Thank you all for the helpful tips and advice regarding food and beverage advice in Florence, Arezzo, Rome and Naples. Since many of you have been so generous with your insight, I thought I would report back on my favorite gastronomic aspects of the recent trip with my father so that others can hopefully have as great a time as we did. I'll break this down by city.
One thing of note in Florence is that the bread found practically everywhere in the region has little flavor, is somewhat dense and doesn't brown very well. Apparently this is because it does not contain salt. This tradition supposedly goes back to the middle ages. As romantic as this is, IMO the bread is typically much better in other parts of Italy.
La Carraia Gelaterie: Outstanding dark chocolate and lemon gelato. Some of the best on our entire trip.
Mercato Centrale: A great place to "window shop" at the offal vendors on the bottom floor and an even better place to bring home food related gifts. I picked up a 100 ml bottle of Oro Balsamico Tradizionale for around $175 at Conti (which is $100 less than I would pay at Formaggio Kitchen).
Nerbone: Tried the lampredotto sandwich again. This time I got the stewed rather than the boiled version. While less funky, I missed the fiery red and green chili sauces that go on the boiled version. Porchetta was a bit dry.
Alla Vecchia Betolla: The sister restaurant of Nerbone. Tried the summer (cold) tripe salad with potatoes, green beans, onion and basil. When in Florence, right? Surprisingly, the tripe was super mellow - clean and tender. Risotto was simply rice with veggies, rather than the creamy stuff we get here in the US. Just not my thing, I guess. White beans were solid. Bresola (the pounded and fried version bathed in a red sauce, not the cured meat) was the star of the show however. Tiramisu for dessert was solid.
Tuscan Wine Tour by Grape Tours: Did the half-day trip for 100 Euro/pp and visited two Chianti wineries. Wine was decent. Views were outstanding.
Gelaterie dei Neri: Chocolate amaro gelato. Need I say more? Lemon and pistachio were amazing too.
Carapina Gelateria: Perhaps the best overall gelato of the entire trip. Their seasonal fruit flavors cannot be matched.
Trattoria da Mario: Outstanding Florentine-style steak. Ribollita was amazing too. White beans were, well, white beans.
If possible, I'd recommend visiting Arezzo during the first weekend of the month when much of the town is transformed into a huge antique market. Amazing and unique products are sold (including WWI and II memoribilia) and good deals are to be found almost everywhere.
Dal Moro: An amazing family-run salumeria with some of the best (and affordable) Italian "cold cuts" you'll ever try. Many are made by the owner himself. Great selection of cheeses too, including the fresh, raw milk parmesan (aged 6, 12 and 18 months).
Il Gelato di San Crispino: Stopped by the one near the Trevi Fountain. Outstanding gelato (the barolo chinato was especially noteworthy) but also very pricey. Blame the location, I guess.
Eustachio: 1.20 Euro espressos at the bar, but much pricer if you sit. Crazy amounts of crema! Ask for no sugar and you'll get a little sugar. Ask for sugar and you'll get a lot. Coffee purists hate on this place but you'll never get another espresso like this.
Armando Al Pantheon: Definitely the best food we had in Rome and without a doubt the best carbonara I ever ate. Cacio e pepe and trippa alla Romana were both terrific as well.
Roscioli (forno): Fantastic, super affordable, Roman-style pizza. The plain (bianca) was great but the buffala and eggplant topped slice was amazing.
Roscioli (salumeria): This is both a salumeria and a restaurant. One of the priciest meals of our entire trip. Solid but not mind blowing. They serve espresso by Giamaica (Verona), which many consider to be Italy's best. The espresso lived up to the hype.
Carapina Gelateria: Again, the fruit flavors were mind blowing. The fresh mint was also spectacular
Tazza D'oro: Worst espresso I ever had, with service to match. Tasted like liquid char.
La Carbonara: Carbonara pasta was great (though not as good as Armando's) but the stewed oxtail stole the show. Fantastic. This place also has an amazing amaro selection as well. Olio Rabarbaro Bordiga was a close second to my favorite amaro of all time (Varnelli Dell'Erborista - which they also carry).
