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What Is Your Favorite Restaurant Ever In Europe?

What Is Your Favorite Restaurant Ever In Europe?

Old Sep 25th, 2020, 12:55 PM
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What Is Your Favorite Restaurant Ever In Europe?

Since there are virtually no trip reports, and because in a perfect world I should be sipping wine in Sintra tonight after spending the past five days in Lisbon (damn you Covid), I thought we could put together a list of all our favorite restaurants we have dined at in Europe. Both European Locals and European Travelers can play. After going back and forth between a few, my choice has to be Bovio in La Morra (Piemonte), Italy, in 2018. What put it over the top was their Tagliolini ai 40 tuorli con tartufo bianco (thin noodles, home-made with 40 red eggs and topped with shaved white truffles). I would be willing to travel back to La Morra just to eat that dish. I have a link with photos, or the story without photos beneath the photo of that incredible pasta.

What is your favorite meal you have ever had in Europe?


Long before we departed for Italy and knowing we would be in the Piemonte region of Italy at the beginning of White Truffle Season, I decided we should end our four days dining at a very special restaurant. Of course, never having been to Piemonte, what should that restaurant be? After researching site upon site, I finally came to the conclusion there was only one choice … Bovio in La Morra.

Bella La Morra is perfectly situated in the hills of Piemonte and makes a wonderful base to see the area. We spent four nights here and had wonderful meals, especially at Bovio.

To make sure we secured reservations, I made reservations seven months in advance. Yes, you read that that correctly … seven months! Some things you don’t leave to chance.
So, on our final evening in picturesque La Morra, the six of us walked down the hill from Rocche Costamagna (our incredible lodging) to Bovio (it was under half a mile on a steep and winding road, however we did not want a repeat of the first evening when one of us rode laying down in the hatchback on the way to and from dinner.) Photo below of Bovio’s exterior is from the next morning as we drove out of town.

Bovio is nestled in the vineyards just below La Morra with magnificent views over the Langhe countryside, but since it was already dusk when we were only afforded views of the lights of the valley below. That was fairly spectacular in itself. I had requested a terrace table, but on this evening the weather proved to be uncooperative with reports of a major rain storm headed our way.
Arriving a little before 8 p.m. for our reservation, it appeared we were among the first to arrive (yes, not surprising). By the way, Tracy loves watering cans.

We were seated at a table in the well-appointed main dining area …

… where I welcomed our guests to the table in my usual subtle manner.

I had read earlier that the Bovio family (“one of the oldest families of restaurateurs in Piemonte”) had previously owned another restaurant for 40 years ( Ristorante Belvedere), but had desired a more “intimate locale,” so they chose this panoramic spot in La Morra (photo below of terrace on a summer night from Bovio website).

Glen Bovio and daughter Alessandra run the dining room (check out this sweet view courtesy of the Bovio website).

A huge wine list was delivered to our table, larger than any I had ever seen. As it turned out, this was the War and Peace of wine lists, bigger than any book I read in college (or since). In fact, the restaurant has more than “1,000 local and national labels,” with thousands of bottles in its cellar. Knowing we didn’t have time to drink them all, Tracy and Mary opted for a bottle of Prosecco, while the rest of us shared a bottle of Nebbiolo and a Barbera. We might have ordered another later.

The dinner menu had a number of enticing choices .. and on this evening Bovio also provided a much more expensive White Truffle menu, which we passed on (initially). As we perused the menu, looking up we noticed the restaurant was now completely full.

Dinner was now served:

To start, Kim and I ordered the Gnocchi di patate rosse al Castelmagno; Potato gnocchi with Castelmagno cheese (€15). While Kim found it a tad rich, I decided it perfect for my pasta palate. I savored every single bite. As some of you might know, I am a gnocchi aficionado, and I loved this one.

For their first course, Tracy and Gloria shared a delicious Terrina di fegato grasso di anatra ai fichi, marmellata di cipolle rosse e zenzero; Duck foie gras terrine with figs, red onion jam and ginger (€16).

Mary’s appetizer of Fettuccine, squid, red shrimp and mullet was also delicious.

