Top Meals All Across Italy

Old Jun 5th, 2001, 05:08 PM
  #1  
Diane
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Top Meals All Across Italy

Oops. too long -- have to try again:
OK. It's really hard to compile a trip report for a 3-week trip. I've decided to break it into a couple categories. This will cover our best meals and strongest recommendations. I've already put in one as a response on less-travelled Umbrian/Tuscany towns (Chiusi) so maybe I'll copy that and add it to this thread. It is impossible to rank these 1,2,3, etc because each was great for many different reasons. Il Giglio d’Oro
Location: On the Duomo Square in Orvieto.
Cost: 193,000 for two, with four courses, bottled water, bottle of wine and coffee.
Value: Extraordinary
First impression: Walking in off the very medieval, cobbled square we were immediately taken aback by the sleek, cool modern design. It was like stepping through a time-warp across centuries. There is an attractive front desk, bar and waiting area. Being a Monday night, there was not a soul to greet us for our 8:30PM reservations for several minutes, until the hostess came down the stairs with a big smile, to show us up to the dining room.
We had walked through Orvieto all day, visiting the duomo, the beautifully displayed Etruscan museum, taking a delightful tour of the caves beneath the city. Many places in town combine the ancient with the contemporary, and it works splendidly. This restaurant took it to the ultimate. The dining room set a simple stage for the cuisine (hey, if I keep on writing like this, maybe I can get a job as a restaurant critic!). Cool pale green walls with simple blue glass sconce lighting set off dark black-green and white marble echoing the famous structure across the square. Clerestory windows caught the last of the daylight and also kept the room cool and fresh. The tables were already about half-filled: two large German groups of 6 and 8 each, plus two other couples. White linen on the tables, set with simple crystal and silver, and lovely blue and white ceramic service plates (undoubtably locally designed). Ordering: We had read the menu earlier in the day, after the hotel clerk initially suggested it as “the best in Orvieto.” There was a chef’s recommended menu of the day at 60,000 ITL which looked very good, so that was what we chose, along with a bottle of water and a 1995 Vino Nobile from Montelpulciano. The dining room was serviced only by the hostess and a marvelous waiter/somelier/(owner?). He answered our questions about each course easily and graciously. His wine service was the most sophisticated we’ve ever experienced, anywhere. Our wine was decanted, and the special large-globed glasses “primed” (I’m not sure how else to describe it, he rapidly swirled a small splash of wine in the goblet) to then receive enough wine for Steve to taste, then gently poured for (and throughout) our meal. Those huge goblets let you really see the “legs” from how the liquid clings to the glass, as well as emphasize the wonderful color and scent of your wine. (If,like me any of you have taken a Wine 101 course or the like!)
 
Old Jun 5th, 2001, 05:10 PM
  #2  
Diane
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part two:
The meal: Bread was crusty, white and airy. Antipasti was a light and wonderful eggplant mousse garnished with sweet red peppers and shaved truffle. This was followed by a non-egg pasta with pesto and pecorino cheese, with thinly shaved parmesan on top. All melted gently in your mouth. The secondo course was breast of goose, beautifully sliced and displayed, with a special house sauce and a small “cake” of mashed potato with a crispy crust, sliced fresh squash and carrots. We ordered coffee following our dolce (dessert) – of Pear Helene, a peeled half of a pear which had probably been poached in something yummy, served over vanilla gelato, and covered in hot fudge sauce.

The dining room had fairly well filled up as we ate, and everyone (I didn’t catch much English spoken) seemed to be thoroughly enjoying their meals. Most seemed to be ordering the chef’s recommended menu. I know if we ever are lucky enough to be back in Orvieto, I will again! Sometimes small restaurants have difficulty timing things perfectly when they have a couple of large parties, but that did not happen here. There is no pressure to turn over tables – if you’re there for dinner, you are there for the evening. There is no odd wait between courses, but you are in no way hurried, either. When someone goes to great length to prepare wonderful food, they want you to enjoy it. I realize this may be a splurge for many Fodor’s folk, but oh, it is SO worth it!
 
Old Jun 5th, 2001, 05:13 PM
  #3  
Diane
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Copied from another thread (to at least keep them together!)
The restaurant in Chiusi: La solita Zuppa (traditional Tuscan cuisine) www.lasolitazuppa.it One of the top meals we had in three weeks all over Italy. An excellent value, a lovely dining room, and terrific, personal service. You have a full meal, with several choices for each course. (The owner walks you through your choices.) Wine is matched to the courses. Sweet white wine with antipasti of pears/cheese/nuts, house red(a Montepulciano) with the next two courses we had Tuscan onion soup and pici w/duck ragout for primis, and wild boar and lamb for the secondis. For dolce we chose mixed berries, and a cooked coffee-creme, served with a glass of a terrific Sicilian "Zibbibo". THEN coffee. Total dinner for two was under 120,000 lira. This meal beat any we later had in Venice, Florence or Rome.
 
