Posts Tagged ‘gnocchi’

Quest For The Perfect Pizza

May 16th, 2009

May 16th 

mercato_smIt was kind of odd, being in a big city again.  It kind of felt like I was in civilization again.  That isn’t a good or a bad thing, it just felt like there was a large town now, and lots of people.

I really wanted to get some items posted to my site, so we spent a good chunk of time this morning on the Internet in our hotel’s bar.

After that we started heading out into the streets, walking around, enjoying sunny Florence.  Two days ago on our hike in the Cinque Terre, Lisa lost her sunglasses.  And today, when we left the hotel, I had forgotten mine.  So we hit up a sunglass store and shopped around.  We now both have some european shades to add flair to our trip.

We continued across the duomo piazza, past the rustic building, to the central mercato.  In Florence, they have 4 or 5 blocks that are just street vendor after street vendor.  Often times, the vendor’s push cart is merely in front of their store that is in the building behind them.  Some pushcarts are selling leather wallets, others are selling leather purses or belts.  Some sell souvenir tshirts, while others sell glass or necklaces.

I love this part of Florence.  It is kind of like a giant flea market or swap meet if you will.  11 years ago when I was here, we’d have to walk through this market every day to get to the park where our group would eat our lunch of nutella, bananas and cold cuts.  I have very fond memories of walking through here.  Plus, I love shopping here cause you can barter and find cool items.  Today I bought some soccer jerseys, a belt and a wallet.

I had some friends going to Florence 10 years ago and they bought me a wallet.  It is a wallet I have used since then.  Of course it has been falling apart for a few years, but I said I needed to replace it with one from Florence.  Today I did.

pizzabargello_smWe followed this up with lunch near Piazza Della Signoria.  This piazza is near an old fortress/palace which is now a governmental building and a museum.  In this piazza are replica statues of David and many others.    We had a pizza and it was one of the best yet.

This is a good time to talk about my pizza quest (if I haven’t already).  Once again, 11 years ago, I ate pizza in Italy, mainly in southern Italy (Brindisi, Rome…) and it was amazing.  I will never forget it.  It was not like pizza at all.  I would cut into the dough, which was soggy with its toppings.  As soon as I would cut into it, the pizza would practically drain off.  It was like a big doughy, tomato-y, cheesy soup.  Since then I have always held, that pizza in italy is so entirely different than we have come to know it in the states.  

During this trip, the pizza has been delicious, and different from the states, but nowhere near what I remember.  I am on a search for the perfect, soupy pizza.

Today’s pizza was much soupier, but still not the same.  Though, I have developed a theory on this trip.  The pizza has gotten better, the further south in Italy we have travelled.  I think it might be a regional thing.  Much like their sauces are regional (creamy base to tomato base), maybe their pizza is too.  Do I really have to travel back to Brindisi to experience this again?

obarwine_smWe were still sore from our hike a couple of days ago, and still interested in finding a massage to work those kinks out.  We asked our concierge and the best they had to offer was having the masseuses come to our room.  I’ve never done that before, and it was a little weird having it in our own room, but of course once I slipped off into relax mode, I forgot all about that.

After our massages, we were in our room, and we heard a lot of clatter from the street below us.  We looked out our window and the street was packed with people, in orderly lines and groups, like a giant marching band.  It was like a parade, but it was a protest.  It was a giant protest march.  The signs they were carrying spoke of communism, of schools, of 1972.  They were singing, chanting, clapping, playing drums and instruments.  It stretched from the Duomo, all the way to Piazza Signoria.

obarview_smFor dinner tonight, we went to the Golden View, Open Bar restaurant which is just on the other side of the Arno.  It was spectacular.  Great views, great food, lovely company.  The restaurant was all white and had a really bright and cheery atmosphere.  We started our meal with some mixed Crostini.  Our second course was some Gnocchi for Lisa, and some Penne for me.  Then, Lisa had some Chicken I believe that she loved, and I had a giant steak Florentina.  I figured, when in Florence…

All were extremely delicious, and the wine and service were great too.  It was unbeatable.

We walked home happy and satisfied, taking pictures of the river, the bridge, and all the crazy town folk.



