Fraiche Santa Monica part deux

Restaurant: Fraiche Santa Monica [1, 2]

Location: 312 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401. Phone : 310.451.7482

Date: October 21, 2011

Cuisine: Cal French Italian

Rating: Not a bad facelift.

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Fraiche and Fraiche Santa Monica have gone through a number of ownership and chef changes in the last year. It’s been a couple of months so we decided to try it again.


The is a new menu, about 80% different. Bigger, with more entrees.


“Hierloom tomato salad, burrata, pesto, crispy shallots.”


Beef tartare. Hand cut NY strip. Bacon sabayon, lemon.” I’ve grown increasingly fond of steak tartare and this was a tasty one. The arugala and parmesan complemented nicely.


“Pizza Margarita.”

“Pancetta risotto. Black kale. Faum um bert.” A nice rissoto with a cheesy richness bolstered by the rich chunks of ham.


And a trio of creme brulee for dessert. Chocolate, vanilla, and caramel. Nothing not to like here.

While hardly a comprehensive survey of the new menu I enjoyed what we had here. I’ll check in sooner to try it again.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

Ultimate Pizza – The Comeback

After long hiatus, Ultimate Pizza is back (click the think for posts on the components). We’ve brewed up a new batch of dough, and called up some friends and family.

For those of you who don’t know, Ultimate Pizza is our super homemade pizza where we make everything from scratch. In the past I’ve written separate articles detailing elements such as the Dough, Sauce, Pesto, and Toppings.


Every dough batch is different. For more on making it, see here. After three days cold fermenting in the fridge this batch had a weird spiderwebby quality and was very sticky. But that wasn’t anything a little dusting of flour didn’t solve. And baked, it tasted great as always.


This 1997 Barolo served as a good opener, warming up the palette.


The first pizza on the block. Starts with basic totally fresh raw tomato sauce made with Santa Monica Farmer’s Market Marzano tomatoes and mozzarella.


Then some parmesan, basil.


Mushrooms.


Figs, marcona almonds.


And after baking. They aren’t always pretty, but they are good!


I “found” this 1966 Chateau Lafite-Rothchild in my cellar and figured it wasn’t getting any better.

Parker says: “Except for the 1966 and 1870 vintages of Lafite-Rothschild, these wines were poured on virgin territory on my palate. Isn’t it ironic that the most disappointing wine (forgetting the spoiled 1875 Lafite-Rothschild, which had frightful levels of volatile acidity) was the youngest wine, the 1966 Lafite. With a light to medium ruby/garnet color, this wine exhibited a classy, weedy, herbal, Cabernet-dominated nose, soft, washed-out flavors, and little body and length. It is also beginning to dry out. I suppose if one were to taste a 30-year old Cabernet from Monterey County, California, it might reveal similar characteristics. The 1966 Lafite-Rothschild has consistently been a major disappointment from what is an irregular, but very good vintage.”

But we had good luck with this bottle, and it was actually rather wonderful.


The next pizza. Fairly similar, but no sauce.


Finished with balsamic glaze.


Then a cheesier mushroom one.


Finished.

Then my special salmon pizza, which I do just with olive oil and rosemary (picked from the garden).


Then add a mixture of creme fraiche (detail on that here), dill, and chives, plus capers and onions.


And lox. Yum!


The 2004 il Cocco riserva. Only one barrel made!


Another fairly normal pizza, with figs and mushrooms.


My “famous” tikka masala pizza. Masala sauce instead of tomato. Corn, cilantro, goat cheese, mozzarella balls, morel mushrooms, almonds, scallions.


Cooked. This is an amazing (and strong flavored) pizza.


Mirella (one of our frequent pizza chefs) likes to make unique pizzas. This “Lebanese Pizza” began with her homemade muhammara sauce, which is a Lebanese sauce made from peppers, walnuts, olive oil and various other things. She baked it fairly simple.


Then added amazing fresh burrata on top and fresh mint. This was also fantastic.


Another tomato sauce based pizza, with parmesan, figs, goat cheese (a slightly aged chevre from an artisan California dairy), marcona almonds, scallions.


Baked.