Old Jun 5th, 2001, 05:33 PM
  #4  
Diane
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Hard-to-find L'Incontro in Venice: This was the best meal we found in Venice. It was getting cold outside, so we asked to sit indoors. The waitress was charming, when we asked for an English menu, she told us "I AM the English menu!" Every ingredient was perfect. We did not order antipasti, but started with the primi course: Black pasta with mixed vegetables and Pecorino cheese, and Orecchetti with rucola and gorganzola,mmmmm. A carafe of vini rosa and a bottle of water con gas. We both went with filet of beef, sliced thinly and sauteed in olvie oil with rosemary. You did not need a knife to cut it. We shared a contorni (side dish) mixed green salad with tiny fresh spring greens, "grape tomatoes" and of course that first rate oil and balcamic vinegar. No dessert this night. We finished with expresso. The conto came to 126,000. I love this country!
 
Old Jun 5th, 2001, 06:03 PM
  #5  
Diane
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Last but definately not least among the best: Antica Osteria, "La leggenda dei Frati" in Abbadia di Isola. This tiny hamlet of a town is on the road between Monteriggioni and Strove. We only found it because it was recommended by the people at CastelBigozzi. If not for the knife and fork sign on the road, you'd not know it was there. But it is a lovely restaurant. Probably 12th century building, finished simply inside with walls gently washed with indirect lighting. Simple ceramics on the wall. Beautiful linen, silver and crystal on the tables, and hand-painted, especially designed for the restaurant service plates. Except for another table of guests also staying up the road at CastelBigozzi, and a young Spanish couple, the other diners were Italians. Two young groups who knew each other, appeared to come from rival wine-towns. Each ordered a bottle of wine from the others' town. One guy made a big deal of having the wine decanted, and sent the waitress back for even BIGGER goblets before he'd taste it. Eventually he deemed it fine, and sent it over to the other table! Everyone enjoyed the good natured ribbing between these parties. Meanwhile, we had a positively stunning meal ourselves! The 1997 Chianti Classico reserva we'd ordered was out, so it was replaced with an even better 1995(and we were only charged the lesser price, 50,000) I'm ashamed to admit that I don't recall every course, although I do remember having melt-in-your mouth gnochi as the pasta course. After dessert we were treated to grappa. It was a super dining experience, and since we plan to return to CastelBigozzi we will certainly go back to La leggenda dei Frati. Total cost once again was around 180,000. Meals like these simply can't be found in Washington, DC or New York for less than $200
 
Old Jun 7th, 2001, 09:00 AM
  #6  
Diane
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Other restaurants we'd recommend (that aren't in the R&R section) for their great food, ambiance and reasonable prices- under $50 dinner for two, under $20 lunch for two, with wine and water -- include....
Florence: i'Toscano (about a block and a half from Hotel Casci)
Venice: da Beppi (I think that was the name -- it is a Rick Steve's suggestion and it was very good.) We sat inside with the locals vs. on the street -- it looked like it was going to storm (and it did!)
Rome: (ok, this first one is in R&R) Orso 80 -- north of Piazza Navona -- not to be missed for it's amazing antipasti.
Tre Arches, which is just northwest of the excavation of the ancient racetrack (this came from a Frommer's list of little wonders of Rome).
 
Old Jun 7th, 2001, 12:48 PM
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Diane
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One more -- promped by another mention of the place -- in Venice: Ai Cugnai. We had a delightful lunch here, crab salad, spaghetti vongole, carafe of white wine. Less than $30 for two. Service was really skillful (very sharp, skinny waitress with some real personality.)
 
Old Jun 8th, 2001, 06:35 PM
  #8  
Andy
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Diane- I am keeping your email address for when I need this info again---You are making me so hungry and all I had tonite was leftovers! You are the type of couple we like to travel with--you keep an even better diary than me--you SHOULD be a rest.critic--outstanding reviews---thanks
 
Old Jun 8th, 2001, 07:58 PM
  #9  
maureen
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Diane, thanks so much, this is a keeper






 
Old Jun 8th, 2001, 08:07 PM
  #10  
Diane
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Thanks, folks. And if anyone else wants to tack on a "Rave" about some Italian restaurants, please feel free to do so! It's nice to pull up as many recommendations as possible when you're looking.
 
Old Jun 8th, 2001, 08:37 PM
  #11  
Judy
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Diane: Thank you for lovely info.
 
Old Dec 18th, 2001, 04:21 PM
  #12  
topper
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For Robin
 

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