"I accidentally ate the whole thing."

"I accidentally ate the whole thing."
A journey through food

Monday, June 11, 2012

Current Sushi- Washington, DC


Welp, I have finally returned home to the good ol’ US of A, though that hardly means I have slowed down travel wise. Within 2 weeks of my return home I went to 3 different cities before finally settling in what is to be my home for the summer: Washington, DC. This is my first time being in DC (that I am old enough to remember, anyway) and I am excited to be here for so many reasons. I mean, the nation’s capital is of course going to have some pretty cool stuff to explore: incredible monuments, free museums, beautiful parks and gardens, and (most exciting of all) fabulous restaurants!

I don’t think it needs to be said that I already had a list of restaurants I wanted to try in DC even before it was confirmed that I would be living here for the summer.  It is a long and diverse list with restaurants specializing in a range of cuisines. I’ll admit that I steered clear of adding a lot of Italian restaurants to the list. I am sure there are several good ones in DC, but a girl needs a change of pace after 4 months of pasta.

Cue in Current. Current is a sushi restaurant near Dupont Circle in Washington DC. Seeing as sushi is one of the foods I ate absolutely none of while abroad, I was ready to treat myself to this Japanese delight.

Upon walking into Current, I was excited to be back in a restaurant that had a certain kind of atmosphere, uniqueness. In Italy, the restaurants all tend to have a similar, almost homey, feel and look to them, but Current felt completely different with its wooden floors and dark walls accented by subtle candle light. It felt sleek and trendy, but avoided being cheesy or over the top.  The noise level was quiet enough for my friend and I to have a conversation but was not awkwardly quiet. The only tweak I would have made is for there to have been a bit more lighting so we could have gotten a better look at our food, cause it tasted gooood.
Both my friend, Lauren, and I were hungry and ready to go all out. To start, we ordered the shrimp and vegetable wontons to share. Lauren then ordered a small mixed salad with ponzu dressing along with 2 of Current’s signature rolls. I ordered the chef’s selection sushi tasting menu.


Lauren’s salad arrived first. The base was your standard mixed greens with cherry tomatoes and shredded carrots, but the addition of sesame seeds and the ponzu dressing made the salad a bit above average. Ponzu is a citrus based sauce that was thin, like vinaigrette, and had a flavor that reminded Lauren and I of miso dressing (which we are both fans of).




Next to come out were the shrimp and vegetable wontons, four tiny pockets of mushroom, cabbage and onion with no shortness of shrimp and a lime-ginger sauce for dipping. The nicely browned wontons tasted good on their own, but became great with the additional dimension of the sauce.



While we enjoyed the wontons, I was brought out a bowl of miso soup which came as a part of my tasting menu. The soup was standard in flavor but heartier than any other miso soup I have had. Each spoonful was loaded with as much seaweed and tofu as it was broth.



Then my main course arrived. I was brought out a platter with 6 pieces of nigiri (rice with fish lying on top) and 1 spicy tuna roll. The fish atop the nigiri were tuna, yellowtail, horse mackerel, Chilean white tuna, scotish salmon, and eel.  I was in heaven. The simplicity of the nigiri was so pleasing and the spicy tuna roll was just hot enough to be interesting, but not too hot so that I couldn’t enjoy it. The best part was that the lightness of the chef’s selection as a whole allowed me to clear the plate and not be overly full.



Lauren was equally pleased with her main course. She ordered the Dubfire pepper tuna roll and the Thomas Blondet roll. The Thomas Blondet was similar to a Philadelphia roll in flavor due to the inclusion of cream cheese, but it also had spicy tuna, scallions, spicy miso, and sesame seeds. It  was the Dubfire pepper tuna roll that really impressed us, though. It had grilled asparagus, cilantro, pickled scallion, wasabi, and jalapeno peppers rolled in rice and topped with torched tuna with a mayo sauce drizzled on top. It was fabulous. The just asparagus and just seared tuna were the main flavors that came through but they were elevated by the addition of the other components of the roll.



