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Entries in Lake Como (3)

Friday
Jun012012

Pizzeria Carillon in Bellagio

I may have mentioned this, but the way Lake Como works is this: You stay in one of the little towns (we stayed in Tremezzo) and then you water-taxi-it around the lake to the other little towns for the purposes of sight-seeing, food, shopping and general merriment.

Pretty sweet, right? Right.

One of our water taxi stops was Bellagio, a tiny town built into the hills around the lake. Restaurants and shops greet you at the harbor, and you can wander up the steep, perilous steps to find more shopping and restaurants. Marmo and I loved it.

I even found a REAL cycling shop in one of the crevices of the town, proceeded to talk with the shopkeeper IN ITALIAN (thank you very much) about cycling, and left with this cool Italia cycling kit at a hugely discounted price.

I was pretty excited. So was The Box, as I dragged him into the shop and then proceeded to squeal with delight at the selection of Italian spandex. The Box, as you might imagine, is opposed to spandex, unless it's being used to encase sausage.

And speaking of food - we haven't yet spoken of PIZZA.  We go all the way to Italy, and no talk (yet) of pizza. To be fair, we didn't visit Naples or Rome...two of our favorite cities for pizza. Pizza is traditionally a Southern Italian food. But pizza can be found everywhere. And we found some quality examples at Pizzeria Carillon on the Bellagio harbor.

I asked John for his notes on our pizza experience, and he supplied the following:

Brick Oven. Floppy, Runny, that is all I have. (via gchat)

Ummmm, yeah. John's lack of verbosity should not be confused with a lack of enthusiasm. In fact, we very much enjoyed our pizza, and his notes hit the nail on the head. Besides, who can talk or note-take when you have your cheeks full of oven-toasted pizza pie?

Brick oven? Check. The crusts were nicely charred and crispy, but still retained....wait for it....

that FLOPPY, squishy-bready quality that is characteristic of Neapolitan pizza crusts. 

And they were mildly RUNNY – also a Neapolitan feature. The centers of the pie are JUST cooked. Picking up a slice often encourages the tip of the pizza to droop and contents to sliiiiiiiide gently from bread to plate. Not a bad thing. The featured pepperoni pie above had just the right amount of grease and merged perfectly with the mozzarella cheese.

This above number was quite tasty with copious amounts of fresh basil and sweet cherry tomatoes. You will also notice from the fork and knife photos above that the pizzas were not pre-sliced. Points for authenticity on that one. Italians don't slice their pizza, because then they can't "fold and go"... pizza was one of the original "to-go" foods. 

Let's pause a moment for the flop shot...a piece of pepperoni droops perilously on the tip, only to be devoured moments later by John's watering chops.

A sign of a well done pizza lunch: the pizza swop. John, Marmo and I frequently traded slices, looking for just one more bite of each other's variations. 

Wednesday
May232012

The Iaciofano's Go To Naboo, I mean Lenno...

Although we were sad to leave Verona, we were anticipating with much enthusiasm the adventures that awaited us in Lake Como.
Our fearsome foursome took up temporary residence in Tremezzo, one of the towns circling the lake. Travel from town to town happens by boat on Lake Como, so the Iaciofano's heaved-to and set sail for Lenno one rainy day.
Our main purpose in visiting Lenno was to see the Villa Balbianello, an impressive estate that you may recall from such films as Star Wars (I forget which – one of the new films with that Jar Jar creature), and Casino Royale.
In order to get to the villa, we had to trek through a couple miles of woodsy terrain. I very much enjoyed this, even in the rain, but The Box was not a fan. 
"Are we there yet?" He'd ask... and, "I'm turning around and calling a cab."
Needless to say I was not amused. I was, however, floored by the grandeur of Villa Balbianello once we finally made it onto the main grounds.
Impeccably manicured and coiffed, ivy coiled around the columns and the trees were manicured within an inch of their lives. We entertained ourselves for quite some time, until I got very cold.
Did I mention it was raining? So, we hailed a water taxi (one conveniently pulled up to the back door of the villa's grounds) and made haste back to the main center of Lenno, where in spite of the cold, we all had gelato at La Fabbrica del Gelato.
This wasn't the best gelato John had sampled – he much preferred the gelateria in Bologna. BUT it was very pretty, and they got extra marks for their display of tiny colorful gelato scoops.
Now I was REALLY cold. And the state of my hair in the rain...let's just say Marmo and I were picking up RAI Uno and RAI Due station feeds.
Also, we were hungry. Yes, we just had gelato, but gelato does not a meal make. What does is meat and cheese. And wine. So we headed back to Tremezzo and located a local wine bar, Cantina Follié.
Perched atop some bar stools, and wearing The Box's jacket for warmth, I commandeered the wine list. I selected the wine pictured below based on the label design. I do that. I'm a sucker for pretty design. Also, I was cold, hungry and out of patience.
Luckily, the wine proved to be delicious. Marmo and I started to calculate U.S. shipping as we devoured a plate of local meats and cheeses, included a personal favorite formaggio of mine: TALEGGIO.
Stuffed full of meat, cheese, wine and gelato, we headed back to our hotel for.... a NAP.
Hey, we needed to conserve energy for dinner. 

