Category Archives: Restaurant Reviews

The Venetian Wine Road

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I had always heard of the Euganean Hills and of the thermal spas there, but I didn’t realize that they were also an area rich in vines. Since we had a few hours to explore before boarding our plane in Venice, we decided to take a short drive from Padua to view this beautiful countryside and charming little villages. The one village which we decided to explore was actually the home of the famous poet, Petrarch from the 1300’s.This tiny town, Arqua Petrarca,known as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, sits up on a hill and overlooks lots of vineyards.

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 Cobblestoned streets and homes made out of stone fill the tiny town which can easily be seen in an hour or so.

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It was fun to stop into one of the little wine bars and have an excellent lunch while overlooking the gorgeous valleys below. We chose one of the few that was open – L’Enoteca di Arqua.

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The food was delicious – we sampled the lasagna and the polenta with mushrooms. Both were delicious!

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It was kind of a sleepy town when we were there in March, but I’m sure during the height of the summer, it comes alive with lots more restaurants and shops. This area is also known for it’s trails, and the Path of St. Anthony wanders through this town – connecting it to others along the path.

 

Padova Finale

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During our trip, we split up our exploration of Padova over several days. Padova is actually very small and you can visit the same places several times over – but the beauty is that you can explore these places at different times of the day and have a completely new experience. During our final saunter into Padova, during daylight hours, we revisited Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza della Frutta (along with the “food court” located between the two underneath the Palazzo della Raggione.) The food court is actually a marketplace for meats, cheeses, pasta, and fish.

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 Everything looked delicious and fresh, and you can be sure if I lived there, this is where I would do all my shopping! In either piazza, you could also pick up your fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers! Supermarkets are great, but I don’t think anything can replace the quality of food that can be found in these establishments – some of them in existence for centuries. I heard a rumor that these kinds of shops were dying…let’s hope not! This slow food movement (at least, that’s what I’m calling it) has to persist and I feel has a very important place in society – not only for our physical health but also our mental one! Neighbors and friends find each other here, and even take a break from their shopping to share an espresso or glass of prosecco! Relaxing and socializing with each other is good for us…we are social creatures who need interactions with others! You can’t get that at the supermarket!

After wandering and lusting over all the food we saw, our appetite was getting the best of us – as well as the desire to sit in an Italian piazza sipping on a glass of wine while eating a delicious panino sandwich! In the Piazza delle Erbe, tucked into a corner, is a gorgeous outdoor restaurant, Bar Nazionale, which specializes in panino’s and tramezzino’s (small sandwiches grilled on thinly sliced bread and filled with all sorts of goodies!)

You can people watch, drink an aperitivo, and eat simple fare while surrounded by stunning architecture.

Right above us was the old Palazzo della Raggione which deserved a quick look see. We had purchased a 48 hour Padova Card for our time in Padova – many of the buildings are free with this card. The buses are free, too, so it’s a pretty good deal. The Palazzo della Raggione was included in the Padova Card and so we thought we’d take advantage of the card and have a look. You need to walk up some stairs, but once up, you have a great view of the piazza below as well as a chance to walk under some heavily frescoed arched ceilings. Anytime I see painted ceilings, I fall in love!

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From here, you enter into a huge hall, which once again, is completely frescoed. The decorations are always so stunning and it’s unbelievable how many places have such rich wall and ceiling decorations! There sure were a lot of artists being kept employed in all this decoration!

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Near these piazzas and definitely within walking distance is the Palazzo del Bo. It is actually one of the University of Padova’s many campuses and, surprisingly, one we had walked through the evening before. Little did we know at that time that this was one of Padova’s main attractions! Within this campus is the Anatomy Theater where the inside of the human body was originally explored. We took a tour to see this interesting theater – it includes 6 or 7 tiers of balconies where the students could look down on the cadaver and observe the interior of the body.