Suddenly, fate stepped in, well, actually fate stepped to an adjacent table.

A cart carrying a small platter of white gold (aka tartufo Bianca di Alba) entered the dining room. It was too much for me. As Worf stated in Star Trek: “Resistance is futile!” We had been on a truffle hunt a few days before, yet no one at our table ordered white truffles.

However, when the fragrance of the white truffles drifted over to our table, the aroma of the truffle was too much. I had been seduced and no one could stop me.

We (I) discussed with our waiter which white truffle dish from their special truffle menu would be best to be shared amongst our table and he recommended the Tagliolini ai 40 tuorli con tartufo bianco (thin noodles home made with 40 red eggs and topped with shaved white truffles (€ 35,00 each). In a moment of ecstasy (or perhaps the inception of slight intoxication), I said I would pay for them. (Tracy quickly pulled the divorce papers from her purse.)

Fortunately, I believe the restaurant made our pasta portions a little smaller, and the bill wasn’t as much as it could have been (plus the others shared … willingly, I think).

In any event, soon, sitting in front of us, with white truffle scent wafting into my inner soul, it arrived … the greatest pasta dish I have ever tasted in my life. To say I savored each and every bite would be an understatement of gigantic proportions. It’s hard to describe how incredibly delicious this dish was, and at this moment I want to thank those hens for all the red eggs they provided. I wished I could have thanked each one individually for their efforts.

That was definitely a “Wow” dish and certainly ranks at the top of the many incredible pastas we consumed on this trip. The waiter explained that the pasta is made with 40 red eggs and farina flour. The pasta was silky and delectable and perfectly complemented the white truffles shaved on top.

The presentation of the white truffles was pretty spectacular too. They are wheeled out on a cart and one person (who I believe might be Alessandra, one of the Bovio family owners) shaves white truffles over your pasta.

When I finished, my joy was tempered by the sadness the pasta dish was now history. Tagliolini Tom, my name for but a few moments, will most certainly return here one day.

I very much enjoyed the next course of Il classico brasato di manzo fassone Piemontese al Barolo; typical braised beef in Barolo wine sauce (€18), but I still yearned for more pasta.

Kim decided upon the Tagliata di vitella, scaglie di parmigiamo, riduzione al Barbera e tortino di patate; Veal with Parmesan cheese, Barbera wine reduction and potato tart (€20).

For their supper, Tracy and Gloria went for more pasta, Cannelloni di anatra e spinaci, il suo fondo e tartufo nero; Cannelloni with duck, spinach and black truffles (€16). It, too, earned a resounding “Wow!”

Mary dined on a terrific Baccalà su passatina di topinambur, battuto di olive, capperi e pomodori secchi; Cod, Jerusalem artichoke cream with olives, capers and dried tomatoes (€20).

Sadly, we were too full to order one of the tantalizing desserts, however in what must be a Piemonte custom (and a wonderful custom it is) to keep patrons eating delicious, belt-expanding food, our waiter brought out several plates of small cookies, chocolate truffles and bonbons which we somehow managed to devour.

Finally satiated, we paid the bill (our entire meal including the white truffle special for the table and wine came to €128 a couple), bid everyone “Buona notte” and walked outside, into a fairly sizable rain event! Discretion being the better part of being soaked, Greg, Gloria, Tracy and I ducked back inside to decide what to do while Kim and Mary made a run for it (well, as fast as you can run up a steep hill). We decided to follow in their footsteps, and make the trek up the hill to walk off our dinner. Besides, what’s a little rain after a perfect evening like this?

As we started our walk, our server hurried out after us and offered to drive us to our B&B! There’s something that doesn’t happen every day.

We politely declined, and then he insisted on getting us four umbrellas and said that we did not even have to return them. Wow! What service … above and beyond is an understatement! The four of us strolled back up the hill, twirling our umbrellas while humming Singing In the Rain as the heavy drizzle poured down on us actually making for a delightful end to our spectacular evening. Not being umbrella thieves, we dropped them off the next morning as we drove out of town.

