The time has come. Headed back to Europe the last two weeks of August after a 12 year hiatus with the 11 year old ChowPup. For those of you who know me and have graciously helped me with myriad North American travel dining requests practically since Chowhound's 1997 inception, this is the kid whose 10th bday dinner started at Queens' Tacqueria Coatzingo and ended with the truffle tasting at SD-26, all the while second guessing whether we should have "just gone to Maialino for the porchetta and cacio e pepe." In short, this child appreciates good food and feels as grateful as I feel blessed to be able to visit Italy and Spain this summer for his first time to Europe. He's been poring over the Yelp photos of Roscoli and Cesare al Casaletto (those gnocchi!) since it was announced we would be in Rome! We are talking hardcore here. What will make this trip extra special is that we will be traveling with my parents to celebrate both of their 70th birthdays. We'll start our trip in Barcelona for three nights, then in a villa in Sorrento for 4 nights (from which we will visit Positano, Amalfi, Ravello, Pompeii), Rome for 4 nights with a possible day trip to Florence just for old time's sake. None of these places are new to any of the adults, just my son, and the trip is more of an overview (no snarky remarks about the ridiculousness of Florence as a "day trip", per favore).
Weeks ago I tried to book Elizabeth Minchilli or Katie Parla for food tours of Rome, to no avail. I was particularly interested in the Trastevere Jewish ghetto tours, but in the end will settle for a self- guided tour and a meal at Piperno. I'm fairly confident, with or without guided tours etc, we will eat well and have really only begun to seriously research prior reports on these boards to come up with a rudimentary list of places we want to hit. We are seeking comfy, homey places with zero pretension. More trattorie style. Not looking for the Italian version of El Bulli or anything that features foam or is deconstructed. Just warm, casual places that feature well loved dishes that will be enjoyed my our multi-generational family.
I am hesitant to make reservations in advance because we never know what our days will entail until we arrive, however if I am advised otherwise, we will definitely heed advice.
I am seeking a few excellent dinners and lunches in Rome. Also snacks (read: gelati). We will be staying in the Piazza Navona, and as we are tourists, seek places near touristy things such as the Colosseum, Vatican, etc.
When we are in Sorrento we will spend one full day exploring the coast by sea on a private charter and welcome any suggestions for where we should dock and enjoy a memorable family meal. I have been looking forward to this day for a very long time and want it to be special. The captain who is taking us out apparently has many suggestions, but I would like to be prepared as well. I recall reading somewhere that one of the little towns on the Amalfi coast is the birthplace of sfogliatelle which is one of our family's favorite treats here in NYC. We get incredible ones from our Sicilian friends at a local bakery, but would LOVE LOVE LOVE to taste ones from where they originated. If anyone has any thoughts on this, please share. I have visions of beginning or ending our little day at sea with a still warm sfogliatelle. Who knows?
We decided NOT to have a car on this trip to Italy as most people told us it would be more of a hindrance during high season. Someone compared the back ups on Amalfi coast in August to the LIE traffic going out to the Hamptons and that was all my husband needed to hear! So we will be taking taxis and ferries etc. We have no problem paying whatever we need to pay to make it as fast and convenient as possible. I haven't done much research on this part of the trip at all. Being that our villa is 5 minutes from Sorrento, I am thinking most of our dinners will be in Sorrento, but lunch ideas in the neighboring towns would be much appreciated.
In Florence, if we even end up going for the day, I am thinking I would want my son to try a classic Bistecca alla Fiorentina and some fagioli all’uccelletto etc. Many friends have recommended Trattoria All’Antico Ristoro di Cambi in the Borgo San Frediano which is a bit out of the way. If I were staying there for a long weekend I would be happy to venture afar, but being that we would only have a full day there I would want something closer to the city center. Any thoughts?
And then Rome. I can't WAIT for the food in Rome. You have no idea. Well, actually you DO ;) I was thinking Armando al Pantheon (seems like a love/hate thing for many of you, but def is iconic), Cesare al Casaletto (might be too much of a schelp), Roscioli, Pizzarium for pizza al taglio which my kid will LOVE, FattaMorgana for gelati? I am overwhelmed for sure. So much I would love to try, and if I were there for a few weeks I would have the time to venture off the beaten path and get a real insider's taste, go to the Italian equivalent of say Corona or Jackson Heights, but we are really just tourists this time and just want to cover the highlights. What to do?
Thanks in advance for tolerating the meandering and indulgent post. Hoping that with your expertise I will be able to come up with a game place that will be delicious and memorable for all of us.
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