Charlie Bird NYC

An excellent lunch special with Lori Mendorff Klugman. A very pleasant surprise! Faro and Gem salads were excellent. Carbonara was very nice : pasta cooked perfectly as was crispy pancetta, conservatively cheesed and nice egg yolk. This is one of the better Carbonara’s we had in the US. Cocktails and wine list not extensive but adequate. The gnocchi were disappointing and returned. We certainly would recommend and return. Food 8.5 , Service 8 and value 8.5. Btw: 2 course lunch is 32 dollars.

 

 

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Morini Ristorante , UES NYC

We are big fans of Marea so we decided to try the Chef’s other retaraunt during restraint week.  Once we got the food we really enjoyed our meal. The pasta was classic MW excellence ! The only problem with Morini is the hostess and coat check people. They seem to want to turn customers away at the door. We had a reservation and were greeted by a hostess throwing down a bar menu and say this is all we have now.  When I was given a chance to speak and explained we have a reservation. She huffed off and returned several minutes later to seat us upstairs.  Once seated the service was average however the food was very good. The appetizer: calamari alla piastra, creamy fregola, manila clams, spiced mollica was very unique and tasted excellent, we both wanted more. Our pasta course was riccioli: handmade pasta curls, carbonara, rock shrimp, pancetta, pecorino this was a typical Michael White fresh pasta dish we enjoyed the dishes however didn’t enjoy the pancetta.  Dessert was a beautiful TORTA DI CIOCCOLATA;
chocolate cake, espresso mascarpone mousse, milk chocolate ganache. It tasted as good as it looks.  We were both generally happy with the food and after being contacted by the management about the service issues, we will give it another try soon.

 

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Villa di Piazzano

When I asked Lori what she wanted for her birthday this year she said she’d like to go to Tuscany and visit our friends at the Villa di Piazzano. We’ve been to the Villa many times and always return because to leave the Villa is like leaving relatives behind in Tuscany. Many places can offer a nice room but few can make you feel like family. The Villa itself is a virtual landmark with a long and rich history. The Wimpole family has managed to upgrade and modernize the Villa in tasteful manner adding all the modern amenities you would expect but still maintaining the “Old World” charm. They have recently added a new Sommelier and do wine tastings in the afternoon. We always are sure to dine at least one evening at the Villa with our friend the bubbly Chef Gabriella. Well I can go on forever with our pauses for the Villa but as they say “TRY IT YOU”LL LIKE IT”.

 

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Ristorante Walter Redaelli, Bettolle, Tuscany, Italy

Back home on the ranch in the Cortona area of Tuscany, we decided to try some new places.  We had a conversation with Alessandra the owner of Villa di Piazzano inquiring about any new and exciting restaurants in the area.  She recommended Walter Redaelli.  Coincidentally, we ran into her and her family two days later having dinner at Walter Redaelli.  We had dinner and lunch at Walter the same day.  We liked it so much at lunch we had to try a dinner. Walter uses only the finest locally sourced in season products.  Once the bread basket arrived we knew we were in for something special.  The wine list was excellent with many of my favorite local wines including a reasonably priced Brunello by the glass.  They had the largest Brunello glass we have ever seen.  The pasta course consisted of the most wonderful fluffy mushroom and truffle gnocchi topped with a Gorgonzola sauce.  We also had the Pici which is a hand rolled pasta served in southern Tuscany. The Pici was prepared with artichokes and a tiny bits of Cinta Sense bacon (local bacon).  It was delicately flavored to perfection with parsley from the garden and pecorino cheese.  The Primi was the most amazing Beef Carpaccio with a bit of arugula and cheese dressed with a balsamic reduction.  We also had a wonderful Salmon Carpiccio with artichokes. In the evening we had a special stewed neck of beef that cut with a fork and melted in your mouth.  Deserts were amazing !!  Prior to desert we had a tasting of several local chocolates.  Of course we finished with a bit of local desert wine… This is truly a fine dining experience in Tuscany!!  You cannot go wrong with anything on the menu.  We can’t wait to return in the Spring and try the seasonal specials.