And as the last pizza of the evening, my Formaggio Maximus. Olive oil, a little pesto. Fresh chanterelle and lobster mushrooms. Corn, figs, almonds, a little basil, and nearly every type of cheese I have: parmesan, mozzarella, pecorino, goat, and gorgonzola dulce.


Baked.

Then key to the FM is a big blog of burrata and an olive oil and balsamic drizzle.


Dessert time. A giant raspberry macaroon.


And a sinful red velvet, chocolate, and cream-cheese icing cake. Oh the suffering. The worst thing about this cake is that half was left over and I personally ate all of it over the next four days.


The next day for lunch we whipped up a few more pizzas. Here another variant of my tikka masala pizza.


On the stone.


And finished. I do so love this pizza.


Then a green pesto and salad pizza. The greens are arugala tossed with black pepper and fresh meyer lemon juice.


Baked.


Two buns in the oven.


An even greener pizza.


Which we left in about 1 minute too long.


And my special “tuna salad” pizza. Tomato sauce, fresh chunk Italian tuna, parmesan, pecorino, capers, red onions, and arugala salad.


Baked.

That sure was a good amount of pizza!

For more Ultimate Pizza posts, click here.

Beverly Hills Hotel – Polo Lounge

Restaurant: Polo Lounge

Location: 9641 Sunset Boulevard, Beverly Hills, California 90210. 310-276-2251

Date: September 10, 2011

Cuisine: American

Rating: Good but pricey

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My wife and I were married (10 years ago) at the Beverly Hills Hotel so it’s a tradition of ours to go back there once a year. We usually wander around and then eat at the Polo Lounge (even though the lounge itself had no part in the wedding, which was in the Crystal Ballroom).


This is an old school and iconic spot in Hollywood history. The hotel is still gorgeous too, having been heavily renovated by hot black oil cash from the Sultan of Brunei.


The patio.


Old school Hollywood style in the dining room.


And the bar.


The current lunch menu. Brunch is available only on Sunday.


What would a visit to the Polo Lounge be without a cocktail, in this case a mimosa.


They also have good bread. Same exact basket (basically) was served at our wedding LOL.


I’ve totally been on a gazpacho kick recently (made it at home here). This is “golden tomato gazpacho, garlic crostini, basil pepper relish.” Despite the yellow color it tasted classic. Very nice smooth refreshing summer texture and flavor.


Pizza margarita.”


Salmon burger, tomato salad, cucumber & yogurt, dill bun.”


The usual condiments, but stylishly presented.


“Lobster cobb salad, gem lettuce, tomato, bacon, avocado, quail’s egg, tarragon.” Pretty much a great cobb, the only thing to complain about being the price. The juicy bacon cubes sold it.


Cappuccino to combat the coma.

Overall, the Polo Lounge has great lunch/brunch food in a stylish setting. Really the only disadvantage is the price, which is pretty punitive. But this is pretty much the usual high end hotel tax — making it a special occasion kind of thing.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

Hostaria del Piccolo – Pizza + Pasta

Restaurant: Hostaria del Piccolo

Location: 606 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401. P: 310-393-6633

Date: August 27, 2011

Cuisine: Italian

Rating: Good new casual Italian

ANY CHARACTER HERE

Hostaria del Piccolo is a casual new Italian with a Pasta/Pizza emphasis from the people that brought us Piccolo (my review here).


It’s located in a chic modern space at the corner of 6th and Broadway three blocks behind the Santa Monica Promenade.


The interior has a modern rustic quality.


And they have a lovely patio, which given that it was 5pm on an 85 degree perfect California August day totally ruled.


Given the weather, I decided to take a cue from my Italian friends and order a glass of Lambrusco Frizzante. Sparkling grape juice with a kick, what more can you ask for in the heat?


Very nice thick and buttery grissini.


The menu. Secondi are not numerous in quantity, but they have a lot of pizzas and a number of tasty sounding pastas.


“CANTALUPO  tuscan melon and Bresaola.” Artfully arranged!


“MESCOLATA organic greens, roasted tomatoes, sliced almonds.”


Rigatoni pomodoro for the boy.


“PAPPARDELLE tomato sauce, roasted eggplant, mozzarella di bufala.”