All in all at Current, the sushi was good, the service was attentive, and our water glasses were always kept full. Current made mission “treat myself to sushi” a great success.  




Current Sushi
1215 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Trattoria Pizzeria Dai Medici- Naples, IT


After my semester in Rome ended, I had 3 weeks until my flight home to the USA. The first one of these weeks I spent in Naples with my roommate and travel buddy, Gina. Naples tends to have a less than shining reputation for being crime ridden, dirty, and all around unsafe, but despite this it managed to be one of my favorite destinations in Italy. Why you ask? Well, for starters, it was incredibly beautiful, especially along the coastline, a somewhat unexpected treat for us.  It also proved to be a city filled with much more than just trash (though there was PLENTY of that). Naples had art, culture, history, one of the friendliest populations we came across, and most of all fantastic pizza.

Pizza in Naples is like no other. For starters you can get a full pie for one person for 3 euro, convenient for broke college students. It just so happened that the hostel Gina and I were staying at was located on the same street as some of the most famous pizza joints in town. I think it goes without saying that for 3 euro a pie I ate more than my fill of pizza.

While the famous spots, like De Matteo, had delicious product I do not count them as the best Pizza places in Naples for the fact that their pizza wasn’t good enough to make up for the lack of customer service. Granted, Italy is not known for great customer service, but a simple smile and acknowledgement of a customer’s presence is not too much to ask for no matter the location.  Most of the famous pizzerias could not seem to manage even this. There is a place that has not only excellent pizza, but also the friendliest staff. It is the Trattoria and Pizzeria Dai Medici.   

Also located in Naples’ historic center, this family owned pizzeria is refreshingly low key with only a small sign outside and a simply decorated interior. As Gina and I walked inside, we were immediately greeted by an older Italian woman who spoke little English, but did not let that stop her from making us feel incredibly welcome. Before we even sat down, she asked us if we were staying at Robby’s House B&B. Since we were, we were brought out a special treat (apparently Bobby sends Dai Medici a lot of business and this is their way of showing their appreciation). What we were brought was an appetizer of “algae del mar,” fried balls of dough with seaweed. These salty fried pillows were so simple and so delicious. They were also a uniquely Naples treat that we never saw them on another menu anywhere else in Italy.



Then it was time for the pizzas. Oh my. For starters, they were huge. They were easily the size of the Roman style pies served at Da Baffetto in Rome, only the crust of Dai Medici’s pizza was in the true Neapolitan style: thin in the center, yet thick and chewy around the edge.  

For toppings, I ordered the mixed vegetables while Gina got spicy sausage. Needless to say, we both thought our pizzas were scrumptious.   Hers came with red sauce while mine came with only cheese. The veggies on mine ended up being eggplant, artichokes, and chicory. While I was expecting they would be mixed together on the pizza, they were all separated. I liked it this way, probably because I have obsessive compulsive tendencies when it comes to arranging food on my plate and always give each food its own space, so this pizza was just my style.




While my pizza was excellent, I did wish a little that I had ordered a pizza with red sauce on it. After having already eaten red pizza for two nights before going to Dai Medici, I had wanted to switch things up a bit by ordering a white pizza, but after trying both I decided  that I like pizza better when there is red sauce. Despite this, the veggies on my pizza were so fresh and the portion was so big that I was definitely not unsatisfied when I was finished. Red sauce or no, the pizza at Trattoria and Pizzeria Dai Medici was the best I had in Naples.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Gelato Crawl 2012- Rome, IT


I have a huge apology to make. It has been FAR too long since I last posted. My semester in Rome has just come to an end and I have had both an extreme lack of time and money to eat out. With my school work finished and classes over, I am spending my last few weeks abroad travelling. I have been to Naples (post about possibly the best pizza ever coming soon…), Mommeneheim, Germany, a small village about 30 minutes from Frankfurt, and am now writing to you from Zurich, Switzerland. Next, I'll be exploring the North of Italy with my sister :) 

