Tag Archives: lunch

Dining: Flavio al Velavevodetto | Rome, Italy {Testaccio}

th_peruroma 113If there was one place in Rome that I saw recommended often in the “foodie underground,” it was definitely Flavio al Velavevodetto located in the up-and-coming offal- centric neighborhood of Testaccio. This neighborhood is home to some pretty great things such as Il Birrivendolo craft beer bottle shop, the Testaccio Market, and places like Da Bucatino and Da Felice which specialize in true Roman cuisine. I had read about this place a few times from Elizabeth and Eleonara– both ladies whom I trust when it comes to good, honest food, at agreeable prices.

Our experience at Flavio was lovely. It was a glorious meal which included some of the best fresh-pulled mozzarella and prosciutto of our entire trip and the richest carbonara ever. Was it my favorite carbonara dish? Probably not. But believe me, it was damn good. Eggy, cheesey, salty goodness loaded with pancetta. Comforting and filling, I couldn’t finish my plate. It was a stark contrast to the fresh buffla which was clean on the palate and the mild prosciutto di parma which was lean and earthy.  Prices were criminally low, house wine was decent, and the ambiance was cozy. The stacks of ancient clay from Monte Testaccio were prominently featured in the windows of the space providing an extra special treat for history buffs looking for a peak into yesteryear.

Italians took up a majority of the dining room with a packed lunch crowd which is always a good sign. As with every place I’ve written about in Europe so far, if you know you’ll be heading to Rome, be sure to book your table in advance. Italians take lunch seriously and this is a place you don’t want to miss.

Flavio al Velavevodetto is located at 97 Via de Monte Testaccio, Roma, Italia. 

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Filed under BLD, Comfort Food, Dinner, Italian, Italy, local eateries, local food, Lunch, Pasta, Pork, seasonal foods, Travel, Travel Advice, Travelogue, Vacation

Travelogue: An Umbrian Detour to Lake Trasimeno

th_UmbriaWednesdayCanon 009We had every intention of waking up early and soaking in a little bit more of Florence before driving into the next part of our vacation in Umbria. But you know how it goes…you eat a heavy meal, get drunk off of too many glasses of red wine, grappa, and some sort of military spirit you’ve never even heard of…and then all of a sudden, your 7am wake up call became more like 10am and your plans of making it into Orvieto for lunch on your way to Assisi disappear out of thin air.

Not to be the sort that gets down on a shift in the plan, we leisurely ate our breakfast, took one more look at the river, and even did some light shopping by the Ponte Vecchio before hopping in the car to leave Tuscany. The game plan had turned into an “eat lunch wherever we see something good,” sort of thing and we decided that our ambitious Umbrian day-trip would have to do without one piece of the puzzle. As we drove on the autostrada blasting an Italian Top 40s cover of the international Korean hit “Gangnam Style,” we noticed a beautiful body of water in the distance.

It was Lake Trasimeno and we had entered Umbria. I had read about Lake Trasimeno while doing research for our trip, so I was familiar with the ancient town of Castiglione del Lago close by. As we hesitated and drove past it, we instead pulled off to get a view of the water and instead stumbled upon Passignano sul Trasimeno;  a dainty lakeside town that was quiet but had an assortment of restaurants and small hotels. The vibe here was casual– almost like a lazy beach town. And so we parked the car, surveyed our dining options, and popped into this cute little place called Ristorante Luciano.

I won’t lie. The reason why this place won over the others was that the building itself was just so endearing. The decor was vintage-looking and there was a charm about it that drew us in. Luckily, they were still seating late lunch (around 2pm) and were able to accommodate us. Making the most of this impromptu lake trip, we ordered a bottle of sparkling white wine and sat next to a big open window over-looking the water. Continue reading

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Dining: Perfect mid-day breaks at Procacci | Florence, Italy

th_TuscanyTuesdayCanon 034In an alternate universe, I am Florentine. I am the wife of a wealthy someone-or-other who doesn’t want me to break a nail working a “real job,” but instead indulges me in my passion to live by my pen; leaving me to myself most days while he does whatever it is he does to maintain our small fortune so that I can spend my days in cafes drinking wine, eating what I please, and getting “inspired.”