 

Thursday
May102012

This Is How We Do It (A Iaciofano Family Trip to Italy)

And by "we" I mean, the Iaciofano Family - not Montell Jordan and his crew - but when traveling with Mom, things are always a tad "gangsta" in a sense, so the reference has some relevance.  You see, Mom owns and operates her own culinary cooking/travel business to Italy, so when she dials up an itinerary for the fam with all of her connections and contacts, it gets pretty effing filthy. (See definition 2)

Last week, the whole foursome (Mom, Dad, Elana, and myself) followed Mom through Bologna, Verona, and Lake Como - in that order.  It was an absolutely wonderful experience, with each destination having its strong points in terms of exploration, sights, shopping and food.

The first stop was Bologna which, in comparison with Verona, was the slightly grittier, international, more substantial of the two major cities.  With the University of Bologna right in town, the city is slightly dominated by young, interesting looking creatures overflowing into the piazzas and supplying energy throughout the entire town.  It's a 10 out of 10 from a people watching perspective.  From an architectural standpoint, I found it simply amazing; everywhere you walked, there were marvelous old archways lining the streets like the one above.  In addition to its usefulness during a passing rain shower, the thousands of columns and covered marbled sidewalks really injected some "this place must have been really sick back in the day" type imagery.  

Eataly in Bologna (one of its seven Italian locations) - which had little, if any, in common with the one in Manhattan.  It was a smaller (like many things in terms of an Italy vs US size comparison), modern deli serving fresh panini's and espresso, but not much else.  Still, the locals weren't scared of it.  I had to take this picture but don't be fooled, Bologna had plenty of homegrown, boutique delis and salumerias of its own.

Of the meals we had, our dinner on our final night at Pappagallo - which was almost like a quaint medieval church inside and out - was definitely the highlight.  For a primi, I had Lasagna Bolognese (I mean, how could I not?) which featured a crispy, golden crust, and meaty, warm delicious center.  I was not disappointed whatsoever.  I also stole some of Mom's artfully homemade tortellini in a pesto sauce with butter and sage.

But the main event was the dinner - the "Veal Bolognese for Two" - a pounded, breaded veal chop with melted cheese and prosciutto on top.  Salty and satisfying as all hell, this sucker had me and dad administering an NJ fist pump between every fourth bite or so.  Just a bad ass, serious meal for men on a mission.  The veal was purely white, with a perfectly toasted exterior and mouth watering aftertaste.  The  cheese and meat was like sprinkling crack on your frosted flakes - perhaps overkill, and yet irresistably amazing. As an added bonus, our server cut the chop at the table.

Not to be forgotten were the scrumptious zucchini fries - moist, cracking, salty.  Ooph, was that a meal.

And when the meal was complete, I sampled some gelato from what I concluded was probably one of the top 3 greatest gelatos I have ever experienced.  No lie.  This little storefront seen above was serving up some of the best gelato I've had.

Bologna was truly a marvelous, beautiful city and I feel like I only scratched the surface, but something told me that the better part of the trip lied ahead. Onto Verona the Iaciofanos went.  Stay tuned for more information on the remainder of the voyage...