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The cadavers were those of dead convicts and it was believed that by allowing their bodies to be used for science, they would be forgiven their sins and find an easier way into purgatory. The scholars had to find ways to appease the Church in order to perform these scientific experiments and this arrangement seemed to make everyone happy. This campus was also where Galileo Gallilei taught mathematics for many years, before he was excommunicated from the Church for his astrological beliefs.

From here, we walked to the Piazza dei Eremiti to explore the church there. This old church, built in the 13th century, was heavily bombed during WWII so many of the frescoes were damaged.

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An orchestra was setting up on the altar and we got to hear a bit of their practicing – the acoustics were incredible and the sound unbelievably beautiful. Too bad we couldn’t stay for the concert, but we had tickets to see the Scrovegni Chapel decorated by Giotto. This was the private chapel of a nobleman name Scrovegni, who had a gorgeous palace built for him and his family on the grounds of an ancient Roman arena. Sadly, the palace is gone, but fortunately the chapel has remained.

The wall frescoes tell the story of Mary and Jesus, and you can “read” the stories from the Bible within the panels. The Scrovegni Chapel is included in the Padova Card with free admission.

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Dinner tonight was at Gourmeteria – an excellent restaurant and shop! Everything we ate was delicious and very fresh. I had gnocchi with a butter/sage sauce – so good!

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McDonald’s Leaving Milan’s Vittorio Emanuele Gallery Location!

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After 20 years in their prime location inside the swanky Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, McDonald’s will be closing its door…just to be replaced with a Prada store!  One will no longer be able to get their favorite McItaly and Fries fix so close to the Duomo and Via Montenapoleone.

Frankly, I’ve always thought it was an odd location for a fast food restaurant, and would have much preferred to see an Italian cafe in its place.  But, evidently it was hugely successful for the mega-giant McDonald’s (to the tune of 60 million Euros per year!!) and they are putting up a giant stink by slapping the city of Milan with a whopping 24 million Euro lawsuit of “unfairness”!

Despite their fight with the city, McDonald’s did not want to leave their customers with a bitter taste in their mouth so they treated everyone to free burgers, fries and drinks on their last day.  According to Paolo Mereghetti, head of communication at McDonald’s in Italy, they wanted to “say goodbye to the Galleria with a smile.”

What do you think about the loss of McDonald’s at this popular tourist and shopping destination?

Biting Off A Little Too Much – Capitol Reef to Valley of the Gods via Canyonlands and Arches in One Day!!

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Setting off on a LONG day of driving from our little cowboy cabin towards Valley of the Gods near Monument Valley, we knew that we would be seeing some amazing sights along the way.  The scenery along the road was actually quite different from what we had seen so far and, sad to say, kind of dull.  We passed some “capitol dome” rock formations and moon type landscapes which were pretty and interesting at first, but got monotonous pretty quickly.

In partenza per una lunga giornata guidando dalla nostra cabina cowboy verso Valley of the Gods vicino a Monument Valley, sapevamo che ci aspettava dei meravigliosi panorami lungo la strada. Il paesaggio era in realtà molto diverso da quello che avevamo visto finora e, purtroppo, un po ‘noioso. Passammo alcuni “Capitol dome” formazioni rocciose e paesaggi lunari che erano al principio belli ed interessanti, ma che sono diventati monotoni piuttosto velocemente.

After a few hours of driving, we arrived at the turnoff for our first destination:  Dead Horse Point State Park near Canyonlands.  30 miles of “country” roads with cows and calves roaming free in the fields and on the roads leads you to this magnificent park overlooking the great Colorado River over 2000 feet below.

Dopo alcune ore sulla strada, siamo arrivati al uscita per la nostra prima destinazione: Dead Horse Point Park vicino a Canyonlands. 30 miglia di strade di campagna con mucche e vitelli che viaggiavano in libertà nei campi e sulle strade ci porto`a questo magnifico parco con viste del grande fiume Colorado 2000 metri più sotto di noi.