Before departing from Rome, there were a lot of goodbyes to be made. I had so many places I wanted to see one last time and people I wanted to spend time with. It seemed there was no way I was going to manage it all. But, I had a solution: a gelato crawl. This was an idea I had thought of within my first few weeks of being in Rome since there are about a bazillion gelaterias and everyone I talked to said a different one was the best. I knew I needed to compare these places side by side and the fact that the gelato crawl worked as the perfect way to say goodbye to Rome was the cherry on top (corny, I know, but I couldn’t help myself).  Many of the gelaterias on the list that we would try were located near major attractions in Rome that we all wanted to say goodbye to. Our route ended up making a perfect loop through central Rome allowing us all to see our favorite spots one last time.

To find the places to include in the crawl, I did my research on my trusty food blogs that had been my dining guides throughout my stay in Italy and also factored in input from some locals I knew as well as other students in the Temple program. I decided the gelato crawl would consist of the following places: Fatamorgana, Gelateria dei Gracchi, Café Ciampini, Il Gelato di San Crispino, Giolitti, Della Palma, Gelateria del Teatro, and Old Bridge Gelateria.



I wanted this to be a legit operation, so in addition to having an official route, I also made up score cards for the 5 of us who were going on the crawl to fill out at each stop. On these cards, we rated each gelateria on the variety of flavors offered (number as well as uniqueness), the taste of the gelato, the customer service, the serving size, and the price (was it a good price for the value).  We rated each category on a scale from 1 to 5. The final tallies are listed below.

All in all, the gelato crawl was a huge success, despite the fact that it was raining the whole day and we were all soaked by the 2nd stop. Della Palma won the best variety of flavors (fitting since its case of gelato stretches through 3 rooms) while Gelateria del Teatro came in a close second due to its uniqueness of natural flavors (my favorite was the flavor garden sage with lavender).

The winner of the taste category was Il Gelato di San Crispino. I was skeptical of this place when we first arrived. The price was steep for only 1 flavor in an extra small cup (€2,30). But when we tasted the gelato, we all thought it was worth every cent. It was the purest tasting gelato ever, gourmet to say the least. The banana flavor was especially fantastic.



The first place gelateria in customer service, serving size, and price/value got perfect scores in all 3 categories, making it the clear winner of the Gelato Crawl 2012: Old Bridge Gelateria. Old Bridge is known by all students in the Temple Rome program. It is located in the Vatican, right next to St. Peter’s Basilica, making it super close to Temple’s residence. And best of all, it is the cheapest quality gelato in the city that gives generous portions. While Old Bridge may serve fewer flavors than Della Palma or Giolitti, it always offers the most important flavors (ricotta pistachio that is to die for) and has specialty flavors on a rotation. What puts Old Bridge over the edge as the best, though, is the incredibly friendly staff.  All 5 of us gelato crawlers agreed that it was our favorite gelateria to go to, well worth the walk in soggy shoes to get.




Gelato Crawl 2012 final tallies:
Gelateria
Fatamorgana
Gelateria dei Gracchi
Café Ciampini
Il Gelato di San Crispino
Giolitti
Della Palma
Gelateria del Teatro
Old Bridge Gelateria
Variety of Flavors
21.5/25
19/25
11/25
19/25
20.5/25
23/25
22/25
19.5/25
Taste
19/25
19.5/25
18/25
21.5/25
18/25
17/25
23/25
20/25
Customer Service
11/25
18.5/25
18.5/25
19.5/25
17/25
17/25
20/25
25/25
Serving Size
11/25
15/25
9.5/25
11/25
16/25
17.5/25
18/25
25/25
Price/Value
14.5/25
12/25
11/25
9/25
15.5/25
17/25
19/25
25/25
Other Comments
Unique flavors; icy
Simple flavors better; nut flavors most popular (esp. pistachio)
Small servings, but quality taste
Small servings but fantastic quality
Crowded but quick service
Huge selection of unique flavors.
Very unique flavors; All natural
Awesome value for good quality and friendly staff.
TOTAL SCORE:
 (0-125)
76.5
83.5
67.5
80
87
91.5
102
114.5

