Italy for the Gourmet Traveler

Sep 20th, 1999, 08:02 AM
  #1  
Barbara
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Italy for the Gourmet Traveler


For about 2 1/2 years I've been sharing information about Italy, and now I'd like to post my first question. I have recommended the book, Italy for the Gourmet Traveler to many, because I love independent travel, people contact, unusual experiences, and going off the beaten track. Also because this book has changed for all time the travel experiences we have in Italy. We are leaving in two weeks for another month's itinerary and, in a conversation with a friend, the subject of going off the main path just for one stellar meal or one unusual place came up. We do it a lot, especially on Fred Plotkin's reliable recommendations, and have never been disappointed. So, my question is twofold: Have any of you had the great results with this book that we have had, and, how many of you would follow the road less traveled just to experience one great, memorable meal? Would love to hear from old friends and new!
 
Sep 20th, 1999, 11:30 AM
  #2  
Carol
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Hi Barbara:

Although I have never read Italy for the Gourmet Traveler, I would definately go off the beaten path to try a great restaurant. The entire "food" experience - from marketplaces, to restaurants, to cooking schools - is one of my favorite parts of travel abroad!

Carol
 
Sep 20th, 1999, 01:48 PM
  #3  
elizabeth
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We've been known to drive right past an important tourist attraction to seek out a particular restaurant!

I don't know that book, but over the years have developed my own strange system. I start by doing alot of research on the area we're going to (I have about 15 years worth of back issues of Gourmet Mag, Food and Wine, Travel and Leisure, etc - I usually limit my restaurant searches to the past 5 years). Gourmet has a good web site for searching - www.epicurous.com. Travel and Leisure also has a lot of full text articles on their web site (go to www.pathfinder.com and there's a link to Travel and Leisure Mag).

Then I search out the web using sites like Fodors, New York Times, etc.

We also have used books such as Gault Millau and Eating in Italy by Faith Heller Willinger (she's a Gourmet columnist. I actually e-mailed her for our last trip to Puglia - her e-mail address is on the Gourmet site - and she got right back to me with sugggestions).

Then I gather everything together and take one master book (usually a Michelin Red Guide) and annotate it. I usually look for two mentions - Gourmet and Fodors, for example - so you can get two different opinions. In this way I was able to find some incredible restaurants for our trip last March to the Amalfi area and Puglia.

But for me, half the fun is the planning!

By the way, if you don't already do it I would urge you to take a menu translator book - there are several listed on the Amazon site. They're usually small enough to tuck into your bag and make a huge difference for ordering. Also, we tend to eat off the beaten track where they often don't have regular menus. The menu translator works really well with restaurant staff. They can easily find the dishes (they're usually alphabetical) so you don't end up ordering something by default just because you recognize it. (and while I'm a very adventurous eater - it did save me from ordering braised lamb lungs - I was assuming the dish was braised lamb shoulder - until I looked it up at the last moment!)

Where are you going in Italy? I'd be happy to make some suggestions if we've been there.

Have a wonderful holiday!

Regards

Elizabeth
 
Sep 20th, 1999, 01:50 PM
  #4  
Dona
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Hi Barbara,

A very nteresting question. I think I have the book you're talking about (since I have just about every book on Italy that's around) but I haven't really focused on it (yet!)

Food is very important to me too - wonderful meals with memorable wines (in a great location helps too!) For example, I had a memorable lunch in a little town, Erbusco - a restaurant called Gaultiero Marchesi at a beautiful hotel, L'Albereta (truly off the beaten path...)

Another great meal was on Isola Pescatori in Lago Maggiore at the Hotel Verbano - on the patio overlooking the lake, with the breeze blowing, the sun shining and the risotto with perch and salmon trout were MEMORABLE! Not exactly in the mainstream (pardon the pun!!)

There are so many of these - I'd love to hear some of yours...

I have a few regrets so far, i.e., places where I have been but missed what prob WOULD HAVE BEEN a great restaurant - Don Alfonso in Sant'Agata Sui Due Golfi on the Amalfi coast
 
Sep 20th, 1999, 02:17 PM
  #5  
elizabeth
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Dona - we ate at Don Alfonso's this past March and it was memorable. While the food was outstanding - I can't begin to describe the welcome.

It's truly a family affair - Father is the Chef, Mother is the business manager, and the son, Mario, is the gracious host. The culmination of our lunch there was Mario taking my husband for a drive down the Amalfi Coast in his brand new Red Alfa sports car (2-seater). Mario couldn't understand why we wouldn't just take the keys and go for a spin by ourselves (having spent the past week driving the Amalfi coast there was NO WAY we were taking that car on those roads). Fortunately for our budget, it was our last day in the area - otherwise we would have returned many times. If you're in the area again I would strongly recommend it.

