Eating Santa Margherita – Pizzeria Santa Lucia

Restaurant: Pizzeria Santa Lucia

Location: Santa Margherita, Italy

Date: June 29, 2011

Cuisine: Ligurian / Pizza

Rating: Good pizza

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On our last night in Italy (/cry) we wanted an early and quick meal prior to getting up at 4am the next morning. So I asked the hotel staff where they went for pizza and they all voted Santa Lucia as their favorite.


It’s located in the heart of the eastern marina, inside a cluster of many restaurants.


The menu.


The have a pleasant little patio. It was also just across the street from the Carousel, so I took my 2 year-old son while we waited.


On my last night I was a bad boy and ordered pasta and pizza at the same time! Again the waitress looked at me funny. This is lasagna pesto. Very simple, fresh noodles with fresh pesto and cheese. Simple but good.


The last shredded carrot salad you’ll see for awhile.


Santa Lucia takes its pizza seriously enough to have dedicated knives. Italians almost never serve pizza precut.


Pizza funghi (with mushrooms).


Pizza Margherita, apro pos in this town.


Pizza Prosciutto.


And mine, Pizza di mare. The seafood pizza is always a bit of a gamble, but as we were sitting right on the marina I figured I’d give it a go and I wasn’t disapointed. The briny factor was there (as it should be) but light.

Santa Lucia was a nice little pizza place, not quite as good as Pretorio in Tuscany, but in the three or so best we had on the trip (the third being Pizzeria Notte E Di).

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Eating Santa Marghertia – Da Michele

Restaurant: Da Michele

Location: Santa Margherita, Italy

Date: June 28, 2011

Cuisine: Ligurian

Rating: Solid

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Another evening pick in central Santa Margherita, just a block away from the previous night’s Antonios.


Right in the main drag.


The outside seating was right on the square/street in front of the restaurant. I wish they did this more in America.


The menu.


Vermentino is one of the better quality local whites.


Seafood anti-pasta. This wasn’t as good as the raw plate the pervious night. But it was certainly tasty enough. This is more traditional, being marinated shellfish for the most part.


Another example of ravioli di noce (in walnut cream sauce). Also good, but not as good as Antonios’s version.


Trofie Genovese. Local pasta twists with pesto, potato and beans.


Tagliatelle ai gamberi, curry e piselli. Noodles with shrimps, curry, and peas. Something a little different, but very good. In it’s own way a little like a dish from Singapore. Maybe it’s the British influence in Santa Margherita.


Sea-bass Genovese. With potatoes, olives, pine nuts. This is the more traditional form.


Scampi all’agro. Shrimp in sweet and sour sauce.


This was basically a butter Vinaigrette, and it was absolutely delicious with the crawfish-like creatures. Finger licking good in fact.


Chocolate mousse.


Tiramisu.

This was a very solid and enjoyable meal. The food was a tiny bit better than La Paranza, but not as elegant or refined as that of neighboring Antonios.

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Eating Cinque Terre – Gianni Franzi

Restaurant: Gianni Franzi

Location: Vernazza, Italy

Date: June 27, 2011

Cuisine: Ligurian

Rating: Solid local lunch

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We took a little train ride down to Cinque Terre, a very pretty region of five small towns clustered by the sea.

The second of these is Vernazza, which is accessible only by train or boat. Picturesque as you can see. In typical Italian fashion transport doesn’t really run during lunch so we were forced to stop and eat. I just chose a likely looking place by feel.

The menu.


The patio looks back on the harbor in the above establishing shot.


A caraffe of local white was totally drinkable.


This place puts the pesto on top, which is unusual. This is spaghetti genovese (known here as pesto).


Trofei Genovese.


Seafood ravioli. These were stuffed with fish and in a tomato based fish sauce. Very tasty actually, but not for the landlubber as it had a bit of a briny flavor.


This is minestrone Genovese. The waitress scolded me for ordering it with a pasta dish as there are technically pasta bits in here — but who cares. In any case, this is a very pesto minestrone, and pretty typical of the dish. Good though, as I LOVE pesto and could eat like 10 pastas in one meal.

Overall, a totally satisfying quick little lunch.