Once inside the park, travel all the way to THE Dead Horse Point which is at the end of a narrow neck of land, with drops of MANY feet down to the river.  The legend of Dead Horse Point is a sad one, but I’m sure you can guess how it got its name.  Cowboys would round up wild mustangs and corral them onto this narrow piece of land with branches and brush and precipitous cliffs keeping them in.  They would then choose those horses which they wanted and leave the rest behind to die of thirst.  It’s sad to think how many poor horses lost their lives here.

Una volta all’interno del parco, procedi fino al Dead Horse Point che si trova alla fine di una stretta lingua di terra con precipizi severi fino il fiume tanti piedi sotto di te.  La leggenda di Dead Horse Point è una triste, ma sono sicura che puoi intuire come e arrivato il proprio nome. Ai tempi passati, i Cowboy arrotondavano i mustang selvaggi e li recintavano su questa stretta lingua di terra con rami e cespugli e rocce scoscese per tenerli dentro. Sceglievano quei cavalli che volevano e lasciavano il resto a morire di sete. E ‘triste pensare a quanti poveri cavalli hanno perso la vita qui ..

Trying not to think of this tragic story, we took in the absolute beauty and majestic views.  There are many great climbing rocks all over the area, but be careful because there aren’t any railings to hold you in!  We sat on one of the rocks, with feet dangling off the edge, and enjoyed our Subway sandwiches which we had picked up in Green River.  If you want some amazing photo shots, stand on top one of the buttes here – it truly looks like you are standing at the top of the world.  It’s not as scary as it looks as there are rocks not that far below you on which you can stand, but if you position the camera just right, it can make for some pretty awesome shots!

Cercando di non pensare a questa tragica storia, abbiamo guardato la bellezza assoluta e la splendida vista. Ci sono molti grandi rocce arrampicata in tutta la zona, ma fate attenzione perché non ci sono ringhiere per tenervi dentro! Ci siamo seduti su una delle rocce, con i piedi penzoloni dal bordo, e abbiamo apprezzato i nostri panini da Subway che avevamo raccolto in Green River. Se desiderate alcuni scatti di foto sorprendenti, arrampicate al cima dei sassi – sembra veramente come si sta in piedi in cima al mondo. Non è così spaventoso come sembra perche ci sono rocce che non sono lontani sotto in cui potete appoggarvi.  Se si posiziona la fotocamera giusta, si può fare alcuni scatti impressionante!

From this point, we headed towards Islands in the Sky – a part of Canyonlands with views that stretch from the Green and Colorado Rivers below to the mountaintops above.  Over 100 miles can be seen across canyon after canyon.  Islands in the Sky is a broad mesa wedged between the two rivers and called the observation tower of Canyonlands.  Our first stop to explore was a hike to Upheaval Dome.  The hike was hot and dusty, but it led to an interesting spot with some other “top of the world” type scenery.  Upheaval Dome is actually more of a crater than a dome, and its creation has been deemed to have been from a meteor hit, with erosion causing today’s jagged edges. From here we went on to explore other stops with views of the Green River corkscrewing its way very far below us.  The most memorable were the Grand View Overlook which had some beautiful rock formations and a 1 mile rim walk, and Shafer Overlook with some beautiful canyon vistas.

Da questo punto, ci siamo diretti verso Islands in the Sky – una parte di Canyonlands, con viste che si estendono dai fiumi Green e Colorado fino il cime delle montagne. Oltre 100 miglie possono essere viste attraverso canyon dopo canyon. Islands in the Sky è un’ampia “mesa” incastrata tra i due fiumi e chiamato la torre di osservazione di Canyonlands. La nostra prima tappa è stata ad esplorare il sentiere che porta al’ Upheaval Dome. La passeggiata era calda e polverosa, ma ha portato ad un punto interessante con ancora un scenario del “tetto del mondo”. Upheaval Dome è in realtà più un cratere che una cupola, e la sua creazione è stata giudicata di essere stata colpita da un meteorite, con l’erosione che ha scolpito i bordi frastagliati di oggi. Da qui siamo andati ad esplorare altre tappe con viste del Green River che si torcigliava molto lontano sotto di noi. I più memorabili sono stati il Grand View Overlook che aveva alcuni belle formazioni rocciose e una passeggiata di circa una miglia sul bordo, e Shafer Overlook con alcuni panorami bellissimi del canyon.

