Tuesday, August 21, 2007

World's 50 Best Restaurants 2007

First published by Restaurant magazine in 2002 and now in its sixth year, The S.Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants is recognised around the world as the most credible indicator of the best places to eat on EARTH!!

Unfortunately Italy has some work to do!! It is tied for fourth place on the list along with Spain - each having 6 restaurants on the list.

The 50 best by nation are as follows :
France 12
UK 7
Spain 6
Italy 6
Australia 2

How Italy is outperformed by the UK is beyond me!!

For the complete list including descriptions and reviews of each restaurant go to:

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Boys of Summer 2006

2006 World Cup Champions!
It was a joy to watch the boys play last summer. The number of fans watching matches in the bars and restaurants around NYC was amazing!

Sambuca Con Mosca

Sambuca...one of my favorite liquers!!

In Sambuca con mosca (literally, "Sambuca with flies") coffee beans are added as an ornament but they can also be chewed to exalt the taste of anise.

The Italian tradition is to put three coffee beans representing health, wealth and happiness (or luck).

Sambuca is also great added to a strong cup of espresso OR served on the rocks. The ice exalts the flavors and changes the color of the drink from transparent to dense white.


Scopa is an Italian card game that I learned growing up. I didn't learn gin rummy or bridge...but scopa!!

The link below contains some nice pictures of the classic deck and the standard rules. It is a fun, easy game ideally enjoyed with a nice glass of brunello! You will see men playing scopa outside little cafes and taverns all over Italy.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Che La Fenice Risorga Delle Ceneri

Teatro La Fenice ("The Phoenix") is an opera house in Venice. It is one of the most famous theatres in Europe, the site of many famous operatic premieres. Its name reflects its role in permitting an opera company to "rise from the ashes" despite losing the use of two theatres (to fire and legal problems respectively). Since opening and being named La Fenice, it has twice burned and been rebuilt.
(from Wikipedia)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Who's The Most Famous Resident of Laglio, Italy?

Laglio is is a small municipality at the south western end of the Lake Como. It has about 900 residents.

Laglio was put on the map in 2002, when George Clooney settled down there, purchasing the Villa Oleandra from the Heinz family.

The Villa Oleandra is an 18th century home with 15 bedrooms. Parts of Ocean's Twelve were filmed there.

More on Lago di Como in future posts!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Opera Nella Citta Del Romeo e Juliet

If you're an opera lover, this is a must. Even if you're not an opera lover, this is a must!!

Verona is a city in the Veneto in Northern Italy. The city itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site and well worth visiting. It is also the setting for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet :

There is no world without Verona walls,
But purgatory, torture, hell itself.
Hence-banished is banish'd from the world,

(following from jetsetreport.com):
One of Europe's premiere summer festivals, the Verona Opera runs from late-June thru August within the city's historic Roman amphitheater. Built in the 1st century, the structure is remarkably well preserved and centrally located within the main piazza of Verona. The amphitheater is one of the most intact pieces of the Roman era, aside from its missing decorative marble facade and outer wall that's sitting in the middle of piazza. Despite it's name it's hardly a ruin at all, but actually a working opera house that functions essentially the same as one built within the last 20-years. It's an incredible venue, offering a seating capacity of 22,000, with elaborate large-scale sets that are wheeled through town and into the arena for extravagant productions of Aida, Carmen and Turnadot.

There are a wide variety of ticket prices to suit every pocketbook and tickets can now be purchased online.

I was fortunate to see Franco Zeffirelli's staging of Carmen here back in the mid 90s. Fabulous experience!!

Hiking the CinqueTerre

The CinqueTerre (translated the Five Lands) is a region of Italy south of Genoa. It's eighteen kilometers of sheer rocky coastline, terraced hills and vineyards sloping steeply down to the sea. Five little villages are built into the rocks between the beach and the hills. Each village has its own unique character.

The CinqueTerre used to be inaccessible except by foot or boat. Now there's a train that runs between the villages.

But to truly experience the area, try hiking the footpaths. All of the main trails offer spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea.

Depending on which trail you attempt, you may want to overnight in your destination village in order to relax and enjoy the ambiance.

**Especially if you attempt the Monterosso to Vernazza trail. Vernazza is a beautiful little village with a square right on the water. A great place to take some refreshment post your hike!!

About the trails:
Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza: This is a difficult trail that is 2.5 miles (4km) with many up's and down's. It will take most people between 1.5 and 2 hours depending on how many stops you make to admire the view.

Vernazza to Corniglia: This is the most difficult of the four trails and has the least number of ocean views. It will take most people about 2 hours to hike this 2.5 mile (4 km) trail. The terrain is uneven in places and you will have to be able to hike up and down hills.

Corniglia to Manarola: This is an easy 45 minutes walk and you have an ocean view for the entire walk. The trail is less than 2 miles (3km).

Manarola to Riomaggiore: This .5 mile trail (.6 km) is an easy stroll on a paved walkway. It will take about 30 minutes to walk the path.


Italy's UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Which country has more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other? Italy of course!! : - ) Italy has 41 UNESCO sites. Spain is second with 40.