Congratulations to Old Bridge Gelateria for being the winner of the Gelato Crawl 2012!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Da Lucia- Rome, IT


I was lucky enough to get to share one of the best weekends ever with my incredible parents. They came to visit me in Rome and we got to spend 4 days together exploring the Coliseum, the Vatican City, the Pantheon, and the other iconic monuments throughout the city. Of course, I made sure they ate well. In addition to having gelato every day (don’t tell my dad’s doctor), we ate at several great restaurants, including the wonderful Nonna Betta in the Jewish Ghetto. My favorite spot of the weekend was a small trattoria called Da Lucia.

Da Lucia is a quaint, family owned, authentically Italian trattoria on a small side street in Trastevere. It may have taken one or two… or three tries to find it, but find it we did and just in time. We were lucky enough to snag the last open table in the tiny restaurant; all the other tables had been reserved by locals, a good sign to say the least.

My intention for the night was to give my parents a traditional Italian dining experience, antipasti through dessert, so when we were seated and given the menus we went all out. For our antipasti course we ordered anchovies and a mixed cheese plate (I realize that the cheese course would actually be served after the main course in Italy, so we were not perfectly traditional). The dishes arrived along with a basket of home baked Italian bread of the finest quality, hard and crusty on the outside while remaining soft and moist on the inside.

I cannot tell you what the different types of cheeses were, but I can tell you that we enjoyed them all. The anchovies were fresh and marinated in olive oil and lemon juice. The lemon was a good idea to balance out the saltiness of the fish, but both my dad and I agreed there was a bit too much lemon for our tastes.

For our pasta course, my parents took my suggestion and ordered dishes that are quintessentially Roman. My dad went with the pasta all’amatriciana (pasta with guanciale, tomato, and cheese) and my mom got the penne arrabiata. I went with what has become a favorite of mine, the simple spaghetti cacio e pepe (cheese and black pepper). There is not much more to say about these dishes other than they were excellently made and very satisfying. My only criticism would be that I would have liked for the cacio e pepe to have had a bit more liquid to it so the cheese would have melted more. However, I still enjoyed it a great deal.

To both our pleasure and our dismay, we moved on to the next course. I say dismay only because we were already quite full and wondering how we were going to eat any more. We managed. It helped that none of us ordered dishes that were particularly heavy. My dad got a dish of squid with peas, my mom opted for a light side of mixed vegetables, and I went with the cheese omelet, something that I have not seen offered on many Italian menus.

I was thrilled with how much my dad seemed to like his squid dish. His biggest concern was that the peas were not going to be fresh, and though it was hard to say whether they were or not, they paired with the squid perfectly. My mom’s side ended up being a mix of pickled veggies and ones marinated in olive oil. There was green cauliflower, red peppers, grilled eggplant, and olives. It was perfect for her since she felt the fullest out of us all. My omelet was pretty standard, but it almost felt foreign eating eggs. I hadn’t had any in a while. Unlike how it would have been in America, there was not an outrageous amount of cheese weighing down the dish. There was just enough so that a hint of cheese flavor came through.

Honestly, after eating 3 courses we were all so full that we should have passed on dessert. But the desserts were all on display in a case as you entered the restaurant and we saw that they had panna cotta, a dessert that none of us had yet tried. Our curiosity got the best of us and we got one order to share. I am so incredibly glad we did. Panna cotta is awesome.

It is basically a cold cream pudding served with different toppings. Ours came with a fresh mixed berry syrup. It was light and creamy with a yogurt-like texture but a flavor more similar to vanilla ice cream. Like most Italian desserts I have had in Rome, it was not too sweet, even with the added sweetness of the berries.