In Europe, or just life in general, there are those magic moments that one loves to relive. Our night at Bovio was certainly one of those. Many thanks to the staff and the Bovio family for providing an experience we will never forget. Congratulations on receiving the soon to be coveted (hopefully in my lifetime), Mai Tai Tom 2018 International Restaurant of the Year! La Morra, we shall return!
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Old Sep 25th, 2020, 04:41 PM
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I guess I would have to say Corte Sconta in Venice. Have been there more times than any other restaurant in Europe
Seafood... another family run place.
I haven't eaten yet so will come back to read Maitai's post in full after I do so -
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Old Sep 26th, 2020, 12:03 AM
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Oh, Tom, I have several wonderful restaurants I have enjoyed, but after reading your blog and seeing the pictures I know I have met my match. No WAY could I top that meal!
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Old Sep 26th, 2020, 01:11 AM
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There are so many excellent restaurants in Europe that it's virtually impossible to list them all. I'm not sure if it's possible to arrive at a "best" or just one favourite. Here's some that I've enjoyed:

Bombay Brasserie London
Rajdoot Manchester
San Carlo Manchester
Clivia (sadly no more) Pollenca Mallorca
Na Caragola San Telm Mallorca
Los Caracoles Barcelona (no relation)
Four Cats Barcelona
Casa do Leão Lisbon (gets mixed reviews but always loved it)
Restaurant Llesqueria 1900 San Sadurni d'Anoia Catalonia

That's only my home town and bits of Spain! I'll start to think about the other places in Europe.

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Old Sep 26th, 2020, 01:38 AM
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Plachutta Vienna, the one in the center of the city. As for meals Kaiserschmarrn, kind of a pancake but very special, this one is from Gloriette in Schonbrunn

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Old Sep 26th, 2020, 01:40 AM
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The Unicorn in Fontevraud. The situation is sublime, the walk from the Abbey is a delight and, the Magnums were excellent.

I had heard that people photograph their food and I've seen the practice in some cheap restaurant windows but surely not on Fodors! What next, kissing dogs.

Last edited by bilboburgler; Sep 26th, 2020 at 01:42 AM.
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Old Sep 26th, 2020, 06:34 AM
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Many years ago we used Saab's European Delivery program and took delivery of a new Saab 900 at a dealer near the Frankfurt airport. It was late March and still quite wintry. In the afternoon after taking possession of the car, we returned to the airport and rendezvoused with some Scottish friends who had flown over to Germany from Edinburgh. We then took off toward France, with our destination (achieved the following night) being a farmhouse we had rented near Narbonne in the southwest corner of the country.

We spent a week in the old house - enjoying the sun during the day, exploring the region, drinking too much of the barely-adequate but exceedingly cheap local wines, but then it was time to head home. We were dropping the car at the Saab shipper's office in Paris, and had planned on three days' transit across France to get to the capital.

None of us had visited the Dordogne, and it seemed like a reasonable route to take, but we discovered quickly that early April can be a difficult time to travel through this river-infested region, as some streams are predisposed to flood on the thinnest of excuses. So after a day of zigzagging across the countryside due to road closures, we ended up tired, a bit damp, and somewhat lost as evening fell in Sarlat-la-Canéda. We hadn't booked any accommodation in advance (it was a very slow time for hotels) but a guidebook said that a small three-star hotel, La Couleuvrine, was comfortable and had a good restaurant. So we pulled up, got a couple of affordable and very pretty, if rather compact - make that tiny - rooms, and booked dinner in the dining room.

Our Scottish traveling companions were friends of long standing, and this happened to be the wife's birthday; in fact a birthday with a "0" in it. Yikes. So in Fractured French (none of us were even close to high-school proficiency) we conveyed this to the hotel manager, and then went to sit in the little lounge area for a brief pre-function while we decompressed from a somewhat stressful day on the road. In one of those weird things that happens in travels, there was one other couple present in the lounge (the hotel was quite empty) and they sounded American, so in my usual invasive manner I interrogated them - where are you from, why are you here, all that. Well, it turned out they lived a couple of doors from my parents in California, and were en route to visit their son, who was a professional (??) baseball player living in Tuscany, in San Gimignano to be specific.