 

Walter Redaelli

53040 Bettolle –
Sinalunga (Siena)
Via XXI Aprile, 10
Tel. / Fax 0577 623447
cell: 335 397648

 

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Pizzarium, Rome Italy

Owner/Chef Gabreile Bonci wrote the book on Pizza. They use only the finest ingredients for his creative toppings. This is a small local take-out pizza shop that you may eat in standing up. The pizza is great and the assortment is very special.

Located in a neighborhood that is about a 1/2 mile from the Vatican which is rarely traveled by tourists you will have to go a bit out of your way but it’s worth it.

Pizzarium

via della Meloria 43, 00136 Rome, Italy
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Ristorante Babette, Tuscany, Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy

Prior to our visit to Tuscany we had discussed some new restaurants in the area with our local friends Bianca and Enzo. They had mentioned a place had opened but they have not tried it yet.  So prior to leaving Lori decided we are all going to Babette.  Locate in the Casale di Brolio outside the small town of Castiglion Fiorentino. This is remotely located but the roads are good and it’s easy to find.

We arrived at Babette and it was a very quite evening because of the rain and the time of year, Tuscany really starts to slowdown in October.  It’s an attractive place with clean Tuscan appearance.  We started the meal with an amazing amusebouche of foie gras.  It was nice to have four of us dining so we had a chance try many dishes.  Our appetizer was scallops that were perfectly seared and presented with several sauces. I’m not sure how I felt about the Foie and scallop combination.  The Pasta course was Pici a local hand rolled thick spaghetti with Wild Boar ragu its was excellent and on my list of must have again dishes.   I had a really interesting suckling pig in a Chocolate sauce, Lori had a perfectly prepared Sea Bream, Bianca an amazing Monk Fish and Enzo his standard Beef Fillet which was so tender no knife was required.

We did of course save room for desert, this is a good plan!!  The deserts were on par with any Michelin 3 star restaurant.  The presentations were amazing and they tasted even better than they looked.  The Tiramisu was absolutely the best!!  Perhaps my favorite all time desert!

When in Tuscany or even within a 12 hour flight don’t miss a dinner at Babette. The service was excellent and they do speak English well for those that are concerned.. This is truly fine dining in Tuscany.

Ristorante Babette

Presso Casale di Brolio
Località Brolio, 74
52043 Castiglion Fiorentino (Arezzo)

Tel.: 0575 652054
Fax: 0575 652254

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RISTORANTE IL LATINI

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While staying in the lovely countryside of Tuscany, Lori decided to have me, drive us to Florence to visit a restaurant recommend by her doctor that is known to love his food.  I was reluctant to drive in Florence because this usually involves driving down one way streets the wrong direction , driving in traffic restricted areas and a host of other moving violations.  This time was no exception so after the “drive” we arrived in Florence, parked the car and found IL Latini.

IL Latini is known for their Florentine Steaks which can be some of the best beef found in the world.  Two of the best steaks we have eaten have been Florentine however sadly to say this was not going to be one of those heavenly days. The restaurant is very casual, crowded with many tourists and the servers really did a great job of working the crowd.  We ordered the Steak , Tuscan beans and salad.   The kindest comments I have was that the food was OK or perhaps they had an off day.

RISTORANTE IL LATINI

Address: via dei Palchetti 6/r (Palazzo Rucellai) – 50123 – Firenze
Telephone: (+39) 055 210916
Email: info@illatini.com

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Ristorante S.ANNA, Rome, Italy

We learned about S.Anna from some locals siting besides us at Da Francisco. Since then we have visited several times.  S.Anna is a nice local everyday Italian restaurant.  Pasta are house made and great.  The anti-pasta bar offer a good assortment and is very good. Once in a while they have this special cake that they bake it’s really a treat.  I can’t think of the name of it but I do remember having it a couple of times then being disappointed one day when they ran out of it.   Do visit for solid and unpretentious Italian food.