Colorfull And Crowded

May 11th, 2009

May 11th 

We found a waterbus to the St.Mark’s stop since we knew our hotel was somewhat near there.  Boy was it crowded.  It was late morning and the crowds filled the waterways and st. mark’s square.  We tried to find our hotel, but got lost.  Store owners had no idea what hotel we were talking about.  Eventually though, we came across it, and it was right near where we had been.  I left lisa in the downstairs foye and walked upstairs to a tiny hotel reception/office that was filled with 3 people.  Their reservation system was a handy desk/notebook calendar and she was busy writing in pencil and erasing inforation.  It was a chaotic office with one young lady (our age or younger) taking our passports and writing down information, an older lady (60’s) scribbling in the calendar, and a gentleman (her husband?) grabbing the keys and getting directions from the lady.  It was 80 euro’s cash and she tried to explain that because we were paying cash and staying in the annex, that we were getting the cheapest deal.

orangecurtains_smThe gentleman took us to our room which was around the corner.  We were given a keychain with 4 keys on it:  the street-side door, the hallway door, the bedroom door and one to stick into the light socket to power the lights.  Our room was funky and colorful with bright burnt orange curtains on 3 windows that overlooked the street and would become noisy at night.  It was a cozy room and we didn’t see the landlord again.  It had a bidet, and this time I used it, but mainly as a refreshment from long days of walking and getting lost.


We set out to walk around venice, and after about an hour, we came across a restraunt called Il Paradiso, and thus far, might rate as the best meal yet (though every meal is a slice of heaven).  We ordered a bottle of their own house wine, caprese, gnochi with bolagnese and pennecita with bolagnese.  Everything was perfect.  It was a cute, street-side cafe with lovely atmosphere.  I think I drink four glasses of wine to every one that Lisa drinks.  I was trying to get her to drink faster, cause I wasn’t able to slow myself down.  My new mantra:  Slow meals, slow living, fast drinking.

Venice is certainly a picturesque location.  Nothing like it exists in the world as far as I know.  Water that leads right up to buildings, with zero sand or gradual shore.  It’s truely breathtaking.  It is very colorful, and during the day, very crowded.  It is full of people and personality.

davidboxers_smWe came across a street vendor, and I bought a pair of joke boxers for Cameron–the statue of David’s genital area.

We jumped on a gondola ride that ended up being a much shorter trip than promised, so it wasn’t really worth the cost of the 80 euros.  However, it was really pleasurable thing to do, and was the first time I ever rode a gondola.  I found myself during this entire trip to Venice remarking that it must have been crazy back in the day when there was much less canal traffic, and more just gondolas.  Now, the canal is crazy busy between water buses, water taxi’s, gondola  boats, and private personal boats.  Our gondola ride took us thru some back waterways and was very pleasant.  However, when we exited the boat, I left the blue bag with Cam’s boxers.  Sucks.

We started walking some more, and eventually we found ourselves to have traversed most of the main island and was far from where we thought we were.  That is something you should be aware of if you ever come to Venice.  You will get lost.  There is no doubt about that.  Every street is a winding narrow street, with no views of landmarks, and they lead you from one square to the next, to a bridge, to another.  However, during our few hour trek, we happened to find ourselves again back near where we caught our gondola ride.  A few askings around, showing the picture of our gondalier to other gondaliers, and we eventually came across our lost blue bag.  So good for Cam, even though, they probably won’t fit anyway.

We found ourselves back to our hotel approximately 5:30 pm and was perfect timing for a siesta.  Our legs were beat from all the walking we have been doing, all the exploring we have accomplished while being lost.


Slept for a few hours, and then forced ourselves up around 8:30 pm. Went out towards St. Mark’s square (1 block away really), and it was dusk.  It stays light late here, usually till about 9:30.  There were many cafe’s and restraunts that have chairs out in the middle of the square, and serve food, and have live bands playing contemporary favorite songs.  We sat at one that included a violinist, a clarinet, fluetist (jazz flute?), an accordian, a standing bass, and a pianist.  Shared a caprese pomodoro panini and a 12 euro bottle of coke.  Although it may have been a tourist trap of a place (high prices, cover charge etc), the atmosphere, the scenery, the music, the company, were all worth it.


This Week I'm Thinking About: Jeff Sieck