This time of year, conversations at Chow Bella staff meetings tend to turn to who's eaten what -- where. With the summer travel season in full swing, we bring you Food Tours, our writers' suggestions of what to eat and drink out of town.
For most people travel means sightseeing and shopping, but for foodies, they are just ways to kill time between meals. When getting your overseas fix of culture and carbohydrates, there's no better place to start (and finish) than Italy. A mecca of fine art, fine handbags, and most importantly, fine cuisine, Italy is our go-to spot to be gluttons of gluten.
Unfortunately, tourist-bound cities can easily be overwhelming. And though flying by the seat of one's pants is great idea in theory, taking a chance on the wrong trattoria can leave you ordering off a menu that offers Parmesan nuggets and hamburger pizza.
Which is why we're dishing on our five favorite things to eat and drink when in Rome, and in Florence.
Cacio e Pepe Roma Sparita Piazza Santa Cecilia, 24, Roma, Italy +39 06 580 0757
This local favorite, located a safe distance from the usual tourist trap trattorias, came recommended by friends, family, and most importantly, by Anthony Bourdain. The celebrity chef put the spotlight on Roma Sparita during his hit Travel Channel show, No Reservations. While the menu is reasonably priced and any dish is a safe bet, the star of the show here is the Cacio e Pepe. A simple set up with to-die-for flavor, this dish combines handmade tagliolini pasta with pepper and pecorino cheese served in served in a delicate basket of baked Parmesan. It was arguably one of the best things we ate in Rome and quite possibly our entire lives.
We're not even ashamed to admit that we tried to eat there a second time in our brief week stay, but alas, the place was booked through the night -- turns out , if you're not Anthony Bourdain, you really should make some reservations.
Pizza Pinsere Roma Via Flavia 98, Roma, Italy +39 06 4202 0924
It's hard to find a seat at this fast-paced pizzeria because literally there are none. Customers crowd against a glass display of freshly assembled pizzas, raw and ready to be fired up in the oven. Here the staff are friendly but fast and their efficient assembly line of prep, bake, box, and serve in roughly five minutes flat, delivers pizzas that taste anything but rushed. Though the local lunch crowd seems to favor the classic caprese with whole leaves of basil, vine ripe tomatoes, and little balls of buffalo mozzarella, we found ourselves eating more slices of the Greek-style pizza with spinach, goat cheese, olives, raisins, and pine nuts.
Cappuccino Sant'Eustachio Il Caffè Piazza di Sant'Eustachio, 82 +39 06 6880 2048 www.santeustachioilcaffe.it/en
Sant'Eustachio Il Caffè has been catering to cultured coffee-lovers since 1938. Located just around the corner from the Pantheon, this historic coffee shop offers limited seating out front and standing room only inside. Although in our opinion, standing at the coffee bar, sipping your cappuccino is really the prime position for soaking in the surroundings: the feverish energy of the baristas and their caffeinated clientele, the coffee roasting relics hanging from the wall, and the original tile mosaic of the stag on the entrance floor.
Of course, there is one downside to this drip-coffee destination. After Sant'Eustachio, every cappuccino henceforth will seem like crap in a cup.
Sandwiches L'Antico Noè Volta di San Piero 6R, Firenze, Italy +39 055 2340838 www.lanticonoe.com
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30 Rock's Liz Lemon once said that all anyone really wants in this life is to sit in peace and eat a sandwich. After visiting L'Antico Noè, we'd have to agree. This hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop is teeming with hungry travelers and true-to-form Italians alike. Offering the basic sandwich staples and then some, the real source of this shop's success is quality ingredients. Fresh baguettes, meats, and cheeses are sliced thick and made to order along with your choice of crisp vegetables and creamy spreads. Our favorite is the turkey and brie sandwich with crusty bread, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Gelato Vivoli Via dell'Isola delle Stinche 7R, Firenze, Italy +39 055/292334 www.vivoli.it/en
While you might do your best to ostracize yourself from the other out-of-towners, a trip to tourist-hotspot Vivoli gelateria is a necessary evil. Passing their secret recipes down from generation to generation, the Vivoli family has created a 70-plus-year reputation of being Italian ice cream masterminds. With more flavors than you could possibly try in one visit and each one seeming to taste better than the last, we recommend taking multiple trips, getting multiple scoops, and making absolutely zero apologies for it.