Grom Gelato: Perhaps the worst gelato of the trip. Licorice had no flavor and the dark chocolate contained chocolate chunks. Pass.
Giolotti: Amazing gelato. If you're a chocolate fan, you must get the cioccolto fondente. You'll never experience a deeper, darker, more sinful frozen chocolate concoction. Pistachio was terrific as well. Fruit flavors are a bit sweet however.
Chirra and Angelini Enoteca (stores): If you're an amaro fanboy like myself, these are two of the best places in Italy to shop for them. Both are located near the opera house and both have outstanding selections (tons of stuff you won't find in the states). Some bottles are from defunct manufacturers and a few are so old that they have labels falling off (especially at the latter location).
Verde Pistacchio: Amazing "artisanal" gelato. Located close to the opera house. The pistachio may have been the best of the trip.
Yes, Naples is noisey, fast-paced, dirty and a bit sketchy (especially at night) but so amazing! The sights are incredible, the food is fantastic and the people couldn't be any nicer. Don't be dissuaded from tourists saying otherwise. If you stay at the fancy hotels near the bay, be sure make your way up to the pizzerias near the train station, the historic city center, and Spaccanapoli for a taste of the "real" Naples.
La Antica Pizzeria Da Michelle: Definitely lived up to the hype, and then some. Waiting outside is crazy but the line goes quickly. Amazing, super old-school interior with tons of character. Margherita was solid but the marinara was other worldly. I've had dozens of Neapolitan-style pies, but these were so different and had so much character. Just be prepared for a very "wet" pie, as I was clocking cook times at around 55 seconds.
AutoGrill: We stopped at an AutoGrill on highway A16 on our way out to the Italian countryside. I got the prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella plate and my father got the frutta de mare salad. Both were outstanding, not just for "fast food," but for food in general. You could even request chicken and beef that is cooked to order. It's amazing how food is such a part of Italian culture everywhere you go. If only...
Di Matteo: Didn't have the pizza but tried their "street food" out front (two different types of arancini and a deep fried pasta and cheese concoction). When in Naples!
Attanasio Sfogliatelle: Classic, old school bakery located near the train station. As one would guess, the sfogliatelle (their specialty) are outstanding. If the bakery isn't open, you can buy their baked good at Caffetteria Viva Napoli across the street
Bar Carraturo Pasticceria: Amazing baba (Naples's other signature pastry). Be prepared to feel a bit of a buzz afterward.
Starita by Don Antonio: Kenji from SeriousEats rated this as his favorite pizza in Naples, but I wasn't impressed. The montanara (their signature fried pizza with smoked mozzarella) was interesting but super heavy. The margherita lacked character (as did the restaurant itself). I feel like I've had this same pie in the states a dozen times before.
Cafe Mexico: Great espresso. Some of the best on our travels. Gorgeous, bright orange La San Macco espresso machines. Various locations throughout the city.
Da Donato: Old school pizzeria and restaurant near the train station. Balsamic glazed grilled octopus and "scampi" (langoustine with linguine and pancetta) were fantastic.
Baba for dessert was terrific.
Sorbillo: Many claim this is the best pizza in the city. The 35 minute wait at 10:15 on a Tuesday night got my hopes up even more. Tried the marinara and the margherita DOC (with mozzarella di buffalo). While I might give the slight edge on the marinara to Da Michelle, the margherita here won by a landslide. All in all, perhaps the best pizzas I've ever had. Their 5 Euro Piedirosso "house wine" paired perfectly with both pies.
Naples Airport: Buffalo milk soft serve topped with candied hazelnuts and almonds. Why not?
by Kelsey Butler | Nostalgia is a factor not to be discounted when it comes to food, and these five holiday staples sometimes...
by David Klein | Mail order cookies, cakes, pies, and other sweet treats are better (and more prolific) than ever...