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Entries in Verona (5)

Wednesday
Jan162013

Sights and Flavors of Northern Italy

As many of you know, our mom (Marmo) is the El Heffe at Gourmety Getaways, a travel agency specializing in gourmet tours of Italy.

There are three take aways from the above sentence:

1. Gourmet

2. Tours

3. Italy

Simple addition of the above three points leads to taste-sensory eye rolling, oooohs and aaaaahs, spectacular scenery, and the overuse of the Italian word, "andiamo!" (let's GO!).

Marmo is throwing together a new tour of the Northern region of Italy, which by all intents and purposes should be fan-freakin-tastic, or if you prefer, bellissimo!

How do I know? I know this because John and I had the opportunity to accompany her on a recon mission to the aforementioned area last spring.

We ate lardo. We skimmed across Lake Como on water taxis. We drank fabulous regional wines. We shopped our wallets off. We over used the Italian word, "andiamo!" (let's GO!).

You can read more about the Iaciofano family Northern Italy travels here, here and here And you can find out more about Marmo's tour, which takes place October 19-27, 2013, here.

Andiamo!

Wednesday
Jun132012

Italian Favorites from Our Recent Excursion

John's Favorite Dish:

The Fliet Mignon from Al Veluu in Tremezzo

Elana's Favorite Dish:

Piglet Stuffed Ravioli with Pear Sauce at La Fontanina in Verona

Favorite Breakfast Buffet:

Favorite Gelato:

Gelateria Agianni in Bologna

Favorite Bathroom:

Bathroom door of the Lake Como water taxi

Favorite Display of ABC Gum:

Juliet's House

Marmo's New Favorite Drinks (cut her off at two, please):

 

Favorite View...ummm....Please don't make us choose...

Verona

TremezzoVilla Balbianello, Lenno

Favorite Ridiculous Photo:

Roman Theater, Verona

Favorite Food Signage:

Favorite Wine Bar to Regain Body Heat and Internal Cheese Quotient after a Freezing Rain Tour of Villan Balbianello:

Cantina Follié, Tremezzo

Favorite Place to Pretend You are James Bond:

Villa Balbianello, Lenno

Favorite Italian Outfit:

Elana's Italia Cycling Kit, acquired in Bellagio

Favorite Hair Style:

Marmo after a day in the rain at Villa Balbianello

Favorite Place for John to Carry a Purse:

Bellagio

Favorite Swimming Pool:

Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Garden Pool

Favorite Meat Product:

Osteria del Bugiardo, Verona

Favorite Family Photo:


 

 

Monday
May212012

Verona and Osteria La Fontanina

On our final night in Verona, the Iaciofano crew made the short walk across one of the town's many beautiful bridges where, up a quiet stone side street, nestled an unassuming, small and fascinating restaurant named Osteria La Fontanina ("OLF").  Mom had done some homework before arriving to Verona on OLF; despite its almost hidden location, OLF's resume includes a Michelin Star.

I mentioned that OLF was fascinating - I cannot recall stepping foot inside a restaurant quite like this one.  It's a bit like an antique store, or an attic, or a trippy, slightly spooky, whacked out vintage furniture store or perhaps the love shack of an interior decorator and a hoarder. From everything to the plates, silverware, curtains and chairs - there is not a matching item in the joint. 

To say OLF is a bit cramped would be generous.  This place makes the coziest of Manhattan cafe's seem like a banquet hall.  I'm sucking in my gut just to walk to to my table.  But it's all so... cool.  Leave it to the Italians, of course, to generate such a magical atmosphere from a room filled with flea market type trinkets.  Waiting for my meal was never so entertaining.  Heck, I'd even say it's beautiful inside.

I recall the whole place only having about 8-10 tables, so while the 15 or so random, hanging tassles (among other things) provide an amusing atmosphere, OLF's prevailing tone is actually its intimacy.  It has a very private feel to it all.

And as for its food, it's really, really good.  Absolutely deserving of its Michelin Star status. 

Prior to the meal, OLF served up some wonderful and warm breads and foccacia.

Of particular note was my primi of scallops with a pumpkin puree and chopped mushrooms (seen above).  It was simply outstanding, like I was eating dessert.   Other highlights were Elana's baby pig ravioli, served in an insanely flavorful pear sauce; as well as her guinea-fowl coupled with an amazing potato cream sauce.

Service was also impeccable and warm, with the head chef himself shedding any potential "too cool for school" labels by serving us some of the dishes himself; a nice touch. We all thanked him for his expertise.  All of his dishes were excellent.

La Fontanina was truly a memorable and delicious experience, one that I sincerely hope I can revisit someday soon.

Wednesday
May162012

Verona, Part the First

After rejoining the rest of the Iaciofano's in Bologna, all four of us made haste to the train station and headed to Verona.

I have to admit to being a bit disoriented, having just spent four days biking in France and getting blown over by hurricane-force winds. I kept saying "frommage" instead of "formaggio" and I couldn't get my outfits right.

Verona is a beautiful city. A combination of Medieval and Roman architecture, it's a feast for the eyes. 

We made camp at the Due Torre Hotel. Marmo scored us some prime suites with a balcony!

We were just a short skip away from the Piazza delle Erbe...and some serious shopping. And eating. Have I talked about the eating yet? I'm gettin' there, don't worry. Before there is food, there are usually some antics. You have to work up an appetite by doing something... 

So first, we visited Juliet's (of Shakespeare fame) house to find a place to put our used gum...

And then we made our way to the Roman theater surrounding the city center to check out some quality ruins, and play amongst the archways.

And then we got lost. So The Box had to pull out the map and both sets of his glasses.

Getting lost makes me hungry. So I suggested we forgo the usual tourist-infested, open-air panini cafe's and find something local. We found something local while I was getting everyone lost running them around the Verona looking for a cycling shop. Which we eventually found, along with a fancy wine bar - Osteria del Bugiardo.

The Osteria looked very local. There were no Americans inside. I could tell. This made The Box nervous. Things "outside the box" generally make The Box nervous. But I convinced him with the promise of cured meats and cheeses and perhaps even beer that it would be worthwhile.

Well, they were out of beer.

But they had wine! And LOTS of meat and cheese. I suggested to our server using my elementary Italian and some all-encompassing hand gestures (Italians love hand gestures), that we wanted enough meat and cheese for four people, a crostini sampler plate and some local wine.

Our server wandered away with what I hoped was our order (The Box was still wary at this point, perched atop his high bar stool like an owl on high alert). At this point, he and John started sketching diagrams of the perfect golf swing onto the kraft paper placemats.

Sheesh...Americans...

And then came the crostini!

Some of these were unidentifiable! Others were just strange, like the purple one which turned out to be a cabbage slaw type of thing. All were really good! Seriously. I have not, however, developed a taste for anchovies, so that particular crostini didn't appeal to me.

This was just a precursor to the awesomeness that lay ahead in the form of:

Aaaaaand:

Not a scrap of either remained. Iaciofano's young and old devoured them all....diagrams of golf physics lay forgotten underneath piles of LARDO. Yes, my favorite meat butter made an appearance on this platter. This particular version tasted slightly smoky. It was expertly seasoned with fresh pepper...and it just melted...like butter. The best I've had to date.

As for the cheeses, we were presented with a lovely arrangement of semi-hard to hard cheeses accompanied by a selection of jams. John preferred the raspberry, while I fought Marmo for the pear flavor.

The Box was now full of wine, cheese, beer, and some random crostini and acting like going to the wine bar was his idea all along.

He does that, get used to it.

As for the rest of us, we were ready to go get lost all over again, in an effort to work up an appetite 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...