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Eating Poggibonsi – Osteria da Camillo

Restaurant: Osteria da Camillo

Location: Poggibonsi, Italy

Date: June 18, 2011

Cuisine: Tuscan

Rating: Very mediocre

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We were in Poggibonsi to drop my brother off at the bus/train station and we spent a few minutes wandering around and then picked a likely random lunch restaurant. This turned out to be our worst pick of the trip compared to expectations. It looked like all the other likely places — and it was even very touristy — but the food just wasn’t very good.


The menu.


This inexpensive Chianti Classico (probably 10-15 euros) was perfectly nice though.


Classic bruschetta with liver. These weren’t bad, one of the places better items. They weren’t however even close to the best bruschetta we’ve seen.


Mixed bruchetta, also fine. Starting from upper left and going clockwise. Fava beans, lard, mushrooms, and tomato.


Spicy pici with walnuts. This pasta tasted like glue. Paste. It was pretty gross. I think they added flour to the sauce, making it like elmers.


Tagliatelle al pesto. Edible, but very mediocre pesto.


Green tortelli with fossa cheese and yellow pumpkin cream. I didn’t try these.


Linguine with cheese and pepper. This was really bad too. Not even close to the amazing pepper and cheese pasta at Trattoria Pepei. I could barely eat a few bites. The pasta was pasty. Those thin slices of pecorino has an unpleasant melted cheese taste, and the sauce — there barely was one — tasted of paste.


Penne pomodoro.


Tagliatelle with tomatoes, olives, capers and hot peppers. Didn’t try this either.


Chicken, green beans, tomatoes, mushrooms. This was fine, not horrible. Not really a dish that does it for me though.

This place was completely unique for this trip in that it actually had bad dishes, several of them. That pretty much makes it the worst meal, even though it wasn’t horrible or anything. But it goes to show, eat out 50 times in Italy and you can find a dud!

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Breakfasts of Champions

During my mom’s birthday weekend we seized on the opportunity of a fridge filled with pizza ingredients to whip up a number of Gavin-style breakfasts. First I made my Spanish eggs (SEE HERE). The next day my brother cooked up one of his signature frittatas.

This is a big fluffy omelet stuffed with cheese and veggies.

Plus some fruit, cheese, and fresh squeezed blood orange juice (the trees had a bumper crop this year).

Then on monday a slightly different, less fried take on the Spanish eggs. A little salad, some lox, and La Brea bakery toast with pesto and romesco, arugala, and peppers.

Here is the romesco on the left, and the pesto on the right (SEE HERE for more on the pesto).

A peek under the salad at the sauces.

Some eggs poached normally. Not as crispy as the olive oil “poaching” of the classic Spanish eggs.

An egg in place.

My brother chose to supplement with ricotta.

I went with burrta. I always go with burrata (MORE on the ultimate fresh cheese HERE).

A final shop, with nice contrasty lighting and some cracked pepper. Cutting into the egg of course provides lots of yolky goodness.

Ultimate Pizza – The Birthday

For the second half of my mother’s birthday weekend we hosted a small pizza party. I’ve already detailed the entire process involved in the making of my Ultimate Pizza (CLICK HERE for the index page). This party was merely a refinement of the process, but one which succeeded in taking the art to even higher levels.

This whole format makes a really great party. Newcomers don’t know what to make of it because pizzas come off the line slowly at first, in series, and everyone grabs a slice. No one sits down, but instead hovers around the kitchen island participating in the three hour frenzy of pizza making. Very fun and interactive.

First off the presses is this completely basic tomato and mutz pizza for my two-year old. He doesn’t appreciate complexity yet, although I have progressed him from generic orange cheddar to 2-3 year aged special reserve cheddar, which he is now very fond of :-).

 

Opening with some whites: a nice champagne, and a very nice riesling.

“The 2000 Brut Millesime Cuvee Speciale comes across as excessively heavy and almost sweet in its ripe fruit. Something is not quite right about the balance here. Disgorged: December, 2006. Anticipated maturity: 2009-2011.”