All in all, my parents and I had a lovely time at Da Lucia. It provided my parents with the traditional Italian meal that I was looking for them to experience. Between the warm and friendly staff, the delicious food, and the homey atmosphere, it was everything that I was hoping it would be. We left with happy hearts and the fullest of bellies… with just enough room left to get gelato on the way home.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

No so perfect Paris- Paris, FR

Somehow it is already past the halfway of my semester abroad in Rome. This is a bitter sweet realization, but on the upside, I had spring break! I got to go on a week-long adventure in Edinburgh, Paris, and Barcelona, and you can bet that I was eating myself happy as I went.

I was most looking forward to the food in Paris. How could I not when Paris has so many foods to look forward to? Just thinking of the cheeses, macaroons, and crepes that I wanted to try was enough to get me drooling. Unfortunately, I was a bit let down. I did manage to have plenty of excellent cheese, but the macaroons seemed far too expensive given their size and I found I preferred the crepes at Temple University’s food truck. I also ended up eating more bread in the 4 days I was in Paris than I have my entire stay thus far in Rome. Paris does not make it easy for a vegetarian on a budget to eat.

As far as restaurants go, of the two establishments I went to, one was incredible while the other, sadly, fell short.

The first restaurant that I went to was a priority for me to try while in Paris. While doing my pre-Paris food research, every site that I came upon highly recommended this place. It was none other than Rose Bakery.

Rose Bakery is a tiny bakery/restaurant located in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris. The building it occupies looks as though it was once a garage. The simple décor consists of concrete floors and white walls with signs posted warning diners to beware of the condensation that forms on them. The very back wall has pastel colored paint roughly brushed across it giving the room a messy punch of color and a super laid back feel. There was no fussiness, no theatrics to hide behind- just good food in a nice atmosphere with friendly staff.

After peering at the day’s food selections displayed in the to-go counter, both Gina and I knew what we wanted to eat. We saw that the person sitting at the table behind us had gotten the same thing, and since the menu was in all French (which neither of us speak a word of- ask my French speaking friends. I have tried and epically failed in every attempt) when it was time to give our orders, we simply said we’d have “what he got.”

“What he got” ended up being a sampling of the day’s various vegetable and grain dishes. It was the most beautifully colorful bowl of food I think I have ever seen. The six piles of food in the dish were as follows: broccoli and cauliflower with a green hummus-like sauce, a wheat berry salad with mushrooms, apple, onion, and radish salad, carrot salad with pumpkin seeds, a lightly pickles coleslaw, and citrus-herbed millet. All were fresh, delicious, and (most importantly) not bread.

Sadly, the bread was the best part of the meal at our second dining destination, Boullion Chartier Restaurant. In all fairness, the main reason Gina and I decided to eat here was because the prices were substantially lower than any other restaurant in the city and it was supposedly the last of the old school French restaurants. On our college student budgets, cheap was what we needed, though I had been warned that with the low prices came lower quality food. Despite this, I was still hopeful that it would be a delicious meal. My hopes were too high.

The restaurant itself was very nice. It had high ceilings, beautiful chandelier lighting and a classic charm to it. But the appearance is the only thing that made it on my “pros” list. Everything else pretty much fell short. For instance, in traditional French style, the wait staff was not the friendliest. Worst of all was the food. Our meals came out far too quickly for anything to have been cooked fresh and it was clear that my plate of mixed vegetables (the only vegetarian option on the menu) consisted of frozen veggies, and of the icky variety.

My green beans were mushy, the marinated mushrooms were cold, the baked potato was bland, and the pasta was a joke (not to mention a confusing addition to a veggie plate). I think the red stuff on it was supposed to be tomato sauce, but it tasted more like super thin ketchup. Let’s face it, after living in Rome for 2 months, any pasta that is not homemade is going to be less than satisfactory. We enjoyed our time in the restaurant, but didn’t bother ordering dessert and instead opted for a treat from a bakery, a decision we did not regret.