If this alternate universe were real, I’d practically live at Procacci. But since this isn’t my reality, it’s rare visits to this beautiful wine bar that will have to suffice. Procacci is located on a fancy stretch of fashion real estate– neighboring appointment-only designer boutiques and artisan retailers. It’s been around since 1885 and has a reputation a mile long with only two newer outlets in Vienna and Singapore. Despite the modern times, somehow, they manage to maintain a certain enchantment about them. Luxurious yet unpretentious. The kind of bar you want to imagine seeing Hemingway in.

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The interior is vintage-chic. Dark wood counters, ceilings high with shelves of fine wines and locally made products, small cafe tables lined up in a single row along a mirrored wall. Very Parisian…but you know, Italian. Their most popular product? Panino Tartufato, or truffled finger sandwiches. Imagine spending a leisurely afternoon here with a robust glass of Barolo and several platefuls of these dainty panini stuffed with truffle butter, smoked salmon, salumi, and the like. The prices are surprising; clocking in at under 2 euro each, you can fill up with an easy lunch or mid-day snack for under $20 euro for two people. Are these sandwiches all they’re cracked up to be? Absolutely. Order at the counter, pay when you’re done, and drift off into happy land as you day-dream your alternate reality. Procacci, via de Tornabuoni, 65R, Florence, Italy. 

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Dining: Nerbone | Florence, Italy

After a few glorious days in Venice, it was time to move onto the next city on our schedule: Florence. Our time in Florence was going to be limited, but as we hopped off of our morning train and checked-in to our hotel, I had one thing on my mind. That one thing, was lunch from the legendary Nerbone in the Mercato Centrale, San Lorenzo. Da Nerbone has been a Florentine institution since the 1800s, serving up comforting fare at honest prices. Their specialties are their very inexpensive sandwiches made on rustic rolls and filled with incredibly tender meat. While they offer a small menu of other simple Tuscan staples, it’s their sandwiches that bring in the large crowds of both locals and tourists alike.

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Boyfriend and I indulged in three different panini including their porchetta (which was lean but flavorful), bollito (boiled beef), and their famous lampredotto panino. Lampredotto is a popular Florentine street food and it is not for the weak of heart. If you’re familiar with tripe, lampredotto is just another step in the offally good equation (being a cow’s fourth and final stomach). While this type of sandwich filling may not sound too appealing to the average American, when in Florence, it is definitely worth a try. Besides, who’s to argue with long-standing tradition in a country known for a multitude of delicious food, right?

We planned our morning just right– getting to the Mercato Centrale around 11:30 before any major lines formed in front of Nerbone. Before long, there was a large group of businessmen getting in line for a quick, inexpensive lunch break. Be prepared to eat standing up as dining tables in this market are incredibly hard to come by. Worst case scenario, do as we did; set up shop on the outer stairs of the market and take in the atmosphere of the bustling market shoppers if you can’t find any empty counter space. Just don’t forget the salsa verde which is made with fresh green herbs– it goes great on everything. Stretch those Euros and satisfy your belly with the ultimate Florentine lunch on a shoestring budget.

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Filed under Comfort Food, Italian, Italy, local food, Pork, sandwiches, Travel, Vacation

Dining: Taverna San Trovaso | Venice,Italy

If there is one thing that you should know about dining in Italy, it’s that booking is essential. Even for lunch. Sure, you can always wander the streets and pop into a place that looks lively– taking a chance here and there in the name of dining spontaneity, but I for one, prefer to have a loose game plan, utilizing the recommendations of locals and friends. The truth of the matter is, some of your best dining options (budget and fine dining-wise) will require a bit of advanced planning, so don’t be put off if you’re turned away and the restaurant seems empty at the time because more than likely, they’re “e al completo” (fully booked).

For our first lunch in Venice, we decided on a casual lunch at Ristorante San Trovaso in the Dorsoduro neighborhood close to the Academia. Our reservations were confirmed via e-mail about four weeks prior to our arrival, but somehow I had missed their cancellation e-mail one week prior letting me know that they were actually going to be closed for a private event that day. Luckily, I was able to scan my e-mails on my phone and find the message where they recommended going to their sister property, the Taverna San Trovaso, located just around the corner.