Ristorante S.Anna

P.IVA 04199781008 – Via di S. Anna, 8/9 – 00186 Roma Tel. 06.68.30.71.90 – 06.68.96.485 – ristorantesantanna@libero.it
Accettiamo tutte le carte di credito – Chiuso la Domenica

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Old Bridge Gelateria, Rome

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Across the street from the entrance to the Vatican Museum is Lori’s favorite gelateria  in Rome.  In fact I think it’s religious experience her! Old Bridge is one of the top shops in Rome their specialty is fruit flavors.  We learned about this shop many years ago from a cab driver late one evening heading back to the hotel when Lori decided it was time for one more Gelato.  We always stop here as well as Gelareria dei Gracchi my old favorite.  I have a new favorite to introduce Lori to on our next trip. While doing this post, I notice they have plans on selling franchises…I’m ready.

Old Bridge Gelateria

Viale dei Bastioni di Michelangelo 5, Roma San Pietro

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Osteria dell’Olmo, Perugia, Italy

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We received a recommendation from a friend of a friend that has sent a lot of time in Perugia. We called our Italian friends and asked them to join us for dinner. I set the GPS in the rental car and off we went. After the usual amount of animated conversation and circling we arrived. We were pleasantly surprised by a charming exterior and really impressed by the romantic setting inside. It was love at first sight for me and first bite for Lori. All of the dishes were expertly prepared and presented in a modern yet approachable manner, very fitting for the location. All of the pasta dishes were homemade and superb. The eggplant starter was amazing!! The local fish was pristine and melted like butter in your mouth. The Tuscan white pork was almost as good as sex.

All around an excellent dinner at a very reasonable cost. We all agreed that is was definitely a fine recommendation.

Osteria dell’Olmo, Perugia, Italy

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Pluripremiata Gelato “World Champs”, San Gimignano, Italy

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In the heart of San Gimignano lies this wonderful Gelato shop, it’s the one with the line in front of it. WAIT do not go to the other shops without a line!!

This is homemade Gelato that is truly “World Class”. It’s not the best Gelato I’ve eaten but very close.

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Cum Quibus, San Gimignano, Italy

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Probably the finest traditional Tuscan meal we’ve eaten.

We walked into a packed restaurant without a confirmed reservation. There was one table for two or deuce for those in the business available. We were told that it was previously reserved however they have not arrived yet,  they were 20 minutes late. I started a conversation with the restaurant staff and convinced them to give us the table.
BTW: they never showed however there was a never ending stream of walk-ins turned away.

Primi:  The most delicious poppardelle with a wild boar ragu imaginable. The wild boar was so soft it melted like butter in my mouth. The tagliolini with white truffle was excellent with a very delicate flavor of truffle.

Secondi: I decided to try the Tripe stuffed with sausage. Tripe has a bad rap at times of being rubbery. This tripe however was anything but it cut with a fork and melted like butter. In fact I even applied the tripe like butter to the bread.
Lori had the Florentine steak for two. It was cooked to perfection and  possibly the most tender meat, we have consumed. BTW: we let them serve it as it should be without issuing any temperature preference.
This was better than a Peter Luger’s steak and we consider that to be the best porterhouse in NYC.

I noticed the table of local next to us all ordering the Cantuccini so we followed their lead. The Cantuccini was hard like a rock however it absorbed the vin santo like a sponge and was special.

Needless to summarize we love this place and will return.

Com Quibus

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Trattoria del Tribunale, Parma, Italy

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Trattoria del Tribunale offers excellent fresh cooked local specialties at a very reasonable price.

We started with the Torta Fritta and Parma Ham. When in Rome as they say!  The dough was light and airy and the Ham as expected wonderful.

Primi:  The Tortelli di Zucca(Pumpkin Ravioli) was so good my wife almost chopped my finger off when I went to taste a piece. The pumpkin filling was flavored with Amaretto, a really nice touch. I had the Tortelli al radicchio rosso e noci (ravioli with chicory and walnuts) it too was excellent however the Tortelli di zucca was special and I highly recommend it.

For the Secondi:  We both had the Parmigiana di Melanzane (eggplant parmigiana).  At first the portion size looked small however it was extremely rich with an amazing depth of flavors. We both were pleasantly surprised by a real eggplant parm… it was great !!!  The contorni we had was Spinaci bolliti o saltati alla parmigiana it was cooked to perfect with just the right amount of cheese. “This was the best Spinaci I have ever eaten.”