"What's his address?" the Scottish birthday girl asks. The wife looks in her address book and recites the address. "What flat number?" Heads turn to my travel companion. WTF?

The wife answers. My Scottish friend utters some mild profanities (for her, anyway) and explains that her best friend from her home town (Forfar in Angus) had married an Italian man two years prior, and was - evidently - living directly above the baseball player in their lodgings in San Gimignano. Yeah, sure. Well, weirdness happens I suppose.

Anyway, we are called into the dining room, where, lubricated with champagne that cost more than the combined costs of our rooms, we celebrate our friend's impending entry into the 40-something club. We toast the other couple across the room, we toast the waiter and the gawky teenage busboy as he tries to scrape the crumbs off the white tablecloth but only manages to assist them to the floor. Outside the rain is pummeling the world.

Then there's the meal. I seem to recall duck in some kind of confit, some trout, some foie gras (it IS the Perigord, after all) and probably some veal, all served in a manner to make your eyes roll up in your head. It was probably better than that, but the champers had had something of an anesthetic impact on us.

But then there was dessert. We all remembered the dessert. No cake for the birthday girl; instead the lady chef (who went on to own the hotel, we discovered on a re-visit years later) brought out a lemon tart. Just a simple lemon tart.

It was the single most delicious thing I had ever eaten in my life, up to then, and probably still is. Don't ask me how I know this, and yes, there was probably some sensory impairment involved, but, well... the angels wept.

The next morning, a little hung over, we had breakfast in the same room (a perfect omelet, of course) and hit the road.

A few years later, my wife and I returned and had lunch in the same dining room. We told the now-owner about that night, and asked if there was any chance of experiencing the lemon tart again. No, she replied, not at this time of year.

When I said it was the best thing I ever ate, she nodded. "I know," was her reply.
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Old Sep 26th, 2020, 07:15 AM
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Compiling the list. Just makes me want to travel even more. Great story Gardyloo, MontyPython, that dish looks fanyastic.

bilboburgler ... "I had heard that people photograph their food and I've seen the practice in some cheap restaurant windows but surely not on Fodors! What next, kissing dogs."

Ask and you shall receive.

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Old Sep 26th, 2020, 09:21 AM
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Great restaurant stories - thank you!

I cannot really name a favorite. Some meals are memorable for the incredible cooking (Core by Clare Smyth). Others for the company, view, surroundings (lunch at Plage Keller, Cap d'Antibes, with friends and numerous bottles of cold Rose, our feet in the sand).

We recently went to a new restaurant in Antwerp that was just perfection. A gorgeous restaurant, beautifully designed, with great staff, wonderful food. It's by Dutch superstar chef Sergio Herman and the food is Italian combined with the seafood from Herman's native Zeeland province.
Even the music was perfect, 70's 80's and not too loud, but enough to make it into a party without leaving our table. It's called Le Pristine.

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Old Sep 26th, 2020, 01:11 PM
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Aaaaaaargh, puppies!
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Old Sep 27th, 2020, 04:47 AM
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What is your favorite restaurant ever in Europe?

maitai, what a wonderful thread you've started. And what a fantastic meal you started it with. I've been using this pandemic time to go through all our trip videos and logs and am trying to catalog such things as favorite destinations, sights, and hotels, but somehow it always comes back to meals for me--as it apparently does for you as well. And then even for the meals it gets complicated, as Tulips says, since some are memorable for the food, others for the surroundings, and still others for the accompanying experiences. The meal you started us off with seems to combine all of that, so I can see how you can single it out for recognition.

I'm still working on trying to figure out if I can possibly select a single meal and I'm sure I'll be back to this thread often as memories from others trigger my own. Already I'm definitely with Gwendolynn on Corte Sconda in Venice. We've been many times and I look forward to it as much as to the canals and ambiance of the city whenever we decide to make another trip to Venice. I'm proud to report that after numerous trips I no longer get lost trying to find it--or at least when I do, I recover more quickly, but I'm still certain to leave enough time to get there by our reserved time in case I get lost again. I have to say that there I hunger almost as much for the ambiance of the courtyard with its sun-dappled light as for the incredible seafood.