“SALSICCIA  tomato sauce, smoked mozzarella, sausage, bell peppers, Castelvetrano olives.” I actually ordered the FARCITA (which was a white prosciutto pizza) but he must have misheard me and anyway this was a tasty pizza. The sausage was very tender and flavorful. The crust was really yummy, and the whole thing not overly burnt like some wood oven pizzas are. If you want to see my Ultimate Homemade Pizza, click here.


“AGNELLO Marinated and grilled New Zealand lamb chops, roasted garlic sauce.” Very nice tender straight up grilled lamb chops. Bone gnawing good.


The dessert menu. We were full and didn’t order any.


But they brought my 2.75 year-old this ice cream cone as a freebee and he was mighty pleased.

Overall, Hostaria del Piccolo is a very nice new contemporary Italian, with a heavy pizza/pasta focus. This is sure to make it a crowd pleaser. They could use to beef up the variety of anti-pasta and secondi a bit, but what I had was very nice.

Click here to see more LA dining posts.

The open kitchen inside.

Or for a legion of great eating in Italy itself, here.


Food as Art: Ludobites 7.0

Restaurant: Ludobites 7.0 [1, 2]

Location: 227 East 9th St, Los Angeles, 90015

Date: August 31, 2011

Cuisine: Eclectic Modern

Rating: Very interesting (& tasty) array of flavors.

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Last year my friends and I very much enjoyed Ludobites 6.0 (review here), one of LA’s most notable “popup” restaurants. So some of us Foodie Club members camped out on OpenTable.com to score ourselves a large party reservation. It took five of us hammering independently on the computer to get one in the approximately 70 seconds the entire run booked up. And it was nearly a month in. But score we did.


The walls are festooned with Ludo’s amusing cock & swine logo.


This year Ludobites is back at Gram & Papas. I guess they do it here because the restaurant doesn’t itself serve dinner. The space is small and casual.


One of the big advantages is that G&Ps does NOT have a liquor license. This means that my special BYOBgrape juice” was corkage free. Good think I brought a cork screw.

Very nice Burg from my cellar. Parker 93. “I loved the sweet cassis aromas of the 2002 Echezeaux as well as its powerful, intense, syrupy personality. Medium to full-bodied and gorgeously ripe, it bastes the palate with thick black fruit flavors. In addition, this wine reveals great depth and a lengthy, fruit-packed finish. Projected maturity: 2007-2017.”


Le Menu. With eight people we ordered two of EVERY dish. Worked out just about right. There was a small issue of our sole vegetarian. Not a single dish on the menu is actually free of meat, and our request initially phased the kitchen. But they recovered quickly and offered to make veggie variants of a number of dishes which worked out excellently.


“Lavender Ginger Lemonade.” Non-alcoholic. I liked the strong ginger kick, but the lemonade was too sweet and not sour enough. I like my lemonade painfully sour and strong.


“Bouillabaise Milk Shake.” This tastes exactly like it sounds. Like a fish milkshake. Basically the same flavor profile as real Bouillabaise, but with milk. I can’t say it was my favorite dish. Probably least or second to least.


“Choucroute Tart Flambe.” This “tart” is really a pizza or flatbread. But it was fantastic. The ham/bacon on top was great, as was the cheesy creme fraiche and onion thing going on.


They also made us a vegetarian version which was very good.

Neiman Cabernet “Caldwell Vineyard” 2000. Parker doesn’t rate this, but it’s a top top notch cabernet, probably 94 points or so. The years and a lack of over oaking left it very smooth. I picked up this wine at the Redd Collection, a cool new tasting/wine dealer I met at the Food Club Ultimo Wine Dinner.


The chicken wings (below) came with surgical gloves to keep the hands clean!


“Burgundy Fried Chicken.” The real burgundy was finished, but the wings were very very tasty. Succulent and perfectly cooked with a sweet BBQ style sauce.


The remnants!


This is a custom vegetarian salad they made up.


“Squid, Black Ash, Chorizo.” The squid was nice and tender, and the orange “chorizo” sauce around the edge really tasty. I’m not sure I was super keen on the ash texture, but it was certainly a decent dish.


