple, homely, convivial place with an open kitchen and home-made pastas. The owner decided what I ate and then fell asleep at his chair, while his grandson played noisily with Transformers after finishing his homework. I ate Ravioli with sage and ricotta, topped with melted butter and parmigiano. And Veal Osso Buco. Washed down with Chianti. And finally Sienese almond biscotti dipped in a glass of Vin Santo.

Tagliate con Radicchio e Pecorino
Marvelous rare Tuscan beef with radicchio and young sheep's cheese.
Osteria Nonna Gina, Siena

Pici alla Dodo
Pici ( 'poor man's spaghetti'), a thich eggless noodle tossed with minced pork and topped with parmigiano. A carafe of Chianti.
Osteria Nonna Gina, Siena.

Guidoriccio, Via Giovanni Dupre, near Piazza Del Campo, Siena

Dining under medieval arches, served by owners the distinguished couple, Elisabetta and Ercole. Papardelle with Cinghiale (wild boar) ragu and Veal Scaloppini with Rosemary. Accompanied by Amor Divino Chianti, produced just a few km away from Siena.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Trippa Alla Romana, a roman specialty, at Osteria Siste Ponto , Trastevere, Roma.

Silky fulsome tripe topped with local pecorino. Tripe is an acquired taste, so it's best to acquire it as early as possible. If you are planning to lose your offal virginity, tripe is the dish and Rome is the place to do it. I had this with Pasta Gricia ( carbonara minus the eggs, just sauced with the bacon oil) and a half-bottle of a local Lazio red.
A simple Tortellini Brodo ( Tortellini in broth) and Saltimbocca - juicy veal escalopes with sage and olive oil at the hearty, unfussy Albergobressio di Borgo near the Vatican.

Assortment of freshly baked pastries and espresso for breakfast at Residence Alcione, Positano.

Breakfast on my terrace overlooking the Bay of Naples. Residence Alcione, Positano

Eating what we cooked. Pasta with clams and 'white fish', crepes with porcini, cheese and lots of Aglianico, Campania's most famous wine. With Chef Vincenzo, Lorenzo, Fiorenzo and Emanuel at Ristorante Mediterraneo, Positano.

Rigatoni with rib sausage and meatballs at La Tre Sorelle, on the beach at Positano.
Glass of Prosecco while watching the boats and the sunset on the Tyrrhennian Sea.

Besides these sit-down meals, other great pleasures were
~ quick bites of Pizza Taglio ( pizza by the slice) everywhere. My favourite was the one I had in this tiny pizzeria in Montalcino, with anchovies and capers.
~ marinated olives, artichokes and sardines from the Delikatesen near the beach at Positano, which I ate for three days
~ porchetta sandwich at Bar Gastronomica in a back alley of Sorrento
~ stuffed pepperonconi, marinated porcini and sundried tomatoes from the Antica Salumeria next to the Pantheon in Rome
~ Cinghiale (Wild Boar) salumi and fromaggi from the Pizzicheria Del Micoli on Via Del Citta, Siena where the owner served me the salami and cheese on a wooden tray on top of a wine barrel, with bread and little plastic tubs of anchovy paste and olive spread.
~ glasses 0f light and sweet Lazio reds in Rome, vibrant Aglianicos in Positano, Chianti and Brunello and Rosso di Montepulciano in Siena and surrounding areas.

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