Parker gives this riesling 91 points, “An almost confectionary sense of sweetness and ripeness pervades the Prum 2009 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese, making it something of an exception in a vintage collection generally noteworthy for the restraint of residual sugar. Apple candy, caramel, and vanilla mingle on a creamy palate, with hints of salt, stone, and apple pit happily offering some counterpoint in a long and otherwise soothing finish. This showed more grip as it opened, and perhaps time will lend more cut and complexity to a Spatlese that on the basis of track record is likely to thrive for another quarter century or more. Incidentally, this represents the first of three lots of “regular” Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese, the last of which was still in tank in September.”

And the first red. Parker 93, “Super-ripe aromas of cookie dough, spices, and black cherry syrup can be found in the nose of the medium-bodied 2002 Nuits-St.-Georges Les Pruliers. Its fabulously satiny texture, concentration, and purity are immensely impressive. This medium-bodied wine coats the palate with innumerable black fruits, minerals, and spices. Projected maturity: 2008-2018.”

Here is the evolution of my wife’s favorite pizza. Fresh tomato sauce (HERE for details and recipe), black mission figs, corn, mushrooms, roma tomatoes, and marcona almonds.

This is actually the second pizza of the night, as I had made my creme fraiche salmon pizza, but I forgot to get a photo. Fortunately, details can be FOUND HERE.

Cheese: mozzarella, parmesan, pecorino.

And then out of the oven. This time around I was trying to concentrate on slightly less irregular shapes, with some success. I have not mastered the art of “spinning” the pizza to get it very round, and the soft “00” based dough makes them very fragile.

This pizza employed a base of my special herb oil (detailed HERE at the end of this post). Then pesto (RECIPE HERE), steamed asparagus, almonds, tomato, various cheeses (including Bucheron), mushrooms, basil.

Out of the oven.

Caramelized onions, gorgonzola, figs.

Dressed with balsamic glaze. A very yummy sweet and salty pizza.

Besides all this pizza there was also a very yummy salad my mom made, with micro greens, granny smith apples, and a fresh homemade meyer lemon vinaigrette. I unfortunately forgot to take a photo, must have been running to the oven and back.

Here is a new one. One of my friends brought two new cheeses, a 5 year old aged Gouda and a 7 year old cheddar. Both cheeses were used here, along with breadcrumbs. This made fore a very yummy crunchy pizza, not unlike cheesy garlic toast.

My mother likes her pizzas fairly simple and veggie. This has classic tomato and mutz, plus mushrooms, basil, and julienned zucchini. I got to practice my knife skills with the julienne. She did throw a bit of the aged Gouda on.

It looks pretty different out of the oven, but it sure tasted great. The Gouda turned out to be a great sophisticated pizza cheese and melted here with the parm and mutz into a really great cheesy mess like on a good New Jersey style pie.

Gelsons was out of the Tikka Masala Sauce I used on New Years (HERE FOR DETAILS), but I bought a “coconut curry” sauce by the same company. It’s arrayed here with mutz blocks, corn, chaneterelle mushrooms, basil, red onion and bucheron.

I finished it with cilantro pesto (we had two different kinds of pesto this time around, DETAILS HERE). The purpose of the cilantro pesto was to mirror the finishing of a curry dish with a handfull of coriander (cilantro) leaves. The net affect on this pizza was less in your face than the Tikka Masala, but still very Indian, like Naan bread dipped in curry. Yum!

Pounding through the wines, had to crack a pair of brunellos.

Parker 91, “The 2004 Brunello di Montalcino is a fresh, vibrant offering bursting with dark cherries, violets, underbrush, minerals and sweet toasted oak on a medium-bodied frame. The wine reveals terrific balance in an energetic, focused style, with firm yet ripe tannins. The finish is long, clean and refreshing. This is a gorgeous effort from Loacker. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2019.”

Parker 93, “The stunning, single vineyard 1997 Brunello di Montalcino Montosoli, exhibits more new oak than its sibling, as well as more power, concentration, alcohol, and extract. A deep garnet color accompanies huge, sweet aromas of roasted herbs, red and black currants, cherries, earth, incense, tobacco, and soy. This is a wine to lay away for 5-6 years. This chewy, full-bodied, spectacular Brunello will be at its finest between 2010-2022.”

 

This was a great pizza made by a newcomer to our culinary circle. Pesto, red onion, bucheron, herb oil, some various cheeses, and I think a bit of acacia honey.

