My series of entries from my time in Umbria concludes with our last dinner in Montefalco at the award-winning Spirito di Vino. If I could go back in time to the day of our visit, I would change only two things:
-I wouldn’t have over-ordered.
-I would have made arrangements to stay in Montefalco instead of driving back late (in pitch black darkness) to Perugia.
Spirito diVino has got to be one of my most favorite dining destinations in Italy. Why? Because they’ve got a ridiculously solid wine list (boasting hyper-local and natural wines), and their simple farm-to-table cuisine is rustic yet luxurious. Aside from the copious amounts of Paolo Bea’s wine, it was one pasta dish that particularly blew me away. This, my friends, was the BEST pasta dish we had in Italy:
Handmade pasta with a light truffle cream sauce, generously covered in fresh white truffle shavings. OMG.
Need I say more? Had the meal ended right then and there, I would have been happy as a clam. My error was in thinking that this needed to be a multi-course affair. Once my (still delicious) pork tenderloin came out with a melange of sweet peppers, I began to fade into the depths of too much food & too much wine sleepiness. My couple of bites of the boy’s eggplant dish was cheesy, comforting goodness which also didn’t help in aiding my looming exhaustion from the day’s wandering.
The most clever ice cream presentation ever.
Paolo Bea has my Sagrantino-loving heart.
Tender, local pork w/ beautiful sweet peppers. Too bad I wasn’t hungry by the time this got to me.
Not your average eggplant parm.
Tiramisu and an espresso? Yes, please.
Luckily, dessert helped put the pep back into my spirit. A clever dessert of sorbets and gelato utilizing the shells & bodies of the fruits, vegetables, and nuts that lend them their flavors was an almost meta dessert experience. Walnut ice cream made with the walnut meat and then shoved back into the shell, a sweet green bell pepper turned into sorbet and scooped back into it’s body…flavors I wouldn’t have dared to consider as a sweet end to a meal. And on top of that, a small tiramisu because I’m just a sucker for those it seems.
Overall, this intimate meal was a memorable one. And while the prices weren’t as economical as other places we visited on this trip, it surely didn’t break the bank and was worth every penny. Be sure to make advanced reservations, and be patient with the service. Our lovely hostess was also the only waitress of the evening, but with that wine list, who can really complain?
Spirito di Vino is located at Piazza Mustafa 2, Montefalco, Umbria, Italy, 06036. www.spiritodivino.net.
Filed under Comfort Food, Dinner, fruits and vegetables, Italian, Italy, local eateries, local food, organic, Pasta, Pork, seasonal foods, Travel, Travelogue, Vacation, wine
After the nightmare that was getting into Perugia, it was all uphill from there (literally). The hill-top towns of Umbria lured us in with charm and some of the best meals of our entire trip. But one of the most memorable was here, at Osteria A Priori– right in the heart of Perugia’s historic core. Located within a couple of blocks from our hotel, this little osteria has gotten numerous glowing reviews from professional critics and bloggers alike. But don’t think you’ll be walking into some stuffy, white tablecloth establishment. Osteria A Priori is as down-to-earth as they get. A modest spread of tall wooden tables in the back of a specialty shop (with a smaller private dining room upstairs). The food is all local. Meats, cheeses, and produce from less than 50 kilometers away to compliment the locally produced wine and beer.
Reservations fill up quickly, so book in advance. We witnessed many walk-ins being turned away during our visit– even locals who visit often were told that they were “al completo” for the night and to come back the next day. The menu is simple. Traditional dishes; hearty and lacking fuss. The star of the meal for me was the charcuterie platter which featured delicious salumi and prosciutto with local cheeses, honey, and nuts. The pasta dish was also memorable– served simple with a generous heaping of black truffles and olive oil. Regrettably, I was pretty full by the time my Osso Bucco hit the table. Although it’s melt-in-your-mouth goodness is surely worth noting. I don’t even need to tell you that we skipped dessert. Do yourself a favor and check this place out. If you don’t have time to stay for a meal, at least take advantage of their wonderful selection of beer & wine. A craft beer and natural wine lover’s must-try destination.
Two hours, a bottle of Paolo Bea’s ’06 Rosso de Veo, and too much food later, we stumbled back through Perugia’s back streets in hardly any light and uneven cobblestones (in heels). But my, we were happy.
Osteria a Priori is located at Via dei Priori, 39; Perugia, Italy.
Filed under Dinner, Italian, Italy, local eateries, local food, microbrew, Pasta, seasonal foods, Travel, Vacation, wine
We recently dined at Ristorante del Fagioli based on the recommendation of several Florentine blogger friends who praised their rustic Tuscan cuisine and great prices. There was a heavy down-pour on our first night in Florence, so after considering our options, we found it best to try this place which was only a couple of blocks away from our hotel overlooking the Arno. Modestly tucked between small local shops away from the main stretch of high-end boutiques and restaurants, del Fagioli is the type of place you go to when you’re in need of a warm atmosphere and comforting home-style food.
It’s one of those places that feels out of a movie; Chianti bottles hanging from the walls in their signature straw baskets, a dining room mixed with actual Italians harmoniously dining among curious travelers. A no-fuss handwritten menu featuring some of the region’s most popular dishes (yes, including bistecca alla Florentina) at a fraction of the cost of most other neighboring joints.
There was a charm about the place. It was like we’d been there before. Weary from a long day out and about in the rain, we mistakenly (perhaps fortunately) let our stomachs order instead of our brains. And while we both agreed that we ordered entirely too much food, everything was delicious and was expediently brought to our table without much lag in their uber-friendly service.