This spectacular Brunello (the 2006 il Cocco) is totally unavailable in America. I got it at the vineyard from the owner on my mega Italy 2011 trip. He makes 7,000 bottles of wine a year, perhaps 3,000 of Brunello, and does 100% of the work (fields and cellar) himself! Probably a 94-95 point wine.


Prawn ceviche, Aji Amarillo, Red Berries. This reminded me of a Red Medicine type dish. It had very interesting and strong flavors, with a lot of vinegar/lime.


“Salt Cod Panna Cotta, Whipped Fingerling Potato, Smoked Tapioca, Black Olive Bread.” This was an interesting dish. The cod itself was not dominant at all. It mostly seemed like a panna cotta, or even like one of those Japanese seafood egg custards like I got here at Takao (about a third of the way down). I liked the little tapioca balls too, and the bread added some nice texture, just needed a little more cod flavor.


“Oxtail Beef, Rainbow Carrots, Shallots, Green Salad.” This was one of my favorite dishes of the night. The beef was just amazing. And rest went really well too.


“Foe Gras, Corn and Coconuts.” Amazing and interesting dish. Another favorite of the evening. The foie was foie — and nothing wrong with that — but the corn coconut soup was awesome with it. Sweet like a corn soup, with the crunchy texture of popcorn, and with this coconut curry / lemongrass vibe on top. Wow!


My wife even got a vegetarian version, without the foie, which really was almost as good (good as the foie was).


“Pigs Head Compressed and Mimolette, Barbeque Gelee.” This sounds awful, but tasted just okay. Flavor wise thought it just tasted like some kind of meat sandwich with a really tangy mayo. The sweet sauce helped a bit. One of my other lessor dishes of the evening.


“Egg, Sea Urchin, Caviar, Champagne Beurre Blanc.” Really tasted a lot like scrambled eggs and caviar. Which was pretty darn good. The Uni (sea urchin) was present, but subtle. I could have done with more. But the egg and caviar thing is really good together, so I enjoyed it a lot.


This is no Uni version. The egg tasted stronger and saltier without the sweetness of the Uni, but it was still a very good dish.


“Plancha Tandoori Octopus, Yogurt, Cauliflower, Grapefruit.” The octopus itself was very tender with a nice tandoori flavor. The cauliflower texture was really interesting. I think the yogurt could have had more punch, or more of it, but still a nice dish.


“Duck, Cherry, Spicy Saucisse, Beets, Radish.” There are two meats in here. A sausage (which was really yummy) and a very nice rare duck breast. Both were excellent with the cherry sauce. The beet/radish thing seemed a little orthogonal, but it didn’t stop this from being terrific.


“Lamb cooked in fat Moroccan style Artichoke, Mint.” There was some serious fat on this lamb. Serious fat. But it tasted damn good with the cooked dates. That was the whole key to this dish for me, tender lamb with a sweet sauce.


The peeps, midway somewhere.


The meal took awhile and so we could have used an extra bottle of wine, but i only brought four. This dessert Riesling, the every reliable, Parker 97! “White peach preserves, luscious Persian melon, fresh red raspberry, cooling lime, green tea, iris and gentian are all projected on the nose of Donnhoff’s 2009 Oberhauser Brucke Riesling Spatlese, then take on a fleshy, silken, yet svelte form that combines infectious juiciness, invigorating salinity, uncanny buoyancy, and vibratory interactive complexity, leaving my tongue tingling and my head buzzing. The depth of savor here is such that to speak of nut oils or of shrimp or lobster shell reduction merely points in the correct, otherwise ineffable general direction. “Creamy, dreamy, transparent” were the last words I could pronounce in the presence of this natural wonder that will certainly be capable of spreading joy for at least the next quarter century. “There was a tiny bit of perfectly dry botrytis here,” notes Donnhoff, “and to get much over 90 Oechsle you usually need that.” Needless to say, its presence has in no way precluded the utmost purity of fruit, clarity, or subtly electrical energy of which Riesling is capable in this amazing site. “I-m warning you, they’re not necessarily better,” said Helmut Donnhoff with a grin when serving me his two 2009 vintage Auslesen.”


Now our whacky “cheese course” the “Pick-Up Stick Cantal Cheese, Curry White Chocolate.” The cheese almost tasted like slivered apple.


