Best of- Food

Not that this came as a surprise to me, but a major focus of this trip was food.  Many people seem think that just because you are in Italy, amazing food is going to be all around you and all you consume.  Like anywhere, food in Italy varies.  Not every bite you put in your mouth is worth the calories or the euro….so I tried to be selective.  I researched, talked to locals, checked out plates as I passed.  However, some of my best bites were serendipitous..  Grazie mille San Lorenzo!  As I answer my own “Best of Food” questions, I am not looking back at photos for reminders.  These answers are based solely on sweet (and savory) memories!

Best Pizza– Pizzeria Franco, Sorrento

I’ll start with the question I get most, “Where did you have the best pizza?”  Without a doubt it was  in Sorrento.  Even though Sorrento is not on my list of cities to return to, catching a train just to eat at Franco’s is!

Peperoni, salsiccia e formaggi

Peperoni, salsiccia e formaggi

Best Gelato– CCC, Capri Crema Cafe, Anacapri

Capri Crema Cafe

Capri Crema Cafe

I loved the whole vibe here;  a little retro but definitely cutting edge, clean and crisp. Presentation is spot on and taste….molto buono!

Best Pasta Gnocchetti fatto a mano…..le mie mani!!

Gnocchetti Sardi fatti in casa con Ragu alla Bolognese

Gnocchetti Sardi fatti in casa con Ragu alla Bolognese

I am sure the fact that I/we made this in our cooking class and the love and laughs that went into the preparation flavors my perspective…..but this truly was the best pasta I had during my trip. I could have easily made myself sick on it.  But being in the company of “strangers” and needing to save room for all the other dishes we prepared, tempered my portion.

On my first Sunday back home, I prepared this for my family.  It received rave reviews here as well.

Fatto in my Texas Casa

Fatto in my Texas Casa

Best Street Food–  Frito Misto, Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

Fritto Misto calamari e gamberi

Fritto Misto
calamari e gamberi

This is one of those places I roamed into.  The calamari was the freshest I have ever had.  It is pretty much a given now that I love my food in a paper cone.

Best Ristorante– Al Pozzo, Monterosso   Trattoria Mario, Firenze   Trattoria Katti, Firenze

This category has a three-way tie.  All three are here due to the quality of food but also because of the personal attention/willingness to interact,  and for me, both are key in creating a memorable experience.


Al Pozzo has previous memories attached to it.  I have enjoyed beautiful evenings seated in the street here my family.  I have a photo of Chef Gino preparing his famed frutti di mare risotto (which I have yet to try).  Both of my children fell in love with gamberetti gnocchi here.                                         Wonderful memories can be a tough thing for a place to live up to as well.  On my first night in Monterosso, when being presented with my gamberetti gnocchi, my heart fell…. the gnocchi failed to sport its tell-tale ridges.  I guess as a time saver, instead of hand rolling each gnoccho on the ridged board, they stopped at the step before, creating a less appealing looking dumpling.  I so wanted to inquire, but I knew my question could only be taken as a complaint (which to be honest….it would have been) and I chose to make new memories instead of trying to relive past ones….that’s growth huh!?

Not to be Missed!

Not to be Missed!

Trattoria Mario is just one of those special places.  Yes it is packed with tourist that have read about it, but it is run by locals that I think are there for the locals….we just happen to be a byproduct of their love of Firenze and its food.

Now Trattoria Katti is all me.  I did not read about it, I did not hear about it, I just roamed into it and I am so glad I did.  As you know, I enjoyed a dinner there twice.  Both times the food was very good, but the dish that put it over the top for me was the Pappa al Pomodoro.  I have since longed for a spoonful often!!  The fact that when I would walk by (countless times…it was on “my street”) and Katti or her mamma would see me and say “Ciao!” didn’t hurt either.

Comfort in a bowl!

Comfort in a bowl!

Best BItes– Fried Calzone, Anacapri     Coccolo, Firenze     Papa al Pomodoro, Firenze       Panino, Firenze

I had a lot of wonderful food during my trip…if I look back through my photos, I am sure I would add more to my list, but again….I am going with my memory and my gut here.

To me, this is what it is all about…that first bite….the moment you put something into your mouth and you are simply sent….the second bite or the second visit may not compare….but it is that first bite that you remember…

When I first bit into the fried calzone in Anacapri, right then, I knew it was the best thing I had eaten in Italy yet….I will admit, when I finally found the bakery the 2nd time, after days of trying to retrace my steps….the 2nd experience did not measure up to the first.  It was still wonderful….but just not the same…

Fried Calzone...need I say more...