With time running short in our day, we quickly made our way to Arches National Park.  This became the biggest disappointment of our trip – not because the park was anything but spectacular, but because we only had one hour to explore its beauty!  Entering into the park, up the winding road from the entrance, you understood that you were going someplace very special.  Time, with the effects of water and ice, extreme temperatures, and underground salt movement sculpted the magnificent rock formations which jut out of the ground and surround you.  Over 2000 catalogued arches are found here – the greatest density of natural arches in the entire world.  This is an ever changing landscape as erosion and weather work together to form new arches and to destroy old ones.  We did a few very short hikes to see some of the rock formations like Balanced Rock, but we only were able to view some of the arches from the road as we didn’t have time to hike the distance to see them up close.  One gorgeous area which we explored quickly was called “Park Avenue”.  It was as if you were walking along the streets of New York with the tall skyscrapers looming overhead.  This park is an amazing place and one that I will surely return to in order to explore more of it.

Con il poco tempo che rimaneva del giorno, abbiamo rapidamente fatto una corsa verso Arches National Park. Questo divento` la  più grande delusione del nostro viaggio – non perché il parco è stato tutt’altro che spettacolare, ma perché abbiamo avuto solo un’ora per esplorare la sua bellezza! Entrando nel parco, la strada tortuosa dall’ingresso si dava da capire che stavammo per entrare in un posto molto speciale. Tanti anni, con gli effetti di acqua e ghiaccio, temperature estreme, e il movimento del sale sotterraneo ha scolpito le magnifiche formazioni rocciose che si protendono dalla terra e ti circondano. Più di 2000 archi catalogati si trovano qui – la più grande densità di archi naturali in tutto il mondo. Si tratta di un paesaggio in continuo cambiamento; l’erosione insieme al tempo lavoranno insieme per formare archi nuovi e di distruggere quelli vecchi. Abbiamo fatto alcune escursioni breve per vedere delle formazioni rocciose come Balanced Rock, ma siamo solo stati in grado di visualizzare alcuni degli archi dalla strada perché non abbiamo avuto il tempo di camminare la distanza di vederli da vicino. Una splendida area che abbiamo esplorato in fretta era chiamata “Park Avenue”. Era come se si stava camminando lungo le strade di New York con gli alti grattacieli sopra la testa. Questo parco è un posto incredibile e uno che sicuramente devo tornarci per esplorare di più.

Leaving the park as it was beginning to get dark, we knew we had to find dinner before heading to our Bed and Breakfast in the Valley of the Gods. The possibilities of finding something decent were pretty scarce if we didn’t take the opportunity to stop in Moab.  Am I glad that we did!  We found an amazing restaurant called the Desert Bistro.  It was off the main drag of town and it had an outdoor patio.  The food was delicious – very delicate and made from very fresh ingredients.  A good glass of wine made for a great meal after a busy day.  While eating dinner, we knew that we would be finding our lodging destination for the night in the dark.  This was a bit intimidating since the roads are so dark and there isn’t much in the way of “civilization.”  But we called the proprietors of the B & B and explained our situation.  They gave us the directions and said they would keep the porch light on for us.

Mentre si lasciava il parco cominciava a farsi buio, e sapevamo che si doveva trovare la cena prima di andare al nostro Bed and Breakfast nella Valley of the Gods.  La possibilità di trovare qualcosa di decente era abbastanza scarsa se non si coglieva l’opportunità di fermarsi in Moab. Sono contenta che ci siamo fermati! Abbiamo trovato un ristorante incredibile chiamato Desert Bistro.  Si trovava fuori dalla strada principale della città e aveva un patio esterno. Il cibo era delizioso – molto delicato e preparato con ingredienti freschissimi. Un buon bicchiere di vino era perfetto per un ottimo pasto dopo una giornata intensa. Mentre si cenava, sapevamo che si doveva trovare il nostro alloggio per la notte al buio. Questo è stato un po ‘intimidante perche le strade sono così buie e non c’è molto nel modo di civilizzazione.  Ma abbiamo chiamato i proprietari del B & B e abbiamo spiegato la nostra situazione. Ci hanno dato le indicazioni e hanno detto che tenevano acceso la luce sul portico per noi.

