Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Five List for Foodies

Now that you know my favorite towns in Italy, I may as well spill the fagioli and tell you where I like to eat when I'm there.  As you know, I'm all about the food; I promise you these ristoranti will do you proud and feed you well.

Ascoli Piceno 
Cantina dell'Arte
This is a tough one.  Having lived there for a few years we had several places that captured our hearts (and our stomachs), so it's hard to narrow it down to just one.  But when forced to think about it and recommend only one place to eat in Ascoli, I'd say head to Cantina dell'Arte.  It's warm, rustic-chic interior is inviting, the service is good, the menu is varied and reasonably-priced, and the food is not only excellent, it's nicely-presented.  Must Eat:  the Olive all'Ascolana.

Osteria il Falco Grillaio
I have half a mind to keep this one to myself.  I've reviewed other Matera restaurants that I could pawn off on you, but you know I just can't lie to you guys.  My favorite hands-down dining in Matera is the Osteria il Falco Grillaio.  No, they don't serve falcon, despite the name.  They do serve terrific traditional fare with a bit of flare in a rustic setting.  It's right across from the Archeological Museum, making it easy to find.  Must Eat:  the home-made pasta with cardoncelli mushrooms.  Or the cavatelli with mollica di pane.  Can't decide which is my favorite.

Osteria dell'Arco
Rome is awash with trattorie and ristoranti; the trouble is finding one that isn't also loaded with turisti.  Our little haven away from the crowds is Osteria dell'Arco, just outside the Aurelian wall near Piazza Fiume.  We happened into it on our first trip to Rome and have consistently enjoyed the meals there ever since.  The tiny dining room is cozy and the chef is somewhat creative using mostly Lazio products.  Must Eat:  Pernicelli pasta with guanciale.

Hostaria dell'Arco
A little ironic that this great eatery bears the same name as our Roman fave.  The food is completely different.  Abruzzese cuisine is hill country eating:  hearty, bold, distinct.  The Hostaria fills with locals who appreciate the antipasto buffet, the hot frittelle, and the home-made pasta.  Around here "hostaria" means hospitable.  Must eat:  the antipasto buffet with super-fresh cheeses and an array of local delicacies.

Citta della Pieve
Trattoria da Bruno. 
Despite its location in the centro storico of Citta della Pieve, da Bruno has a strangely modern and sterile interior.  That does't carry over to the food, however, which adheres strictly to the credo of local and traditional.  Daily specials are recited and particularly worth paying attention to.  Service can be a little slow, but that's because the joint fills with exuberant, hungry pievesi.  Must eat:  the homemade ravioli if it's offered that day.

photo credit: The Girl Who Ate Everything

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Travel Italy - At Least Vicariously

Traveling to Italy is always a good idea, but if even if you can't hop a plane right now, you can still enjoy a tour of the boot over at Bleeding Espresso.  My friend Michelle Fabio has put together a wonderful feature that lets you experience beautiful spots all over the peninsula, at least in a virtual sense, written by the people who live there. 

Take a spin on her blog and her travel feature, Gita Italiana. Today's trip takes you to my mother land of Basilicata.

by Valerie Fortney Schneider


Thursday, August 12, 2010

My Five List

I like to make lists. I don’t know why; it’s just one of those quirks. I like the memes like Five Favorite Words, or Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Me (which I keep meaning to get around to and somehow haven’t quite done it yet).

Today I’m giving a Five List – my five favorite towns in Italy. I’ve done a lot of informal email consulting since I started my blog and this is a question that comes up a lot. Of course, taste is subjective; the places I adore may not suit your ideal, but here are my picks, in no particular order.

Ascoli Piceno (Le Marche)
Oh come on, you knew this one would be on the list! I lived there for three years and it still feels like home to me. This is an appealing place: it offers amazing architecture, pretty piazzas, and friendly folks. And if that’s not enough for you the food is fantastic and the wine is wonderful. (So why haven’t you been there yet?)  There's plenty to read about Ascoli here at the Pinon Tree; just do a search and you'll have reading material to keep you busy for a while.

Matera (Basilicata)
This is another obvious choice, at least one that habitual readers would have expected. Matera is almost indescribable; it is unique, complex, beautiful, haunting. Wandering the silent Sassi gives me an almost spiritual feeling, while the lively, hip centro up above buzzes with life. Some of the best meals I’ve ever enjoyed in Italy came from simple Materana kitchens.  (More about Matera.)

Rome (needs no introduction)
It’s a true contrast that I bought a house in a remote, mountain-top village of 600 people yet I love, love, love Rome. I pledged my undying affection for Italy after about twenty minutes in the Eternal City. It is stylish, vibrant, noisy, beautiful, gritty, distinctive and chaotic all at the same time. I love the feeling of being embraced by millennia of history when I am there. And I feel at home among our famiglia” there. I echo the sentiments of Princess Anne in Roman Holiday when she said, “Rome, by all means, Rome.”

Sulmona (Abruzzo)
If you’ve never heard of Sulmona before, you’re about to. George Clooney’s newest movie, The American, was filmed there. This lovely small city is one of Abruzzo’s real gems. Sulmona is famous for its confetti, the sugary almonds that are given out at weddings, but it is also surprisingly upscale, with trendy shops, pretty palazzi and coffee bars aplenty. The evening passeggiata brings out most of the town, with an endless parade of stylishly-dressed residents laughing and walking, eating gelato, meeting and greeting.  (More about Sulmona.)

Citta’ della Pieve (Umbria)
This town is almost too perfect. It’s a picture-postcard type of golden-hued hill town that gleams in the gauzy light and embodies everyone’s image of Italy. As the birthplace of Perugino, it contains some fabulous artwork inside its charming churches. It is surrounded by olive groves, sunflower fields and vineyards.  It is at the edge of Tuscany, making it a great home-base from which to see central Italy.

What are your favorite towns in Italia?

Check out my Five List for Foodies to learn where to eat well in these towns!