“Lavendar Tropezienne Tart, Aloe Vera, Lychee.” This wonderful pastry reminded me of a giant lavender Macaron. I love certain kinds of exotic herbaceous flavors like rosewater and lavender and I love custard.


“Chocolate Cake, Chipotle Ice Cream, Orange.” Wow! This was a 10/10 dessert (and the lavender was like a 9/10!). The chocolate slab was great, you can tell just by looking at it, but that ice cream. It tasted like bacon! Really. The combo was incredible, and a bit spicy.


“Pistachio Brown Butter Cake, Marcaspone, Red Berries.” This was the weakest of the three desserts, but it was still very good, with a nice pistachio flavor. The Marcaspone could have used a little more kick or sweetness.

Overall, maybe it was a good thing coming into Ludobites 7.0 after a couple of weeks. Things were really on point with the food. Service, which very pleasant, really isn’t up to the food standards. There is no slick Michelin 2 (or 3) star type management of the table like at a place like Melisse, but the attitude was fine and there were no problems. Water service was sluggish and we had to self pour our “grape juice” into water glass type glasses. But actually I don’t mind self pour or opening my own wines. I could have used some more water :-)

But the food was really standout. A large variety of very creative dishes, and some were fantastic, particularly the desserts. So bravo.

Click here for a review of last year’s Ludobites 6.0.

The Food Club extravaganzas.

Or all LA dining reviews.


Me, with the big macro-lens-and-flash rig.


Mirella gets her crazy on.


Swag! (not that I bought any)

Waterloo & City is Victorious

Restaurant: Waterloo & City [1, 2]

Location: 12517 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90066  310.391.4222

Date: August 14, 2011

Cuisine: Gastropub

Rating: Really tasty!

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My wife and I went to Waterloo & City back in May, and I enjoyed it, so I thought we’d try again with a slightly larger group. By way of introduction this is a new wave comfort-food Gastropub joint. This place exemplifies the gastropub trend of more is more.


The menu.


I decided to test out some of the wines I brought back from my Eating Italy trip. This 2006 Brunello by Il Cocco can not be found in the US. The owner/winemaker makes 7,000 bottles a year only of all his wines combined, perhaps 3,000 of the Brunello. He does 99% of the work himself! It’s awesome, if it were rated, it’d be a 96 point wine.


We went for the “prince” of  Charcuterie. Yum yum, heart stopping fun!


The cured meats, and some fine ones at that. There are at least three types of salami and two prosciutto variants. Stone ground mustard. The white stuff is some kind of beef gelatinous product.


The “Pig Trotters, Sweetbreads, and Salsa Verde terrine, with anchovy.” This was a freebee, but was rather too extreme even for me!


“Duck & Walnut Country Pate, orange-apricot marmalade.” This was very nice. Interesting crunchy texture too.


A special. “Boar terrine with romesco.” Really tasty. All that pork goodness you might want.


“Pork & Truffle Pate, Madeira Jelly, toasted Broche.” Wow. With the jelly (you can see it to the left in the zoomed out first photo) this stuff tasted like carmel sauce. The texture was super silky smooth too. Wonderful mouthfeel.


Spaghetti pomodoro for my son.


“Arugula, Grilled Mission Figs, Smoked Almonds, Pamesan.”


“Tuna Tartare, Fried Piquillo Pepper, Avocado.” The tuna part was good but ordinary. The pepper, however, was pretty interesting, although certain FRIED!


Parker gives this silky Rosso 90. “The 2009 Rosso di Montalcino is totally beautiful and elegant in its expressive bouquet, silky fruit and understated, harmonious personality. This is a wonderful, impeccable Rosso from Le Potazzine. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2017.” I’d rate it perhaps 91-92, with a little boost for understated style.


A vegetarian special. Some kind of vegi monster on top of cous-cous with a brioche. Apparently it was good.


“Indian Butter Chicken Pizza, Murgh Makahni Sauce, Mozzarella.” I really wanted to try this because I make a similar pizza myself. This one didn’t lather on the Tikka Masala sauce like I do so it was more subtle, but it was damn good, a bit closer to a “normal” pizza. I loved the addition of the raita-like sauce in the middle. I might try that myself.