I'm also looking forward to picking up recommendations for future meals (and trips to be built around them) from the wonderful recollections of others on this site such as Tulips' rec for La Pristine in Antwerp. If this thread gets to be as useful as I'm assuming it will, I am thinking we might extend to sharing our recollections of other places/things we prize as our favorites--Do you see another maitai thread to be started with his favorite memories of the Buza Bar?

Thanks for starting this. I'll be back as soon as I comb my logs and my memories.

Last edited by JmVikmanis; Sep 27th, 2020 at 04:51 AM. Reason: typo
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Old Sep 27th, 2020, 04:49 AM
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We ordered Couscous Trapanese, served in western Sicily at seaside Bar Bonci in Marinella di Selinunte on Sicily’s west coast. This area of Sicily is closest to North Africa and it’s influences. We were served the fish on top of couscous with a side container of bubbling broth at Bar Bonci, a simple seaside trattoria .The beach town is run down but the food was out of this world! It is just south of the Selinunte archeological park. We dined on wonderful seafood throughout Sicily but this one stands out.
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Old Sep 27th, 2020, 05:08 AM
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I had pictures but never loaded. One of our last great meals was in Garmisch. Ok, loaded but huge. Mukkefuck has the best food. This was just the dinner salad.

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Old Sep 27th, 2020, 05:52 AM
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Gardyloo, the restaurant where you dined in the Sarlat Hotel looks lovely. We will add it to our list for that area of France and make a point to order the lemon tart for dessert. So nice to get such great recommendations.
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Old Sep 27th, 2020, 06:24 AM
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My best stab at recollection of a restaurant with not only good food and ambiance but an "experience" comes from a trip to Tuscany with friends. We were staying at the Locanda Amorosa in Sinalunga and I believe it was someone from the staff who recommended Pallazzo Brandano in the middle of tiny Petroio, about 18 km away on a very hairy uphill drive. As we entered the tiny town itself things got even worse when we found the main (perhaps only) street through town afforded only about 2 inches on either side of the car. The Palazzo housed 9 hotel rooms as well as the restaurant and all the walls were covered in frescoes. Osmond, our gorgeous and very chatty Senegalese waiter, told us that the place was owned by a man in Egypt who plants the grapes for the chenin blanc we were generously served. We were next introduced to the Puglian cook who took us to the basement kitchen for a tour. I recall the food as being excellent but only kept notes through the early courses (due to the chenin blanc) which tell me that we started with porcini puffs and bacon breadsticks, followed by gnocchi with truffles and white sauce. The most amazing part of the meal, however, was the entertainment. Throughout the meal a violinist from the Bologna symphony played beautiful classical love songs. She was part of the wedding package of the only other customers at the restaurant that evening--a 40 something couple who had been married there that morning. They shared with us their white chocolate covered wedding torte and we wished them happiness and good meals forever. Then we disappeared into the Tuscan night and returned through the narrow street and winding roads back to our hotel, thankfully without incident.
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Old Sep 27th, 2020, 06:56 AM
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Oops, another "experience" in a great foodie place just popped into mind. In December of 2008 my husband, son and I traveled by train from Barcelona to Sant Celoni for lunch at El Raco con Fabes, which at that time had 3 Michelin stars but which has sadly since closed due to "economic unsustainability." We had a terrific lunch with all the expected 3 star kinds of dishes in an understated but very tasteful environment, but during the course of the meal, like so many of you report, the time spent and good wine consumed, conspired to make me a bit playful. Luckily we were seated in a quiet alcove unobservable by other guests and the meal had reached the point where the cooking staff behind the glass to which our seating afforded us access had retired. Thus the volley of marshmallow-like "things" from the petit fours tray that I lobbed at my son returning from the men's room could not be seen or reported and I was never placed on the "deny entrance to classy restaurants" list--but I have to admit I enjoy being able to tell the story, though I suspect Son does not.
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Old Sep 27th, 2020, 08:23 AM
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How could I have forgotten!
L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon at Hotel Pont Royal in Paris. Was lucky to dine there twice. I still dream of the mashed potatoes.
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Old Sep 27th, 2020, 08:55 AM
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Our favorite meal in Europe happened on our fourth day ever in Europe. On our first trip to Italy in May of 2001, my wife and I flew to FCO, rented a car and drove to a villa where we stayed for a week just outside the little town of Panzano. We spent one of the nights at a hotel in Florence (just took an overnight bag) on the day we went there because we had late dinner reservations and we did not want to try to drive back to Panzano. A friend of a friend had set up a reservation for us at a restaurant in Florence where he is friends with the owner.