My dining experiences in Paris left me with 2 conclusions: 1- French dining is not vegetarian friendly and 2- good French food is not wallet friendly. While my dinner at Boullion Chartier left a lot to be desired, Rose Bakery reassures me that there is fantastic French food right up my alley, though I won’t be able to afford it any time soon. Of course, that is not going to stop me from compiling a list of Parisian restaurants to try… it’s good to have dreams.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Il Latini - Florence, IT

Since the private club that we were newly members of was all full for the rest of the weekend, my travel buddies and I went for plan B. It was a place that two of my friend’s Italian teachers had suggested to her: Il Latini.

Good sign number one was that this tiny restaurant is tucked away on an obscure back street of Florence that was not even on my trusty map. It looked classically Italian and quite adorable from the outside. When we walked in we were greeted by good sign number two: chaos, or what appeared to be chaos, anyway. As you may recall from reading about Da Baffetto, often the best Italian restaurants are filled with nonstop movement. Il Latini was filling up quickly and we were hastily shuffled into one of the small side rooms with cured meat hanging from the ceiling and were seated at the only remaining free table. The homemade crusty bread was sitting out for us, and the two liter bottle of house red wine was immediately opened.

Our waiter came over soon after and, without giving us menus, asked if we wanted antipasti. We barely got a “sure” out when he shook his head to stop us and simply said “I’ll take care of it.” Knowing that most of the antipasti we would receive would probably contain meat of some kind, we managed to wave him down again and let him know I was a vegetarian. Despite the face he made (a mix between confusion and utter disbelief), he had no problem setting me up with my very own cheese plate (I was beyond happy), and insuring that the rest of the meal featured plenty of meatless options for me as well.

We were quickly brought several antipasti. First, we got a plate of sundried tomatoes stuffed with some sort of ground meat pâtè. Next was crostini topped with a meat spread and soon after came the cured Italian sausages. Finally, we were brought the classic smoked ham plate.

When we were ready for our primi piatti (first course), our waiter made a few verbal suggestions of what to get, but we figured this was more courtesy on his part than anything else. We were going to get what he gave us, and truthfully, we were fine with that. We ended up getting 3 pasta dishes and one soup dish. Two of the pastas contained meat. The first was rotini pasta with a ragu sauce while the second was thick noodles with a red sauce and wild boar.

The vegetarian dishes were traditional homemade ravioli stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach and a vegetable-grain stew. The stew was the all around winner across the board (even over the meat dishes). We all liked how thick it was, and the flavors were concentrated and hearty. It was a rainy night, so the soup was a perfect comfort.

Despite the fabulous looking meat dishes and tempting vegetable plates we had seen being eaten at other tables (not to mention the reputation Florentine steak has), both our stomachs and our wallets could not handle us getting another main course. However, we did manage to force down some dessert. It was a challenge, but it simply needed to be done.

We were brought a plate with small servings of 4 different desserts. There was a traditional chocolate cake, a panna cotta, an ice cream cake (although it was more just a cake with a chilled cream filling as opposed to what we think of in the United States), and a vanilla cake mound filled with cream and chocolate. While they were all delicious, my favorite was the cream filled mound. Truthfully, the part of dessert I liked best of all was the small glass of moscato wine we were given. It was bubbly and sweet.

When we were ready to pay, the owner came over to write out our check. He was a small, old, happy Italian man will white hair and a smile that lit up the room. The waiter told him which dishes we received and he did a quick tally in his head and wrote down 100 Euro on the slip of paper. We had been hoping we would get to pay less than 30 Euro each and were happy it came to an even 25. When we left, we took a look at the menu outside and tallied up our total ourselves. The owner ended up giving us a small discount which we greatly appreciated.

Even though we did not get a special performance after our dinner like we had the previous night, our experience at Il Latini was just that: and experience. It was high energy, fast paced, and purely Italian.



Il Latini

via dei Palchetti 6/r

50123 – Firenze

http://www.illatini.com/

Chocolate, Cheese, and Buffets as You Please- Florence, IT

I have recently come to a conclusion: I love Florence. It is an absolutely beautiful city. I love that it is small enough to be easily maneuvered on foot and is filled with art, history, culture and, of course, food. In three days, I managed to have three entirely different, yet equally delicious, food experiences leaving me with a full stomach and satisfied soul as I traveled back to Rome. The first of these experiences was an artisan chocolate festival.