Fried Calzone…need I say more…

Coccolo, dusted with salt...

Coccolo, dusted with salt…

OK…there is a trend here….more fried dough.  Hey, I am not proud…IS there anything better!?  I have yet to make these, but I do have a happy hour on the books and am planning to serve Aperol Spritz and these!

I have already shared the photo of Papa al Pomodoro, but it makes the list again….

And last, but certainly NOT least was my amazing panino in Firenze….

All'Antico Vinaio

All’Antico Vinaio

Once again rewarded for roaming on!

You will notice that most of my BEST BITES are from my eats in Firenze…another reason the city is a fav of mine!

Best Sips– A Pie’ de Ma’, Riomaggiore    Caffe Gilli, Firenze

During my previous trip to Italy with my mom and kids, I would look at people just sitting, enjoying a glass of wine or an aperitif, perhaps reading a book….I longed for that experience, that pace.  This trip, I enjoyed many such moments.

a Pie' de Ma

a Pie’ de Ma

I am thankful for the tip to look for a Pie’ de Ma….it isn’t a place you would just stumble on.  Definitely a place to return to.

My first Aperol Spritz...and more coccolo!  Heaven or What!?

My first Aperol Spritz…and more coccolo! Heaven or What!?

During my evening at Gilli, I just kept pinching myself….I was so happy.  Seated outdoors overlooking Piazza della Repubblica…people watching…pretty much heaven for me.

Best New Discovery– Fresh Cherries  and Fresh Anchovies

I know you are probably thinking, “How can cherries be a discovery?”  Well, I am not a fruit person.  As I have gotten older, I have tried to broaden my fruit horizons (remember the fig….).  I tend to be attracted to “pretty things”.  When I was younger, I put a tomato slice on my plate simply because I thought it needed the color.  So with cherries being in season, stacked and piled at every stand…I had to.  And once again…rewarded.  Cherries became my staple snack.  I am sad to say that I bought some here at home…and they did not compare.

It is art!

It is art!

The moral of my italian eating is that fresh is key….my anchovy experiences speak to that as well!

Shrimp, Calamari and ANCHOVY!

Shrimp, Calamari and ANCHOVY!

I know I am leaving something (many things) out…I could probably give everything its own category….my picnic on the beach in Monterosso….so perfect….the limoncello Franco unlocked from his “private collection”….so-a strong-a and-a so-a beautiful-a!….the warm, oily bag of pane in Trastevere…..ALL my CAPRESES!!!…..

As you read, if there is a category you would like me to award…please…let me know…

My plan is one more post from this trip….The Best of…THE REST.

Best Of- B and B ‘s

First…some great news!!!!


The scatola gialla has arrived!!  I was so happy to see the pink slip in the mail box.  And even happier when Mom and Dad brought it in.  It looks as if it had a tough journey; all broken and taped, but what matters is all the goodies (yes, more ephemera!!) are here…no more loose ends; me, the Ferrari and the scatola gialla all arrived at different times, but we all arrived.

I wince a bit when I say I have been home two weeks now.                                                No doubt…there are wonderful things about being home; family, comforts of home, friends, family, comforts of home….wait, I already said that….ok….I am stumped…I know there are more, but I’ll have to get back to you.

Two weeks has allowed me to reflect, tell stories, miss certain things, etc.  During this time, I ask myself questions; “What was your best fill in the blank?  More often than not, a debate ensues.  I have to qualify and qualify, substitute, consider a different opinion, be reminded of something ….and that’s just talking to myself….                                                         But I think I am ready to make a few non-binding (my favorite kind) commitments…

So let’s start with my B & Bs.

Gosh…I actually got a bit nervous just then….I guess this is making it feel like a formal ending…..

Best Bedroom/Bath Layout & Comfy Bed– Chiusi and Vence

L' albero di gameli, Chiusi

L’ albero di gameli, Chiusi

Le2, Vence, France

Le2, Vence, France

These two B & B’s get three Best Of’s each!  I loved the eclectic mix and feel of the decor in Le2, but L’albero di gameli’s understated elegance made me feel pampered for the night.  Did I ever mention the wonderful scent that filled the air there?  I  know scents can be tricky.  Something someone loves gives someone else a headache.  But the scent Milena has here is so subtle…just enough to make you think “aaahhhhhhhh”.

