Friday, July 1, 2016

4 Restaurants in Italy Not to Miss!

(A similar blog post was originally published by our friends at Utrip on their blog. Utrip is an online travel planner that uses your interests and budget to sort through millions of options to deliver you a personalized itinerary in minutes.)

“Waitthis is fresh made pasta, right?” I asked as the waiter shot me a look of severe discontent. 

Since when did I become such a pretentious eater that boxed pasta seemed so abhorrent?  Ohsince spending 3 weeks indulging in excellent food from the North to South of Italy. I had officially been ruined for all the Barillas & DeCeccos of the world. After witnessing Italian nonnas (grandmas) laboriously rolling fresh pasta and lingering over fragrant sauces it was no wonder I was appalled by food from a box and a jar!

After settling for his unequivocal reply of, “yes”, I took a deep breath, a sip of wine, and replayed my trip through Italy as I prepared for my last meal before jetting off. As an avid traveler Italy was one place I had been hesitant about visitingnot because I was concerned that I wouldn’t like it, but because I was concerned I would love it too much and never want to leave.

And without a doubt, Italy lived up to all the expectations in my mind. From the first peek of the rolling Tuscan countryside through the airplane window, to winding around the cliff side roads on the Amalfi coast on a Vespa, to this quaint little restaurant in Florence where I was eating my final fresh pasta dish, Italy took my breath away.

There is something so special, so enriching, so passionate, so simple about the way Italians live. And food is a cornerstone of the Italian way of life. On my first night in Italy I made friends with a group of locals who invited me over for a barbecue. I stood awe struck in their Renaissance-period kitchen as one of them nearly apologized to me because, “this olive oil isn’t very freshit’s nearly 8 months old since their family is preparing for the olive harvest this year.” Old olive oil?! Is that even a thing?! At home I drizzled whatever EVOO I could find in my cabinet, purchased from who knows where, who knows when. And that was just the beginning of my education in the way Italians eat, drink, love, and live.

I quickly came to find that traditional Italian dishes are surprisingly simple and that the rich aroma and flavor comes from using extremely fresh ingredients. Italians take great pride in this matter. While learning how to cook in a Tuscan kitchen, the chef asked me, “Do you like lemon thyme?”  Then followed with, “Great, let’s go pick some,” as we trotted out of the kitchen where a few pots of fresh herbs grew. I felt like tapping my Staples’ ‘that was easy’ button.

As a tour operator for international culinary trips, my sole purpose in Italy was to uncover places where any person would fall in love with Italian cuisineplaces that I would be overjoyed to share with other like-minded foodies. With some help from my friends at Utrip I was well connected with local Italian experts who paved the way. And among some of my favorite meals were these 4 gems I highly recommend you check out on your next visit to Italy:
  1. Fried Pizza at La Masardona in Naples
  2. Fried (you’re noticing a themearen’t you) Calamari Salad at Ristoteca Oniga in Venice
  3. Cacio e pepe at Cacio e Pepe in Rome
  4. Arugula salad & tagliolini magnifico at Trattoria Gargani in Florence

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