Rock Drawings in Valcamonica (1979)
Church and Dominican Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie with (1980)
Historic Centre of Rome, the Properties of the Holy See in that City Enjoying Extraterritorial
Vatican City (1984)
Rights and San Paolo Fuori le Mura (1980, 1990) * 14
Historic Centre of Florence (1982)
Piazza del Duomo, Pisa (1987)
Venice and its Lagoon (1987)
Historic Centre of San Gimignano (1990)
The Sassi and the park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera (1993)
City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto (1994, 1996)
Crespi d'Adda (1995)
Ferrara, City of the Renaissance, and its Po Delta (1995, 1999) 15
Historic Centre of Naples (1995)
Historic Centre of Siena (1995)
Castel del Monte (1996)
Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna (1996)
Historic Centre of the City of Pienza (1996)
The Trulli of Alberobello (1996)
18th-Century Royal Palace at Caserta with the Park, the Aqueduct of Vanvitelli, and the San Leucio Complex (1997)
Archaeological Area of Agrigento (1997)
Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata (1997)
Botanical Garden (Orto Botanico), Padua (1997)
Cathedral, Torre Civica and Piazza Grande, Modena (1997)
Costiera Amalfitana (1997)
Portovenere, Cinque Terre, and the Islands (Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto) (1997)
Residences of the Royal House of Savoy (1997)
Su Nuraxi di Barumini (1997)
Villa Romana del Casale (1997)
Archaeological Area and the Patriarchal Basilica of Aquileia (1998)
Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park with the Archeological sites of Paestum and Velia, and the Certosa di Padula (1998)
Historic Centre of Urbino (1998)
Villa Adriana (Tivoli) (1999)
Assisi, the Basilica of San Francesco and Other Franciscan Sites (2000)
City of Verona (2000)
Isole Eolie (Aeolian Islands) (2000)
Villa d'Este, Tivoli (2001)
Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto (South-Eastern Sicily) (2002)
Sacri Monti of Piedmont and Lombardy (2003)
Etruscan Necropolises of Cerveteri and Tarquinia (2004)
Val d'Orcia (2004)
Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica (2005)
Genoa: Le Strade Nuove and the system of the Palazzi dei Rolli (2006)

Leonardo da Vinci's 'Il Cenacolo'

Housed in the refectory of the domenican convent adjoining the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, lies Il Cenacolo (The Last Supper).


Reservations required :


The First Lady of Italian Cooking

Who is the first lady of italian cooking (besides my mother of course)? Well it's not Giada (a pleasant bubbly girl who's very passionate about Italy but her cooking skills are limited).

The first lady of Italian cooking is Lidia Bastianich.

Lidia grew up in Istria, a coastal region along the Adriatic Sea that was once part of Italy and is now in Croatia. She focuses on authentic Italian cuisine and fondly recalls cooking traditions with her grandmother and mother. By focusing on tradition and great food, she has built a food empire.

She co owns three restaurants in NY - Felidia, Becco and Esca. Felidia is by far the best and if you're seeking a great Italian meal in NY, I'd highly recommend it. You're bound to see Lidia there - overseeing the kitchen and the dining room. She also has a great cooking show called Lidia's Family Table.

As Lidia would say "Tutti a Tavola...a Mangiare!"


Monday, August 6, 2007

PECK - Milan's Gastronomic Mecca

Need a great place to relax after visiting the Duomo. Stop by Peck - Milan's top gourmet store. Check out the great selection of specialty products (super place to pack a picnic). Don't forget to visit the wine cellar. And when you're weary, stop by the little cafe for some champagne (yes french but it's still the right choice in my opinion) and hor d'oeuvres.


New York Times Review
This jewel of a fancy grocery store is laid out on four elegant floors with a stunning wine cellar featuring the world’s best vintages along with a few modest Lombard reds like the robust, rose-gold Sassella, the somewhat milder Grumello and the light, nut-flavored Inferno. Of the extraordinary cheeses of this dairyland province, the noblest is the tangy, complex Gorgonzola. Milder but seductive examples are taleggio and stracchino and the frothy, freshly piquant mascarpone. In late fall and winter, Peck sometimes offers a terrine layered with those four cheeses and slivers of aromatic white truffles.
Among the preserved meats of the region, Peck displays at least 25 local variations on salami alongside mortadella di fegato, the thin, dry luganega and zampone (a pig’s foot stuffed with peppery, coarsely ground pork mixture much like cotechino). These as well as a dozen types of cured ham and beef are on view with the region’s breads, candies, cakes and more.

Visiting the Excavations BELOW St. Peter's Basilica

Seeking something really unusual to do while visiting St. Peter's (as if visiting this most amazing site weren't enough). For a real treat, make arrangements to visit the excavations BELOW St. Peter's Basilica. It's not easy to find the instructions on the Holy See website and the instructions seem more intimidating than they actually are. But it's well worth the bit of time required to get the proper invite.


It's very cool to be able to walk up to the Swiss Guards and present your entrance letter (the entrance is to the left as you face the Basilica). Remember the Guards take their job very seriously...so be humble and respectful, it will be much easier to gain entrance.

If you've read the Davinci Code, you'll recognize the geographic descriptions along the trip (yes the catacombs do slope up a hill as you near St. Peter's grave).

Combine this with a trip of the Vatican Gardens - that requires separate admission - for an extra special day.


Finding Great Food In Italy

Since food is one of the first things people discuss when they're planning a trip to Italy, I start my inaugural post with the subject of Food. I'm often amazed at the number of people who return from a trip to Italy saying they had a bad experience with the Food. My family is in the restaurant business and are great cooks and I've seldom had a bad food experience in Italy. But I also don't leave the food choices to chance. I'd suggest a bit of planning to avoid bad experiences. If you were travelling through your own hometown you wouldn't expect the corner hot dog vendor or random cafe to necessarily serve good/great food. Why expect any different when on your Italian vacation?

Now some may say this takes some of the joie de vive out of your trip. But if you're a foodie or partial foodie who cares about food, don't leave your food choices to chance.

And note - this doesn't mean you necessarily need to spend alot to get a great meal. Two of the best meals I've had were in little off the beaten path restaurants in Cortona and Montalcino.

Trust your guidebook for restaurant suggestions. I've found Fodor's particularly reliable.

Buon Appetito!