Dessert is mandatory!  You must try the SBRISOLONA, it is this light and delicious almond crumble. We both agree that we would fly to Italy from Florida just to have another one !! The Torta di Chocolate was also outstanding.

When in Parma do not pass by Trattoria del Tribunale…  its worth the trip!!
<a href=”http://www.trattoriadeltribunale.it/” rel=”nofollow”>www.trattoriadeltribunale.it/</a>

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Pitango Gelato, Washington D.C.

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I have decide to change my rating system for Gelato and rate Italian Gelato in a separate category because to compare it to anything else is unfair and places most US products in the poor category.

Fine Italian Gelato the homemade kind found in the small family run shops is beyond compare, it simply puts all others to shame . It possess a creamy yet not thick texture with flavors at explode in your mouth. I have yet to experience this in the US. I have come very close and the establishment that came close has even  flown in a Gelato consultant from Italy to assist them. I believe the next time I return they will have their product at a level of a descent  Italian product.

Pitango Gelato uses all mostly locally scoured and  all organic ingredients.
They charge a premium price for these ingredients, is it worth it. Well if you desire to eat an organic diet it is to others it may not be.  At 5.60 a scoop it very expensive snack for a family.

My verdict; I tasted about six flavors. They where very eager for me to try the nut flavors. The nut flavors or shall I say lack of flavor where very disappointing. The Chocolate Noir was good and I even ate more than one spoonful which is saying a lot because I usual taste a spoonful and throw the rest out because I’m so disappointed.

Rating: US/Fair-Good

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Sea Salt, Naples, Florida

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We stopped in for light lunch in Naples Florida today revisiting a favorite from last year. We are happy to report that the food is better than ever and all is going well at Sea Salt.

This visit we where lucky enough to have a long chat with the Chef/Owner Fabrizio Aielli. He was a most pleasant Italian gentlemen that was passionate about the quality of the ingredients he serves. He proudly explained how he is getting fresh ingredients flown in several times a week and some of his fish from Italy is fresher than that of some of the local fish served elsewhere.  Tomatoes are another passion of the Chef’s he loves to serve them with just a bit of fine olive oil and salt.

We are looking forward to returning shortly to have the fresh Gelato the chef promised us and to visit his new venue opening in the fall. We highly recommend that when in Naples Florida, you dine like your in Naples Italy at Sea Salt.

Sea Salt
1186 3rd Street South
Naples, FL 34102-7055
(239) 434-7258

http://www.seasaltnaples.com/

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Canta Napoli, Camucia, Tuscany (near Cortona) Italy

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Several years ago we asked our friends that live in Camucia to take us to a local place where people go to eat for everyday food.  They took us to Canta Napoli and we LOVE it….I have been reluctant to place anything about this place on the internet fearing it may ruin such a wonderful place unspoiled by tourists.

It’s a Neapolitan style pizzeria as the name implies.  They feature a large variety of pizzas.  We always have one however we never miss some of the freshest seafood available anywhere.  I recommend the calamari salad and mixed grilled seafood.  Both of these dishes are featured in the pictures above.  Let’s not forget the fresh Neapolitan pastries driven up from Naples almost daily.  The Baba Rum or Baba au Rhum is my personal favorite and I rejoice when they have them……..

I wholeheartedly recommend Canta Napoli and we will certainly return hoping that not too many of my followers are taking all the tables.

 

Canta Napoli – Ristorante – Pizzeria

Loc. Le Piagge, 33 – Camucia Cortona (AR)

http://www.cantanapoli.net/chisiamo.htm

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Osteria La Porta, Tuscany, Italy

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Remotely located in the small village of Monticchello is this jewel of a restaurant,  Osteria La Porta. Traveling to this town requires a 30 minute drive off the beaten path.  If you follow your GPS you may end up on some unpaved roads.  Don’t worry about the unpaved road just drive slowly and enjoy the scenery.  Plan your route in advance and you can stay on pavement.

Once arriving at Monticchello,  Osteria La Porta is to your left as you walk into the town. I would plan on arriving during the daylight and strolling around the quaint town.  Try to get seated on the outdoor patio in time to enjoy a spectacular sunset.