Let me repeat that: artisan chocolate festival. And it was exactly 1 block from my hostel. Win. La Piazza Repubblica was filled with around 20 tents of different chocolate companies offering samples of their products, showing off how each was unique in their own way, and selling chocolaty snacks to excited consumers, such as myself. I sampled some of the truffles, gourmet chocolate spreads of several varieties and flavor infused chocolate bars. The chocolate covered banana rolled in chopped peanuts was my favorite snack, although the cup of strawberries dowsed in chocolate was a close second. And, of course, the hot chocolate was fantastic. The dark chocolate kind was as thick as pudding. Needless to say, several of my meals while in Florence were topped off with a chocolate treat.

My next meal ended up being my absolutely favorite dining and overall experience in Florence. Better than chocolate!? It seems impossible, I know, but it is true. Chocolate could not quite stand up to my evening at a private (members only) club featuring a two hour, buffet style gourmet Italian meal cooked by a famous Italian chef in a restaurant/performance venue featuring a post-dinner entertainment act... all for 30 Euro.

We read about this place in my friend’s travel book and made it a must on our list of places to go. We lucked out because most nights require reservations for the dinner service, but it was not necessary the night we went. We paid the 5 Euro membership fee (which is good for a year) and the 30 Euro for the meal and performance and were told to pace ourselves (on both the food and the unlimited house wine) – yeah right.

We walked into the dining room (giddy as ever, I might add) to see an almost medieval looking room with stone pillars reaching from the wooden floors to arched ceiling under which several wooden tables were situated, surrounded by red velvet armchairs accompanied by candle light. We seated ourselves at a table on the far right side of the room close to the stage with a view of the kitchen through large glass windows. The entire dinner service we could see the food being made and we watched it get passed from the kitchen to the buffet table as the chef yelled in Italian what the dishes were. Never did we understand him, but we loved the energy created by the echoing voice of a passionate chef who clearly loved what he did.

As far as the food was concerned, it was wonderful. The first items that came out were all vegetable dishes of some kind. There was a broccoli puree, spiced carrots (served cold), roasted potatoes, an eggplant puree, and a beet and radish salad. In addition, there was a cauliflower gratin and a dish which was referred to as gnocchi, but was cut in a block instead of formed into puffs of dough. Regardless, it was fantastic.

The next dish was a “special salad” of warm chickpeas, mussels, faro and an assortment of other veggies. Then there was a whole roasted fish, which looked and tasted like a large sardine, a veggie stew with Moroccan couscous followed by mussels and broth. In addition, there were homemade rolls available with every course, and let us not forget about the wonderful house wine.

Finally came dessert: a thin rolled cookie shell with freshly whipped cream, a moist chocolate brownie, and café. Not too sweet, super rich, and unbelievably satisfying.

After the dining portion was over, the furniture was quickly moved around to have the chairs positioned in front of the stage for the performance that was to come. The acts change regularly and feature musicians, actors, poets, or any other type of entertainment you can think of. We were going to get to listen to the chef of the restaurant himself speak about food. It would have been absolutely perfect had it not all been in Italian. I could catch the general idea of what he was saying, but it took a lot of concentration to keep up with him and focusing that intensely for 90 minutes straight was difficult to do after consuming so much food. Nonetheless, I enjoyed hearing how he talked about food. The passion came through yet again and I felt happy to be a part of his club.

We ended up returning the next morning for the 7 Euro breakfast buffet. It was not quite as much food as the evening before (which was probably a good thing), but the fresh fruit, warm toast, and plethora of butter, cheese, and fruit spreads was simply perfect. I wished I could eat every meal here. We would have returned for dinner again, but they were already fully booked the rest of the nights we would be in Florence, so we were forced to eat elsewhere… To be continued.