Best Room View- Sorrento and Assisi (See now I thinking Anacapri should make this list as well….)  But I am going to stick with my first two because I tend to like heights….I so loved being on the rooftops of these places.  B&B Belvedere Sorrento gets top honors I think because of all I could see and hear; Piazza Tasso, the sea, the rooftops, people’s windows, the streets below.

Rooftop B&B Belvedere

Rooftop B & B Belvedere

B&B Belvedere Sorrento

B & B Belvedere Sorrento

I guess it gave me more “scenes” to picture myself in while Hotel Alexander’s (Assisi) view of the rolling hills of Toscana were like something out of an Italian fantasy.

Hotel Alexander, Assisi

Hotel Alexander, Assisi

Plus, in B & B Belvedere’s column, I so enjoyed my evenings on the rooftop with a glass of wine or a treat I had grabbed from the streets below.

Best Hotel Host/Hostess- OK…no surprises here…say it with me….FRANCO!!     Because I was Franco’s guest for 5 nights he of course gets top honors, but Milena comes in a close 2nd with only 1 night to impress!!

Il mio amico Franco!

Il mio amico Franco!

Franco and Family were just absolutely wonderful.  I cannot say enough about my time there and without Franco’s kindness, Anacapri would have just been another bellissimo posto on my trip.

Milena at work

Milena at work

Milena, with two precious girls in tow, went al di sopra e al di la to make my one night in Chiusi perfect AND help me.  With both of these special people, I feel I now have amici in Italia.  Are there ANY better souvenirs!?

My parents are already planning on adding these two spots to their next trip to Italia.

Best Breakfast- B&B Roma Central

Pasticceria across the via from B&B Roma Central

Pasticceria across the via from B&B Roma Central

A typical italian breakfast is so very different from a typical American breakfast.  Cakes, cheeses, pastries and of course cafe.  In Roma, every morning I looked forward to going to the pasticceria across the street, handing the guy on the other side of the counter my hand stamped post-it note, choosing my pastry from the glass counter and deciding how I wanted my caffeine presented that day; cappuccino, espresso, macchiato…no way an Americano!!  I didn’t sit at a table alone, I stood at the counter quickly eating my pastry and  downing my cafe in no more than 3 gulps like all my other italian neighbors.  Perfetto!

Best Location, Location, Location (Hotel)-

This is a toughie.  There are pluses about almost every single place I stayed.  The total number of B&B is 10 and I have to say I would rebook 8 of them.                                Rome, although the location put me near some cool neighborhoods and close to the train station, I would try another location before returning.  That has NOTHING to do with the quality of my B&B, it was great, but next time, I am thinking Trastevere.                                 Anacapri, part of the charm was that I would walk to town several times a day.  Staying out of the city center allowed me to peek into lives and the same lives at different times of day.  That I loved.  The aromas of what was for lunch or dinner, the conversations floating out of open windows, passing familiar faces on the streets.  And of course the tranquil beauty of Il Giardino dell’arte; my terrace, the Bay of Naples in my arms…bella!                   Sorrento, couldn’t have been better.  Walking distance from the train station, a corner off Piazza Tasso, my rooftop terrace…..ya gotta love the luggage pulley!                                                                                                     Chiusi, with a car and the intention of exploring Toscana and Umbria….definitely a place to return to.                                                                                                                               Monterosso, Hotel Margherita has a perfect location and I love their shared terrace/patio.  It was definitely one of my favorite “offices”.  A common outdoor area is a huge plus, especially if you are staying for several days.  This space allows you to hang and unwind without feeling closed up in your room.                                                                                          Florence, Great location.  Far enough from the touristy centers to allow you a buffer zone, but close enough to everything; train station included.  Via Faenza is lined with small trattorias, groceries, enotecas and more.  On my next visit, I might check out options  in Oltrarno, but that is nothing against B&B Bencidormi.  I would love a place with that common outdoor area I was speaking of…I’ve got a while to do some research…I’ll let you know….                                                                                                                                     Assisi, Again, if you are going to Assisi, the location and terrace of Hotel Alexander seem perfect.                                                                                                                                     Vence, As long as church bells, LOUD church bells add to your experience LE2 is ideal.

8 out of 10....not bad!

8 out of 10….not bad!

Best Overall B & B Experience, Il Giardino Dell’Arte

Top Honors go to Franco e Famiglia

Top Honors go to Franco e Famiglia

This is taking EVERYTHING into consideration.  To put into Franco’s words, the time here will “crazy you”.   Bravo e Grazie Mille Franco!!

Is there anything about the B & Bs that I neglected to mention?  If so, send me a comment and I am sure I will have an opinion to share.

Next up, Best Of- Food!