I sold her on finishing it with Burrata (details on my favorite fresh cheese HERE), and then single vineyard olive oil and balsamic must.  It was REALLY good.

This puppy, also by a newcomer, used a sauce base of both the crushed tomato sauce and homemade romesco (I had made it two days before for my special eggs, DETAILS AND RECIPE HERE). We also used both the aged cheeses, and some good aged parm.

Also a very yummy pizza, with the romesco lending an extra bit of tanginess to the sauce.

Another newbie with this novel shaped pizza. Basic stuffs, a lot of basil, lots of cheeses and onion.

Out of the oven.

Scott, one of my most regular partners in pizza crime, tried to make this “mexican pizza.” The sauce is actually salsa, not regular tomato. Then corn of course, various cheeses, tomato, red peppers, and some sliced jalepeno I think.

Finished with burrata and cilantro. We wanted to use avocado too, but our farmer’s market avocados were hard as rocks, they needed another week or two to ripen.

My mother liked her basic veggie so much (as did many others) that she whipped up another one.

This is a highly experimental pizza. It used a port wine cheese and aged gouda, along with chopped farmer’s market dates, and even some splashes of the currently open wine (either a brunello or a very good cote de rhone — below).

Then it was finished with fig jam (not shown). This made it a very interesting sweet pizza, even if the color was a putrescent pink.

I decided to experiment with my own caramelized onion based pizza. I added Bucheron, sharp cheddar, marcona almonds, cherry compote, and a bit of harrisa.

After cooking.

Dressed with burrata and balsamic glaze. This was not my most successful combo, and I think the problem was the cheddar. It added a tangy sharpness that just didn’t work.

This used romesco alone as the sauce, along with all sorts of vegetables, figs and cheeses, including bucheron.

Finished with burrata and balsamic and olive oil. Yum!

More wine. Parker 90, “The 2006 Fonsalette Cotes du Rhone exhibits meaty, herbal, tapenade, pepper, animal fur, and damp earth-like notes. It is soft, round, lush, and best consumed over the next 10+ years.”

For a finale Mirella, another regular and adventurous pizza chef, concocted this baby. The sauce is a mix of Moroccan Harissa and caramelized onions! Aged cheeses, onions, sliced garlic, and gorgonzola dolce.

Cheesy, spicy, sweet, this was a delicious finisher.

But we weren’t done drinking. Parker 97, “The 2004 Reserva, according to Remirez is “a great vintage, a lot of nerve, like 1994, that needed a long aging period”. Opaque purple in color, it offers up a splendid bouquet of sandalwood, incense, Asian spices, balsamic, and black cherry. Layered, opulent, and impeccably balanced, it is a monumental effort.”

My mom’s birthday cake, yes she is one year younger than my toddler.


And after that cheese bomb of a meal, nothing like a little gelato/sorbetto to polish off the palette. We experimented with this gourmet store brand, Talenti. Pistachio, Lemon, Raspberry, Double Chocolate, and Blood Orange. For store bought ice creams these were very good, but it still doesn’t hold a candle to what you get at a good gelateria. Sigh. All were good, personally I thought the blood orange was the best.

Finito.

Ultimate Pizza in Review

Since I have so many Ultimate Pizza posts I wanted to gather their links together into a single page. But I solemnly promise this is the last pizza post for a good while — at least until I prepare another batch of them!

In summary, every couple of months we make homemade pizzas. Like many things at my household, we take this to the extreme in a quest to reach the Ultimate level of quality. Hence Ultimate Pizza. This pizzas are really good (and a lot of work), and to do them justice required quite a number of articles. I broke them down on individual topics.

Ultimate Pizza – The Dough
Ultimate Pizza – The Pesto
Ultimate Pizza – The Sauce
Ultimate Pizza – The Toppings
Ultimate Pizza – New Years (pizza itself)
Ultimate Pizza – Day 2 (more pizza)
Ultimate Pizza – Day 3 (and even more)
Ultimate Pizza – The Birthday (the second coming)
Ultimate Pizza – The Comeback (the third coming)
Between Ultimate Pizza there is Burrata

If you still want to see more food after this, check out the FOOD INDEX which links to all my food related posts.

Also I throw in here a survey of random pizza photos from past pizza nights:

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