Regards

Elizabeth
 
Sep 20th, 1999, 02:38 PM
  #6  
Carol
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Barbara:

A website that I've used in planning restaurants is: www.top-restaurants.com. I think it's been mentioned on this board before. Unfortunately, it's only for Paris and London. But I find that it has excellent information.

Carol
 
Sep 20th, 1999, 06:43 PM
  #7  
Barbara
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Thanks for the replies so far. It would seem we all have a few things in common. I am known for the planning I do for our trips, which is why we always end up taking friends with us. I, too, have collected all kinds of books about Italy, travelogues old and new, travel guides, language books, and an extensive collection of regional Italian cookbooks. We also plan our trips to Italy around food experiences that inevitably lead to people experiences. Let's share some of those stories. For one thing, the last time we were in Positano, we had plans to go to Da Alfonso, but my husband got sick and we missed it. Plan to go when we are there in a few weeks. This trip, we will be in Venice, the Emiglia-Romagna, Liguria, Tuscany, Umbria, Amalfi Coast and Sicily. Even though I speak a good bit of Italian, a food translator is helpful as there are so many regional variations in what foods are called. I plan to post on Fodor's after our trip, so you'll hear more. I cannot recommend Italy for the Gourmet Traveler enough. It covers every region, gives recommendations you won't see anywhere else, lists markets, food stores, etc, for many towns, and has amusing, very readable cultural background. Fred Plotkin is a gifted food writer, cookbook writer and opera singer, a witty and fascinating man with close to 30 years of living in Italy. His priorities are grounded in authenticity and meeting wonderful people. If only for entertainment, read his 700 page food bible. The day I bought it, I stayed up all night reading. Hope we hear from some more italiophiles. Thanks again for sharing the fun.
 
Sep 20th, 1999, 06:59 PM
  #8  
BMG
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I thought I'd round things out by being on the other side of the food fence. You asked (second question) how many of us would follow the road less travelled for a great food experience.
I must say, I'm one who would not. We treasure the sights, sounds and ambience of most any destination which is unfamiliar to us, but I, in particular, just don't get the whole food thing. Females much moreso than males seem to be food nuts. In some ways I just don't mind a decent sandwich, salad or good bowl of soup anywhere, and spending 3 hours on a meal in France or Italy is time away from other things I'd rather be doing. I'm sure not even 10% of people share the same sentiment....but I thought since you asked, I'd chime in.
 
Sep 20th, 1999, 07:11 PM
  #9  
Barbara
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Dear BMG,

Thanks for your input. I don't think it's just a female thing, though, since my husband is a better cook than I and he and all his friends share the love of a good meal. It's not just the food, you see, but what happens around the food, the making of good memories with friends, meeting people who love sharing the same things, contact with locals in the culture you are there to learn about. To me, it's a sampling of contemporary culture, as opposed to history. Believe me, we find time for all the other joys too and all of it as a package enriches us.
 
Sep 21st, 1999, 04:50 AM
  #10  
Paulo
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When in Italy, we do go out our way from time to time to experience a memorable meal. But our reference is the Gamberorosso ... written by Italians for Italians
In the Alto Adige, where we have our base with relatives, we had memorable meals in the La Perla (Corvara), La Siriola (San Cassiano), Schoneck (Falzes), Zur Rose (Appiano), Pichler (Rio de Pusteria) and Sissi (Merano).
In the Brescia/Lake Garda region we experimented the Il Gambero (Calvisano), Miramonti l'Altro (Concesio), Villa Fiordaliso (Gordone Riviera), Gualtiero Marchese (Erbusco) and La Rucola (Sirmione).
Elsewhere I remember having been at the Poggio Antico (Montalcino), Lio Pellegrini (Bergamo), Locanda della Collona (Tossignano) and the Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence.
Fortunatelly, just more than half the times out, as visitors, we didn't even got to see the check
In our agenda for future trips are the Dolada (Pieve d'Alpago), Locanda San Lorenzo (Puos d'Alpago), Arnolfo (Colle Val d'Elsa), La Tenda Rossa (San Casciano in Val di Pesa) and Antica Trattoria del Teatro (Piacenza).
Paulo

 
Sep 21st, 1999, 04:58 AM
  #11  
Beth
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Barbara, I'm definitely with you on this one. We love to eat good food and drink fine wine and its a big part of our trip planning. My husband and I share this searching out of fine restaurants, and interesting eating experiences. And it can be wonderful, expensive, exquisite meals like we had at Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence, or it can be a more casual, neighborhood type place like we had at a restaurant called Alla Vedova in Venice.