Upon arriving early in the morning, we eventually found the train station in Florence and parked in the underground parking lot (this was before ZTL zones and it was quite a new experience for us to drive around crazy Florence using maps and trying to read street names carved in to the side of buildings). We then walked to a nearby TI office and found a cheap hotel close to the station. We spent the day seeing many of the incredible places in Florence including the Uffizi, Academia, Pitti Palace, Boboli Gardens, several churches and more.

Later that evening we found the tiny restaurant on a little side street and were greeted with hugs and kisses by Gino, Mara and their daughter as if we were old friends. We were seated at a special table in the front and we had a really fun time. The meal was just incredible - we never ordered a thing. Gino just kept bringing us course after course of delicious food and several bottles/glasses of prosecco, wine and grappa. I’m sure the other patrons wondered who the heck those two Americans were to get such outstanding treatment.

After several hours, we finally left with lots of hugs, kisses and pictures of all of us. We had so much fun (translate to too much to drink) that we had a little trouble finding our hotel. When we finally found it, the door was locked and we had to ring a doorbell for them to buzz us in. It was very late and they were not at all happy with us. It also turns out we did not know the rule of leaving your key at the desk when you left the hotel and they were quite upset with us about that too.

Before our trip to Florence in 2014 I emailed Gino and set up a reservation for what I hoped would be another wonderful meal. Sadly he was in such bad health he was not able to make it to the restaurant to meet us. And sadly the restaurant is now closed. The name of the restaurant was i cche c ‘e’ c’e’ which roughly translates to either “what there is, there is” or “what is there, is there”.

Anyway, thanks maitai for starting this thread and giving me an excuse to relive one of the best days and the most memorable meal we have had in Europe. And thanks to everyone for your great restaurant stories.
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Old Sep 27th, 2020, 01:00 PM
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MT, this is a brilliant post idea! Gwen, is that Robuchon the one with an all-red facade? Or perhaps I am confusing it with another, different place?

Our Choice: dunno. So many eateries, each valued for differing criteria, no? Location (see 'photo op'), specialty, vibe, wine menu, value-for-money, level of noise volume (I haven't been able to handle loud eateries/bars for decades now, due to hearing loss), proximity to train station, proximity to hotel/rental, line-ups, feng shui use of interior space, added value rarity exception, etc.

We used to favour 'Zucca' in Venice but the last time there, the service was so bad that I nearly blew a fuse. And I normally don't give a rat's ass about that sort of thing, just be reasonably friendly and prompt with us and you'll hear no complaints at all. But that final visit to Zucca was like we were being punked. Should've looked for the hidden cameras.

Btw, we were not always in agreement with Anthony Bourdain, whenever we chanced across one of his Highlight Restaurants. Once in Noto, we both agreed that the noted gelateria he'd raved about was substandard to their competition just a block away.
Btww, we used to tape record audio collages wherever we travelled, and in a few cases recorded snatches of atmosphere in cafes and restaurants, if the situation warranted it. One example was our very final such tape, done at Arles' Fest du Riz (festival of rice) back in '94. A wonderful atmosphere pervaded the cafe and the locals accepted us among them for their eating, drinking and singing, mostly due to Mrs Z being bilingual. We also interviewed entire families that glorious night and got invited to one adolescent's bull-fighting training the next day.

I will see if I can recall some more 'fave restaurant' stories from better, bygone days.

I am done. The popping cork.
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Old Sep 27th, 2020, 01:17 PM
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I apologize for the extra spacing between the last few paragraphs in my last post. It looked fine when I copied it in but it took 5 hours to be approved and show up for me to view. By then I was not allowed to edit it.

Last edited by john183; Sep 27th, 2020 at 02:05 PM.
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