Italia (Part 1)

Holy crow, it’s been a while hasn’t it. I’ve had some fun stuff queued up for a bit, but writer’s block, photographer’s block, weird blogger’s cooking block has set in. Well Greg, over at SippitySup reminded me why you all come here, and it ain’t the brown and orange decor! Where’s the content man? OK, here goes my attempt at breaking the blockage, with some blogger’s metamucil if you will.

This spring Nicole and I went on our long delayed honeymoon to Italy. We didn’t mind all the delays, as each time we postponed our trip we just added a few more days to the length of it. The end result? A sprawling 3 weeks from Venice to Sorrento with a whole bunch of stops in between. Here is about a minute long sampler of our journey:

Our trip consisted of the following stops: Venice, Bardolino (Lake Garda), Menaggio (Lake Como), Gaiole in Chianti (Tuscany), Orvietto, Rome, and finally Sorrento.

I know, this isn’t a travel blog, so what about the food (or the photography or wine?) We had plenty of great photo ops and tons of great wine, but the food? Surprisingly, I wasn’t super impressed. Whoa there fella, them’s fighting words! Don’t get me wrong, we had some spectacular meals, but they were few and far between. I am guessing since we were in touristy areas we got hosed more often than we should have. For most places I tried to do research, hitting places that were rated highly online, recommended by friends, or recommended in the usual gastro forums. In the end, one in every 3 meals was memorable.

Below, I’ll describe some of our memorable meals accompanied by a photo or two of the region. I tend not to photograph what/when I am eating, as I’m usually too busy checking the wine list!


Venice


We had a rough commute getting to Italy, almost missing our connecting flight in the UK. Why must we go through security again?

The second day in Venice was a mess. It was raining, cold and windy. Cold like 45 degrees F cold. Cold like, Nicole bought a touristy Italia sweatshirt for a zillion Euros cold. Cold like I need a face full of soup and wine to feel good when it turns dark cold. Cold like I never need to go back to Venice again cold.

And so it was decided, a meal light in food but heavy on hooch. We ate freshly made buratta, prosciutto, pasta fagioli, zuppa di pesche, and tiramisu. If you haven’t had burrata, make a beeline for a local Italian market and see if they have it. It won’t be as good as the one we had in Venice, but it’s a start. Burrata is fresh mozzerella stuffed with more fresh mozzerella and cream. Whoever invented this stuff is evil.


Lake Garda

We grabbed our rental car and scooted over to Bardolino on Lake Garda. We must have looked like ugly Americans tooling around in our huge Mercedes station wagon but it was all they had in automatic, I swear!

Our hotel, called Colors, was beautiful and both modern and rustic (huh?). Very zen like.

Unfortunately we only stayed at Lake Garda for a night, and we didn’t have super memorable food. They had some interesting game on the menu but something about horse and donkey just couldn’t get me to try it. Instead, I tried rabbit ragu. What’s up doc?


Lake Como

Here is where we had our first problem. You know you are up shit’s creek when after driving for 5 hours the GPS says “prepare to board ferry”. Ferry? Fuck me.

Lucky for us the ferry was just about to leave and a frantic ticket taking dude asked if we were going to Menaggio or Bellagio. Bingo, Menaggio was it so we got on. A good thing because if he said anything else we would have gotten on anyway! Italian ain’t exactly my first language.

Mr. Clooney has good taste, words can’t describe how amazing Lake Como is. I won’t even try, so here are some pics to enjoy:


In the town of Como I had a wonderful fish stuffed with artichoke hearts, tomatoes and potatoes served with a crisp white house wine. Simple and fantastic.

Did I mention how the Italians there are over the top? How do you make a gorgeous lake in the mountains better? Bang, add a pool!

On the lake there is an island with some ruins, a restaurant and that’s about it. You get there by water taxi, so it’s a bit of project, but any meal that starts with a boat ride scores high with me.

This restaurant, called Locanda dell’Isola Comacina has served the same thing for fifty years or more. There is no menu. You get what they serve, which is what they have served twice a day forever. You don’t like something? Sorry, skip that course.

So what did they serve? Prosciutto cut into squares so thin they were like the Listerine things that dissolve on your tongue, followed by a dozen dishes of pickled and roasted vegetables, tomatoes served with a slice of lemon oregano and olive oil, grilled fresh lake trout, fried chicken and orange banana drenched gelato. You want a little cheese after the meal? No problem, they hoist the whole wheel over and dig out a little Parmigianno-Reggiano…or was it Pecorino Romano? It didn’t matter, I was 3/4 in the bag at this point so I loaded up.

Forget returning to the mainland via water taxi, I needed an airlift.

Nicole participated in the final ritual lighting a fire after each meal to ward off the bad spirits…Gin is a bad spirit in my opinion, and there was none to be seen, so it must be working.

Well, I think this is enough for now, I don’t want to bore you to death. Plus I’ve got to see a man about a cow if you know what I mean?

…to be continued in Part 2.