Once you’re seated you will be presented with a menu that includes fresh local seasonal ingredients.  For starters, the Burratta is amazing…. don’t pass it up.  The PICI is a favorite of ours.  It’s a thick rolled pasta that they make in-house.  I’d recommend any of the meat or tomato sauces on it(Cheese is a bit heavy).  The white Tuscan pork is also very interesting with a truffle cream sauce.   It’s hard to make a wrong choice at La Porta so be adventurous and try some of the local specialties .

 

We have been to Osteria La Porta several times and highly recommend it…

 

Osteria La Porta
Wine Bar – Enoteca – Caffetteria
Via del Piano 1 53026
Telefono e Fax +39 0578 755163
Ristorante La Cantina
Via San Luigi 3 53026
Telefono +39 0578 755280
Monticchiello di Pienza (SI)
email: osterialaporta@valdorcia.it

http://www.osterialaporta.it/monticchiello.en.php

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Hotel Stella d’Italia, S.Mamette, Italy (Lake Lugano/Cuomo)

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In the small town (one cafe, one bar, one shop,one hotel/restaurant and one horse) of S.Mamette Italy is located the charming family owned and operated INN and restaurant Hotel Stella d’Italia. This hotel has been in the Ortelli family for four generations. Located on the west side of Lake Lugano in Italy  it is easy to find being that there is only one small road on this side of the lake.  If you have never driven in Italy before this road can be exciting… it is very narrow at parts.

The Hotel is located on the lake side so every room has the most amazing view of Lake Lugano. Rooms are nicely decorated and kept in spotless condition.  All the modern conveniences one would expect at a small luxury hotel are present. All of the rooms have balconies so you can sit outside and enjoy the view.  I recommend requesting  a high floor when booking your room.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner is served daily outdoors weather permitting otherwise indoors. The outdoor area is nestled in the lovely grounds with the spectacular view of the lake.  The view alone would make the restaurant worth visiting however the food is also excellent and the staff can not do enough to please the guests. In fact many of the staff serve royalty in St. Moritz during the winter season when the hotel is closed.  We usually dine in the hotel several times during our stay.  The chef prepares specials on the weekends for dinner so I recommended you don’t miss out on a fine dining experience.  The food preparation and presentation are on par with most fine restaurants however very few can match the ambiance of Hotel Stella.

If you are planning a trip to the Northern Lake Region of Italy don’t miss Hotel Stella d’Italia and please mention the Photogourmet sent you !!

Hotel Stella d’Italia
S.Mamete Valsolda
22010 Lake Lugaano
Phone: +39 0344 68139
Email: info@stelladitalia.com

Website: http://www.stelladitalia.com/htm_us/fr0_index.htm

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Roscioli, Rome, Italy

Just a couple of blocks from the Campo de Fiori in the heart of Rome lies this wonderful bakery. Forno Riscioli  features a world renowned pizza. It’s one of our favorite stops for a lunch while we are wondering about the picturesque alleyways around the Campo. The next time your in Rome don’t miss this pizza. We are sure your going to love it as much as we do. Roscioli also has a restaurant that I’ll discuss in another post.

Here is a link to their website: http://www.salumeriaroscioli.com/Roscioli_Eng/homepage_eng.htm

The bakery and the specialities
Via dei Chiavari, 34
00186 Roma
Tel: 06 6864045

 

 

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Trattoria al Vecchio Forno, Tuscany, San Quirico d’Orcia, Italy

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Trattoria al Vecchio Forno, Tuscany, San Quirico d’Orcia, Italy

Owned by same owners of the Palazzo del Capitano in San Quirico d’Orcia, This charming ristorante feaures truly authentic Tuscan food. Wonderfully simple dishes of tuscan beans teased and pleased our palettes.  Fresh tri-color pasta was tossed with cheese and  candy like tomatoes. The wine list include some of my local favorites like Biondi-Santi. All this is just a short walk around the corner from the hotel so have a second bottle of wine.

http://www.palazzodelcapitano.com/ristorante.php

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