Slightly discouraged, we made our way to the Taverna. Since it was early enough, we were seated immediately for lunch at noon. The menu at this location featured many similar dishes as the Ristorante with the addition of pizzas in a livelier setting. Based on the recommendation of a few blogger friends, we opted for the mixed seafood appetizer and two pasta dishes to accompany our locally-produced Prosecco.

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Power Lunch | Heywood: A Grilled Cheese Shop | Silverlake

An interesting new lunch spot just opened up in Silverlake. Heywood: A Grilled Cheese Shop is located right next to our beloved Lark Cake Shop off of Sunset and Micheltorena. This little local joint officially opened this week and we dropped in after hearing about their ooey, gooey, cheesy goodness.

The set-up is simple. Order at the counter, grab a seat, and dig in. I went for their namesake sandwich, The Heywood, which wo-year old English cheddar and carmelized onion confit spread onto fluffy sourdough bread ($9). My pal order their Muy Caliente which was loaded with fontina, spicy jack, jalapenos, fresh cream cheese,and crispy tortilla chip strips between sourdough bread ($13). Both sandwiches were served with a small cup of their tomato soupfor dipping and a handful of dressed mixed greens.

The general impression? Love at first bite. Buttery,gooey, and perfectly toasted grilled cheese sandwiches that can cure any case of the Mondays. The flavors were bold yet balanced and the bread was nice and soft. The onion confit was a great touch on my sandwich. I’ll definitely need to try more of their menu. With a decent selection of cane sugar bottled sodas and quick locally made desserts like cookies and s’mores bars, Heywood’s got a good thing going on. Dare I say that Silverlake just got a little bit cooler?

Heywood is located at 3337 1/2 W. Sunset Blvd., Silverlake. | heywoodgrilledcheese.com 

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Dining: Lechonera Los Pinos | Guavate, Cayey, Puerto Rico

To a gal like me who’s been raised on the wonderful pork dishes of the Philippines, the small village of Guavate in Cayey, Puerto Rico is as close to the promise land as I can get in the United States. Known affectionately as La Ruta de Lechon (Roast Pork Highway), this hidden mountain town has more lechoneras within two to three miles than anywhere else on the island. Specializing in spit-roasted whole pig (lechon) and all the traditional fixin’s, these little shacks don’t look like much. Don’t be fooled. This will be one of the most memorable meals not only of your trip, but perhaps of your lifetime.

The pigs are raised on the island and contain a texture and flavor that I would consider a rarity in terms of continental U.S meat. They are marinated in sofrito and slowly roasted yielding an incredibly tender product with a beautifully crisp golden skin and juicy meat. Simply AMAZING. Lechon is a common dish in Filipino cuisine which we have relatively often, but lechon this melt-in-your-mouth good only comes around once every few years.

Guavate is only about 45 minutes away from San Juan, but with its winding roads and higher altitude, renting a car is an absolute necessity. The scenery in this area is stunning; very lush and green. We even saw some bamboo scattered about in some areas. While there are so many lechoneras to choose from when you approach the town, we decided to stop in on some of the most popular ones that were featured in Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. As a precaution on over-hyped TV tourist traps, we made sure to consult with locals to make sure this was a good choice. The response was unanimous.

 

 

There are two benefits to choosing to go with Los Pinos or its neighboring El Rancho Original (which was featured on Bizarre Foods). 1) The space is usually larger which means more seating, entertainment, and better facilities (restrooms are hard to come by in this area). 2) You will most likely be able to visit on a weekday as many lechoneras are only open Friday- Sunday. This entire village is very lively on the weekends, but there is also an added benefit of visiting on a week day; less crowds, more parking, and a calmer atmosphere. Either way, La Ruta de Lechon is something you cannot miss.