“Beef shin ravioli, wild mushrooms, red wine, burrata cheese.” This was really good. The meat was super flavorful, as was the rich sauce. But the bacon/burrata combo really sold it.


A special. “Veal with fried polenta and eggplant sauce.” The veal itself was tender, but not super flavorful. The sauce was great, and in combo every was very yummy, particularly the fried corn balls (i.e. polenta).


The dessert menu.


“Sticky Toffe Pudding, Salted Caramel, Vanilla Ice Cream.” Also excellent, with a not so dissimilar flavor profile. Both were intensely sweet. The ice cream helped cut it.


The menu called these “Waterloo Bourbon Glazed Doughnuts with creme anglais and raspberry jam.” But I think that would be the version we got on our first visit here. These were sugared. They were still good, and the carmel sauce in particular rocked, but they weren’t quite as decadent as the glazed.


A special. “Profiteroles.” Pretty classic, with both ice-cream and whipped cream.

Waterloo & City is still going strong. This isn’t a light cuisine — in fact, nearly every dish is loaded with fatty goodness — but it is damn good.

Read my previous review of Waterloo & City here,

Or for more LA Restaurants.

Gjelina Brunch

Restaurant: Gjelina [1, 2, 3]

Location: 1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, CA 90291. (310) 250-1429

Date: August 6 & 14, 2011

Cuisine: New Californian

Rating: Great food, annoying service!

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I hadn’t been to Gjelina (despite it being a favorite) in a few months but I headed back there for two brunches only a week apart, one with my son and the other with my brother and cousin.


The all important Cappuccino. They make a good one as attested by the nice micro-foam. I’m not a fan of those coffee with a pile of foam on top versions.


Moroccan Baked Eggs with Merguez, Chili, Tomato Sauce, Cilantro & Spiced Yogurt.” This was REALLY tasty. The sausage was awesome, as was the sauce and yogurt combo. It had a pretty genuine Moroccan flavor profile.


My son wanted eggs. He didn’t even touch them though. Toddlers!


“Crispy Sunny Eggs with Prosciutto, Romesco, Arugula & Lemon.” This was also very good, and very similar (except for the ham) to my special Breakfast Eggs.


Pizza Margherita.” A very nice version of the classic. Rich tomatoey sauce, lots of basil.


My son ate most of this, although he complained about the “green stuff” and made me remove it.


“Duck Sausage, Nameko Mushroom, Garlic & Mozzarella.” The sausage was fantastic, and the overall pizza was very smokey with an interesting chewy mushroom texture. I liked it a lot, but you certainly have to be a shroom person.


“Peach crumble with Crème Fraiche.” I like my crumbles more crumbly.


“Butterscotch Pot de Crème with Salted Caramel w/ Crème Fraiche.” This is just incredible as always. I could eat like 10 of them. Bad me. Bad me.

Overall, the food at Gjelina is fantastic as always, but I need to snark about the service, and I’m not the first. Apparently the owner/managers even like to hire staff with attitude! Boo hiss! The first time, I asked to get some eggs that on the menu had strips of bacon on top with the bacon on the side (or gone). I was told (very rudely) that I could remove the bacon myself. In this day and age of people with dietary restrictions this just isn’t acceptable. I can understand not building totally custom dishes, but trivial omissions? Give me a break.

On the second trip we ordered some vegetables which didn’t come (the waiter read them back to us too). Plus similar with an ice tea even after asking about three times. Eventually, after the waiter went AWOL we found him and brought up both. He didn’t even apologize. 10 minutes after that he brought the ice tea and said he’d take it off the bill. Ooh ah, $4 ice tea for free (it’s all profit anyway). We mentioned something to the manager. He didn’t apologize either, just nodded his head. Then finally, about 5 minutes after that he snuck back and apologized, like it had been eating at him and he felt he needed to. There was no offer of a freebee or anything. My brother asked him point blank about that and he took a dessert off the tab.

I go for the food, but they do need to lose a bit of the ‘tude.

You can check out two other Gjelina reviews HERE and HERE.

Or my index of LA Restaurants.