As far as going out of the way, well during our week in Tuscany last week we really wanted to check out a place near Montalcino called Fattoria Barbi. This is a well known wine estate that makes excellent brunello, but also has a fine restaurant on the premises, the Taverna de Barbi. We got a late start that morning, so we completely skipped our planned trip to Pienza in order to be at Barbi in time for lunch. It was a great destinations. We tasted their wines, and then had a fantastic lunch in their restaurant. It was a very rustic looking old farmhouse, and my husband had cinghiale (wild boar) with polenta while I had rabbit stewed in brunello. It was incredibly delicious. Then we got a tour of their wine cellars after lunch. We ended up buying their wine, olive oil and their own pecorino cheese to bring home. This was definitely a "foodie" destination and we loved it. It was also most definitely off the beaten path.
 
Sep 21st, 1999, 09:10 AM
  #12  
lola
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I'm a foodie, and want to reiterate that it isn't just the food--it's the whole package, I feel that it is almost like "living theater," and all your senses are involved. It makes the moment heightened, even blissful. I read an article in the New York Times that stated that some people are "color blind" to food, and on a continuum, the majority fall somewhere in the middle. Those with the the most taste buds on the tongue (according to the Times, they have actually proved this scientifically), are probably the foodies among us. I happily eat a good hamburger, but can appreciate haute cuisine at the very highest level, and am thankful for those taste buds, or whatever! (On the other hand, I don't understand the highs some get from gambling, etc. Fascinating.)
 
Sep 22nd, 1999, 10:42 AM
  #13  
Ruth
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My husband and I used Plotkin's book on our first trip to Italy last year and found two great restaurants through it. One was in Venice (the one with the best linguine with clams) and the other in Rome. Can't remember either name and don't have the book with me right now. We loved it and highly recommend it.
 
Sep 22nd, 1999, 10:55 AM
  #14  
Beth
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Ruth, it wasn't a place called "Ristorante alla Zaterre" was it? This place had outstanding linguine and clams. We had the most laid back lunch there, its right on the water overlooking the Guidecca canal, and far from the hordes of tourists.
 
Sep 23rd, 1999, 05:50 AM
  #15  
Becky
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In Venice, try Taverna la Fenice. In May, we had a risotto (alas with seasonal fish) that was the best meal of our 3 week trip to Italy. Another is Osteria Caffe Italiano in Florence. Another excellent place in Venice is Harry's Dolci, the view in the evening is exquisite, so all the senses are delighted!
 
Sep 23rd, 1999, 01:34 PM
  #16  
Ruth
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Beth, No, it was Tratorria Anzolo Raffael in Dorsudoro. They just brought us fish and my husband says it was the best meal in Italy. Atmosphere is defintely neighborhood casual.
 
Sep 24th, 1999, 05:50 PM
  #17  
Barbara
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Ruth,

We ate at Anzolo Raffael too, in spring of '97. Some experience, isn't it. But we topped it. Someday go to Modena, Pavarotti's home town, and eat at Hosteria Giusti. It has 5 tables at the back of an historic deli and serves lunch only. Reservations a must. The meal was absolutely an out-of-body experience, a 4-hr. extravaganza. We told the owner, Signor Morandi, to bring us his best regional specialties and he did. Also took us through his wine cellar and gave us treats from the deli. Found this through Fred Plotkin's book, in which he says that he had one of the great eating experiences of his life here. We are only afraid we have been at the top and will never match or surpass the feast we enjoyed. I strongly encourage anyone visiting the Emiglia-Romagna region to try Giusti.
 
Jun 14th, 2001, 08:20 PM
  #18  
Robin
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This is a very old post-- does anyone have any new contributions?
 
Jun 15th, 2001, 06:20 AM
  #19  
Ruth
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We're going back to Italy in the fall and are referring to Plotkin again for restaurants. In doing some research on the web, I ran across somewhere where he said that Anzolo Raffaele in Venice, the place that we loved in 1998, was no longer good and he would not recommend going there. Anyone have any recent experiences with restaurants that he has recommended?
 
Jun 15th, 2001, 12:12 PM
  #20  
Diane
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I just posted Top Meals all across Italy with reports from our trip in May. In Venice our best meal was l'Incontro -- actually listed in Rants and Raves section here -- we sat inside with the locals. Our waitress was fabulous. We asked her about her favorites and she recommended a restaurant where her husband was the chef, but sigh, it was our last night in Venice. (Her recommendation was La Biita, on calle lungo S. Barnaba)
 

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