On our travels we usually seek out smaller locally popular restaurants whose cuisine is tradition-based and regionally sourced, although we also like those often newer restaurants that give these traditions an innovative twist, and this is what we found on our most recent trip to Italy:
Bologna is pastaville, and we started out with what is often thought to be one of the best of the traditional paste at Caminetto d’Oro, and indeed their tagliatelle bolognese was about as good as it gets, with neither pasta nor sauce overpowering the other, a perfect integration of simple components of high quality. Other highpoints were ravioli stuffed with burrata and served in a creamy sauce with hint of pear and a branzino filet cooked with steamed vegetables. The braised veal cheeks I had were flavorful, but unless a plain baked potato is a de rigueur accompaniment, that may have been taking simplicity a bit too far.
Teresina is known for their fish. But certainly their spinach and ricotta tortelloni stood up well. The breaded sardines I started with were meaty and flavorful although they may have come a bit late to the table (i.e., lukewarm). But the rombo (turbot) and branzino (this time sautéed in a crisp potato skin) were piping hot and perfectly cooked.
Serghei is a venerable trattoria, but it is small and, probably out of necessity, they do like to turn their tables. I wouldn’t say that our wine was actually thrown at us, but at the start they did give new meaning to the term “brisk.” Still, both the gramigna pasta (with meat sauce) and the ravioli with gorgonzola that materialized on our table were worth taking some time to savor, and when the staff realized we were actually going to order secondi, service both warmed and slowed down a bit. Both the rabbit thigh and roast pork were prepared very simply and well worth the non-wait, and when we finished up with digestifs, the staff even became sort of friendly.
Via dei Falegnami, 4
Via Oberdan 4
Via Piella, 12
In Trieste, how could we not go twice to a restaurant that framed its meals with complimentary proseccos and limoncellos (besides, Antica Trattoria Menarosti was also one of the few serving on Sunday), and we pretty much left ourselves in the head waiter’s hands for this one. He led us to a shared seafood risotto and redfish cooked Mediterranean style (tomato and olives in olive oil) and, for our Sunday pranzo, a catch-of-the-day grill preceded by clam and shrimp pastas, all very fresh and very good, although the sauces for the pastas and the risotto were softer (perhaps wine-based?) than you’d typically find in the garlic-drenched South.
Pepenero Pepebianco was more inventive than the restaurants we’d been to previously and along with well-prepared rombo (in a tomato broth) and tuna (coated in sesame) were such accompaniments as squares of black polenta and purple rice. Pastas included a stand-out tortelli (stuffed with burrata, smoked ricotto, and nuts) and spaghetti with shellfish and crispy greens.
Antica Trattoria Menarosti
Via del Toro, 12,
040 66 10 77
Via Rittmeyer, 14/a
Our Milan sojourn began and ended with Cucina del Toro, a newer restaurant that seems to specialize in regional specialties like “Mondeghili alla Milano” (cubes of veal schnitzel with an agrodolce accompaniment) and veal polpetti, and pastas like tonnarello di farro and chitarrini all’uovo. But they also prepared an excellent roast pork (“rosa”!) and one of the better beef filets (al sangue) I’ve had in Italy. In fact, we were so impressed after our first visit, we reserved a table at La Brisa, their upscale sister restaurant, where we enjoyed starters of marinated and smoked fish and cod-stuffed tortellini and secondi of deboned veal shank on a bed of artichoke puree and endive and honey-braised lamb riblets (sort of a sheep’s version of pork belly). Both of these restaurants are not far from Santa Maria delle Grazie, near where we were quartered, and we spent our two “off” nights at Osteria al ’29, for a good version of Neapolitan pizza and some real home-cooking at the clearly family-run Trattoria Brasera Meneghina. I wouldn’t say that either of these latter two places are “worth a detour,” but if you’re in the area, they both offer good, reasonably priced fare and, like most of the restaurants we visited on this Italian trip, service that is warm and accommodating.
Cucina del Toro
via Camperio 15, Milan
Closed on Sundays
Tel. 02 875107
Via Brisa, 15
02 8645 0521