Back in the car, we headed out into the night.  Driving for miles in the dark, and afraid that we would hit a deer or other animal crossing the road, we went slowly and deliberately.  When we finally got near to our destination, we spotted a tiny light flickering off in the distance.  It was the only light around and we looked at each other and said “Maybe that is our porch light?”  Lo and behold, we were correct.  As we got nearer, the light became brighter.  When we finally drove up to our little cabin all by itself away from the main B & B house, we didn’t know what to expect.  We were greeted outside by the sweet owner who showed us to our lodging for the night.  Off the porch was a living room and small bathroom…and at the bottom of a VERY tight spiral staircase, was a stone cellar with our bed!  The king sized bed pretty much filled up the entire room, not leaving any room for suitcases and such.  No worries – we left our things in the living room and make our way carefully down the spiral to our old fashioned bed below.

Tornando in macchina, ci siamo diretti nella notte. Guidando per chilometri nel buio, e con la paura di colpire un cervo o altro animale che attraversava la strada, abbiamo proseguito lentamente e deliberatamente. Quando siamo finalmente arrivati vicino alla nostra destinazione, abbiamo individuato una piccola luce tremolante nella distanza. Era l’unica luce intorno e ci siamo guardati e abbiamo detto: “Forse questa è la nostra luce della veranda?” Ed ecco, siamo stati corretti. Mentre ci si avvicinava, la luce diventava più brillante. Quando finalmente siamo arrivati alla nostra piccola capanna da sola a distanza dalla casa principale del B & B, non sapevamo cosa aspettarci. Siamo stati accolti fuori dalla proprietaria gentile che ci ha mostrato il nostro alloggio per la notte. Subito dentro dal portico era un salotto e un piccolo bagno … e in fondo a una scala a chiocciola molto stretta, era una cantina in sasso con il nostro letto! Il letto matrimoniale praticamente riempiva tutta la stanza, non lasciando alcuno spazio per valigie e altre cose. Nessun problema – abbiamo lasciato le nostre cose in salotto e abbiamo fatto la nostra strada con cautela verso il basso del spirale al nostro letto antico al di sotto.

San Francisco’s BEST Pizza!

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This past weekend, we ventured out to San Francisco’s Italian neighborhood, North Beach and stumbled upon an old landmark famous for it’s wood fired pizzas!  I can’t believe that I missed this one – it’s been around since 1935!  Growing up in San Francisco, frequenting North Beach ALL the time, and thinking I knew all the Italian restaurants in the vicinity of my own father’s Italian restaurant – it eluded me, somehow!  Maybe because it is actually below street level?  Maybe because it has a small little sign?  Maybe because it is on a side street?  Who knows…but, WOW, am I glad I found it!  Better late than never, right?

Tomasso’s has been a San Francisco landmark since 1935 when it was started by a family from Naples who wanted to share their pizza with the world!  Back then, pizza was not a popular food item – in fact, even in the rest of Italy, they didn’t eat it.  Believe it or not, it wasn’t until my parents immigrated to the United States from Northern Italy that they tasted their first pizza.  Pizza was unique to Naples, and because of World War II it became popular once the GI’s tried it!!  Anyway, this little family from Naples built a wood fire oven and baked their pizzas in the old fashioned way like they did in the Old Country.  Back then Tomasso’s was called Lupo’s, and didn’t change it’s name until 1971 when the new owner, Tommy Chin, took it over.  Tommy had been a cook with the family for over 30 years and when the original family wanted to retire, he bought the place.  He created the same pizzas with the same recipes in the same oven!  Two years later, he sold it to another Italian immigrant family and they have owned it ever since.  It is a family run affair, with all the members of the family chipping in and working.  The walls are frescoed by local artists who painted in exchange for pizzas and pasta! 