Make a note that English isn’t as prominent here as it is in larger cities. We were able to order without too much trouble, but this was the only place where we really started to feel the language barrier. Luckily, if all else fails, you can just point to what you want– everything is good. We went with lechon for two, a pint of arroz con habichuelas (rice with pigeon peas), an order of sweet roasted plantains, and two sodas. The rice here was especially tasty with chunks of pork and sausage tossed in for added flavor. The roasted plantains were perfectly carmelized and reminded me of Filipino turon minus the crispy shell. Servings were enormous and only cost $16!!

Some folks online have complained about this area being over-hyped, but in my opinion, if you pick the right lechonera, you are in for a treat. Follow the crowds, look for where the locals are hanging out, and let the porky goodness do the rest. I cannot wait to go back…

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Filed under As Seen on TV, butchers, Caribbean, Comfort Food, local eateries, local food, Lunch, Pork, Travel, Vacation

Dining: El Jibarito, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

On our first day on the island, we were running on virtually zero sleep. One of our bags got placed on the wrong flight, it was incredibly humid from recent rains, and the sun was scorching through clouds at an alarming rate. We arrived in Old San Juan two hours before our hotel room was ready and we were a bit cranky. Our hotel offered to store our luggage while we went about town. Unfortunately, we’d have to do so in clothes that were not weather appropriate (dark jeans and long-sleeved shirts) because we had left Los Angeles on the Red Eye. The desire to roam around in tropical weather was minimal even though the scenery around us just could not be beat.

Enter El Jibarito.

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Power Lunch: Mofongos Comida Caribena

Excited about an upcoming vacation in a couple of weeks, the boyfriend and I decided to seek out an authentic Puerto Rican restaurant this weekend to get acquainted with flavors of the Caribbean. While there are many Caribbean restaurants in town specializing in Cuban, Jamaican, even Haitian cooking, there weren’t many Puerto Rican spots to choose from. Luckily, I had become e-friends with a recent transplant who pointed me in the direction of Mofongos Comida Caribena in North Hollywood’s Arts District.

I’ve been planning this vacation like a crazy person for a few months now so I knew which dishes in particular I was in search of. No trip to PR would be complete without a taste of authentic mofongo as well as a hearty dish of pork goodness. When we saw the menu for Mofongos (which looked a lot like many of the authentic menus we have perused online of places in San Juan,) we knew we needed to give it a try. We hopped on the Metro Red Line by our place in Hollywood and within 10 minutes we were in North Hollywood. It was only a couple of blocks away from the station, which was very convenient.

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Power Lunch: Scarpetta, Beverly Hills

Braised Short Ribs w/ Vegetable & Farro Risotto

DineLA Restaurant Week is a great time to try some of the city’s best restaurants at a discounted prix fixe price. So when we saw that Scott Conant’s Scarpetta in Beverly Hills would be participating, a friend of mine and I made no hesitation on heading over for a swanky lunch date.

Scarpetta is located within the beautiful Montage Hotel on a delicious stretch of Canon Drive; just across the courtyard from Bouchon and across the street from the world-famous Spago. Our three-course lunch was in the higher-end tier of dineLA’s lunch menus, but was still quite a steal at $28 each. I couldn’t resist ordering a glass of wine from a well-curated list, so I opted for a glass of lambrusco which was beautifully deep, slightly dry, with a touch of barnyard and bubbles. Every aspect of the meal from the bread service to the ambiance was A+ in our books.

The meal began with a lovely bread service featuring a sampling of ciabatta, rosemary focaccia, and prosciutto Stromboli served with really good olive oil, butter, and a sun-dried tomato tapenade. I opted for the braised short rib appetizer (pictured above), while my friend went with their luxurious creamy polenta with wild mushrooms.

  

We both went with the wild king salmon entree which was beautifully presented over a bed of mushrooms and farro and a butternut squash puree. The fish was so tender and fresh, yet the skin was incredibly crisp.

Wild King Salmon

For dessert, I went with their rich caramel-vanilla budino which was smooth and velvety contrasted with a great crunch and chocolate sable cookies and she went for something lighter; a refreshing coconut panna cotta served with a guava soup and caramelized pineapple.

Whether you visit during the next dineLA Restaurant Week or you head over for a lavish dinner, Scarpetta offers a refined Italian-inspired menu that will sure to please.

Scarpetta is located at 225 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills. 

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