Eating Santa Margherita – Pizzeria Santa Lucia

Restaurant: Pizzeria Santa Lucia

Location: Santa Margherita, Italy

Date: June 29, 2011

Cuisine: Ligurian / Pizza

Rating: Good pizza

ANY CHARACTER HERE

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).

Click here to see more Eating Italy posts.

Eating San Donato – Pizzeria Pretorio

Restaurant: Pizzeria Pretorio

Location: San Donato, Italy

Date: June 22, 2011

Cuisine: Pizza

Rating: Best pizza we had on the trip

ANY CHARACTER HERE

The wine guide who took us to Montacino seemed to have very good taste in food, and so we’d asked him where the best pizza in Tuscany was. He was confident it was a place in the tiny town of San Donato called Pizzeria Pretorio. We trekked for 30 minutes each way just to find out.


San Donato is one of those pretty small stone towns. It wasn’t very big, so it didn’t take long to just stumble into the joint.


And they turned out to have such a terrible view.


And cramped unappealing terrace — not!


The menu.


One thing about this terrace — it was hot hot hot in the Tuscan sun. So I took an artsy water bottle shot.


And we felt that pizza called for beer, in this case the special premium “silly beer!”


Here is pizza margherita with mushrooms.


Calzone Napoli: Ricotta, prosciutto, cotto, salami piccante, mozzarella.


La fabrizino: small tomatoes, sausage, porcini, mozzarella and arugala.


Then the piece du ressistance: the four seasons. We don’t know exactly what was on this, but clearly the green pesto & zucchini part was spring, the sausage winter, the squash part fall, and the remaining one summer.

Overall Pretorio was some damn fine pizza in an impeccable location.


Then walking out we stumbled onto this: an artisan gelato place.


Oh the hardship. This turned out to be one of the three or so best gelatos I had in Italy too.


The didn’t have a lot of flavors, but those they did were really good.


Chocolate.

Lemon.


And my trio: Cassata di Siciliana (ricotta with candied fruits), chocolate with cherries!, and nutella. All three flavors were fabulous, but the nutella was hands down the best nutella gelato I’ve ever had (and I’ve had plenty). It was so thick I wondered if it just WAS nutella, but really I know better as even at fridge temperatures nutella becomes unspreadable.

Click here to see more Eating Italy posts.

Eating Poggibonsi – Babette

Restaurant: Ristorante Babette

Location: Poggibonsi, Italy

Date: June 19, 2011

Cuisine: Tuscan Seafood

Rating: Great food, great value

ANY CHARACTER HERE

After our self selection failure on Saturday, we got another restaurant recommend from our host (the owner of our villa). He sent us to this casual but very good seafood restaurant in Poggibonsi.


As usual there is a nice outside dining space.


And a gigantic menu.


This being all seafood we got both a prosecco.


And a local white from San Gimiangano. This is one of those joints where the wine is like E10. I like this light quaffable, almost Greek-style, white.


Caprese.


One of my friends and I ordered this “assorted fish appetizer, min 2 people” which was E10 a person, it came with this and EVERY dish until the pastas! An amazing assortment. This one was “Tuna with balsamic dressing.”


Marinated white anchovies and onions.


Crostini with white I think is a fish row mayo.


Marinated Salmon with red peppercorns.


What I think are winkles, or little sea snails, in a delicious garlicky sauce.


Octopus pulp. Also garlicky.


Muscles.

Scallops stuffed with a kind of pesto scallop paste.

Some tasty but undetermined shellfish “stew.” Wow, that’s a lot for two people and E20 total.


Home made pasta with a kind of tomato pesto.


White Risotto with mixed seafood. This was good, and unusual in that usually seafood risottos have some tomato in them.


Risotto with squid.


Strozzapreti with Fish ragu. This was highly unusual (for me) and really good. It was essentially a ragu made using shellfish instead of ham. It was very salty, with a significantly briny taste, but very tasty. The al dente shells were a fantastic foil.


Pizza Margherita.


Mixed fried fish. Lightly fried and delicious.


Branzino, simply grilled and filleted at the table.


A very very typical fish preperaration all over the Medditeranian, but done very well here.

The final presentation of the fish.

Not only was this restaurant a bit different, being all seafood, and very good, but it was an incredible deal. The bill was less than E20 a person and we had an incredible amount of food.

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