The restaurant is chaotic – it is loud – but it is a BLAST.  They don’t take reservations, so be prepared for a REALLY long wait while waiting for a table to open up.  Most of the tables are family style – so you make friends with your neighbors!  The waiters run around you….the food comes out quickly….it is frenetic….but you will eat the BEST pizza you have ever had.  The range of toppings is extensive and the ingredients are always fresh.  The restaurant has a full menu, but since I didn’t eat anything else, I cannot either praise it or boo-hoo it. 

What a Pretty Label!

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I am, by no means, a wine connoisseur!  Pretty much any bottle of wine tastes fine to me (except maybe “two buck Chuck”!!!).  Now, if I were comparing wines side by side, I could probably tell the difference, but with a random glass – it’s all good!!  You have to understand – I was brought up on Italian table wine – nothing fancy at all.  The more home grown, the better it was!!! 

Anyway, when it comes to picking a new bottle of wine to try, I don’t really go by all the descriptions of the bouquet, legs, etc. that the real wine connoisseurs give.  Usually, I cannot detect the “flavors” that they describe anyway – my palate is no where near that sophisticated!!  But, I can appreciate a beautiful label.  I seem to pick my wines the same way I pick my horses at the race track – the prettiest one gets my bet!!!  So, when last night we visited our favorite new wine bar here in Los Gatos, Enoteca La Storia, and they were having a special on “fizzy” wines from Italy, I found a wine from my homeland, Lombardy!!!  And, what really sold me on trying it was the absolutely GORGEOUS label 🙂  Fortunately for everyone who shared it with me, it was also VERY good!

Here is the description of the wine at the Enoteca:

2007  Castello di Luzzano  Bonarda from Lombardy, IT

Bright ruby color with fragrant raspberry aromas.  The lightly sparkling, elegant, dry wine is from Rovescala where Bonarda has been grown for centuries and with great reknown.

E` Tutto Qua

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It’s all here….a perfect name for a perfect restaurant!  On the sort of sketchy corner of Columbus and Broadway, at the end of San Francisco’s North Beach, is one of the best Italian restaurants I have ever been to.  The neighborhood used to house all the strip clubs…but in recent years, the strip clubs have gone and have been replaced with sports bars and restaurants.  There are still a few remnant ones which make for an interesting stroll up and down the street (and also people watching opportunities!)

E` Tutto Qua was born three years ago by the same owner that began North Beach’s  Steps of Rome about 20 years ago.  He sold Steps of Rome, moved back to Italy for awhile, and then came back.  According to him, this new restaurant was just “handed to him” because it had been the location of several failed businesses.  He took it on, changed the name, and created a sensational place.  The food is so authentic that you would literally feel like you are back in Italy.  The ingredients are fresh, the pasta is homemade, the pizzas have thin crusts (just like Italy), and the sauces and entrees are all created with much care.  If you are looking for Pasta Alfredo, you will have to look elsewhere!!  The gnocchi is just like Nonna makes (and that is a very hard act to follow!) The waiters are mostly all Italian (and recent transplants at that) and will delightfully carry on conversations in Italian with anyone that shows some interest.  It is so nice to see so many young Italians making San Francisco their new home. 

The restaurant is modernly decorated – there are no gawdy Italian statues or paintings on the wall.  Don’t get me wrong – sometimes I like Italian gawd!  It adds its own character and charm to restaurants.  But, in the case of E` Tutto Qua, the ambience has its own understated charm.  The many windows give it a vibrancy and life that is electric.  You feel like you are a part of all the action that North Beach offers in the evenings!  There is an upstairs dining balcony, as well,  for larger parties which is a bit more quiet, but which still allows you to  feel a part of the restaurant because it isn’t totally closed off. 

We will surely be returning to E` Tutto Qua for many more dinners and special events.