We started off with a crostini appetizer topped with none other than silky melt-in-your-mouth fatty lardo and rosemary; local bread grilled just enough to give the lardo a bit of warmth. We followed it up with two pasta dishes: rigatoni in a rich veal ragu for him and the most amazing and simple tortelli, freshly made and stuffed with ricotta and lemon in a bright tomato sauce. Every bite of my dish was perfect; the cheese’s richness cut with a nice balance of acidity. At this point in the meal and halfway through our bottle of wine, I was just about ready to roll over and go to bed. But then the entrees came. Involtini for him and a plate of Bollito Misto (mixed boiled meats) with a side of fagioli (white Tuscan beans, their namesake). As we tried to eat as much of these dishes as we could, we had over-estimated our hunger. His dish was dense, rich,and comforting; mine being a complete protein on protein fest. The meat was tender and savory; the beans, petite and plump– delicately flavored with local olive oil and a simple dusting of salt and pepper.
This is the meal you want after a long day. When it’s a little chilly and you want to feel warm from the inside out. If in Florence and looking for a good hearty meal at low prices, del Fagioli’s got what you need. Reservations are highly recommended. Ristorante del Fagioli, Corso Tintori 47R, Florence, Italy.
I’m going to contradict myself a little here. While I know I emphasized the importance of booking tables in advance when traveling in Italy, our first day in Venice was an exhausting one and we broke the cardinal rule of jet-lag by taking a two-hour long nap late in the afternoon. The original plan was to wander around in search of ciccheti near the Rialto, but having woken up a little later than planned (damn snooze button), we were limited to some impromptu dinner plans.
It had rained quite a bit during our nap and having left our hotel after dark, many of the restaurants and bacari were packed with people trying to stay out of the cold. Following winding streets for a while, I noticed a small sign that read “Aperto | Open” and decided to follow it. The destination: Vino Vino, the intimate wine bar owned by neighboring Antico Martini which has been around since 1720.
Tucked away from plain sight mere meters away from Antico Martini and just steps away from the famous Teatro La Fenice, this intimate little wine bar features a lengthy wine list and a simple menu featuring fresh pasta dishes and a few entrees at a very reasonable price. We chose to sit in the covered heated patio and were the only English speakers around us during our visit. It was dimly lit and romantic. Our waiter was prompt and friendly, and while the meal was simple, after a long day, it really hit the spot. I found comfort in my incredibly tender braised beef cheeks in a red wine sauce, served with fluffy potato puree and my glass of Barbaresco. A decent meal to cap off a say of sight-seeing and time adjusting. Vino Vino, Ponte delle Veste, 2007/A, Venice, Italy.
*Disclaimer: In recent weeks, there have been numerous protests and aggressive behavior from animal rights activists throughout the city in response to chefs serving foie gras. Please note that this blog is of my own personal opinions and taste and I have already stated my opinion on the matter. Harassment in any form will not be tolerated, so please be respectful. Thank you.
With that out of the way, our recent dinner at Animal Restaurant was offally good. I have been a huge fan of the superstar team of Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo for many years now. Following them both at Animal and their more seafood-centric endeavor Son of a Gun. Animal is one of my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles and with the impending foie ban, we’ve been trying to make our way over there as often as our schedules (and wallets) allow.
There is a reason why Animal on Fairfax is packed with diners every night. Aside from offering a selection of meaty delights with an accessible gourmet approach, their innovation and strong nose-to-tail philosophy can please any palate willing to open their minds to something new. With California’s aforementioned foie gras ban taking affect in a couple of days, I knew I just had to have some of my favorite dishes including their sinful rendition of biscuits and gravy. Not into foie so much? Not to worry, there isn’t a single thing on this menu that I wouldn’t gladly recommend.
Scallops, truffles, shrimp, oh my! When in the mood for a random date night, the boyfriend and I enjoy an occasional visit to Fraiche Restaurant in Santa Monica. This casual fine dining outlet located one block away from the Third Street Promenade offers a lovely atmosphere, attentive service, and reasonably-priced food with a gourmet flair. We’ve been fans of Fraiche ever since I fell in love with their comforting Monkfish dish a couple of years ago, and I have to say that everything else I have tried on their menu has been consistently good.
There are many former houses-turned-restaurants in the greater Phoenix area, but one that will always hold a candle in my heart is the romantic little French hideaway that could: Coup des Tartes. I’ve been to this adorable Phoenix spot a handful of times over the years, but ironically, each time I’ve gone it was on a horrendously bad date. There was the guy who wanted to impress me no matter how big of an egotistical jerk he was…then there was the guy who took me there because it was my birthday but he secretly had a girlfriend…oy vey. Each memory I have of this place was bittersweet– amazing food and ambiance, bad dining companions.
This time, the boyfriend and I decided to do it right. Our best friends gifted us with a Groupon to Coup des Tartes last month so we made it a point to have a date night while visiting them. The place was exactly as I remembered it. Just this time, I’d remember every part of the meal with warm smiles and happy thoughts.
You can’t come here without trying their amazing onion tart appetizer which is delicate, savory perfection. For our entrees the Mr. went with the steak, while I went for their tender and juicy pork loin with goat cheese and a wonderfully tart raspberry sauce. For dessert, their brown butter and poached pear tart which was served warm.
When you think about the intimate atmosphere, attentive service, and well-executed menu, price is no object (although to be fair, their prices are pretty reasonable for the quality and value). Factor in the fact that they are BYOB (with corkage), and you’ve got a solid date sure to impress.