Eating the Skys – Continental

Restaurant: Continental Airlines

Location: Somewhere above the Atlantic

Date: June 30, 2011

Cuisine: Inedible

Rating: Barftastic

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So after an epic four weeks of eating in Italy — where the worst meal was merely mediocre — we boarded the first of our planes for home, specifically the Milan to Newark flight on Continental. And so, our final meal of the trip:


A lovely 2011 Ginger Ale, Seagrams.


Bread with softener and additives, served with pastic wrap.


A fine salad of wilted iceberg lettuces.


Soaked in packaged milk and emmulsifiers, it becomes… slightly more edible — and sadly the best item on the menu.


Chicken Parmesan with scalloped potatoes, mushy peas, and nitrate sausage. This was actually a kid’s meal (served to my son). As it was considerably more edible than mine (below) I picked at it.


Dry frozen rock hard chicken “breast” with teeth breaking noodles, soggy asparagus and canned tomato sauce.

Seriously Continental (and sadly they aren’t alone, really all the American airlines are just as bad) you ought to be ashamed of yourselves. This stuff is completely pathetic and was actually literaly inedible. You would have had to pay me more than $100 to try a second bite of that rock hard chicken. It’s not just a matter of cost, it’s a matter of giving a shit about all aspects of the product you offer. I think airline executives ought to be required to eat coach airline meals 100% of the time while on the job! That’d shake things up fast.

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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 Margherita – dei Pescatori

Restaurant: Trattoria dei Pescatori

Location: Santa Margherita, Italy

Date: June 29, 2011

Cuisine: Ligurian

Rating: Solid lunch

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On this particular morning we had actually visited the nearby town of Camogli and wanted to eat lunch there but we fell afoul of that particular Italian (and French and Spanish) pitfall: the extremely narrow lunch hour. Basically you can only sit down to lunch between 12:30 (sometimes even 1) and 2. They just aren’t open any other time. Conversely, nearly all other services shutdown 12-3. In any case, our toddler nap schedule didn’t allow waiting around in Camogli so we went back to Santa Marghertia.


We picked this likely looking place right across from the western marina.

The usual multi-page menu.


And bread.

Their house Vermentino even has their name on it — sort of.


Caprese di buffalo.


Acciughe al limone. Marinated anchovies. I became very fond of this dish last year in Spain. Fresh white anchovies marinated in vinegar. Yum.


Penne pomodoro.


Trenette al pesto. Fettuccine-like pasta with pesto.


Spaghetti pomodoro.


Ravioli di pesce con salsa bianca di San pietro. Ricotta ravioli with white fish sauce.


Ravioli di noce. Ricotta ravioli with walnut pesto. This was the second best implementation of this, good, but not as good as at Antonios.

Overall this was a perfectly pleasant lunch. The pastas were very good.

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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 Santa Margherita – Antonios

Restaurant: Antonios

Location: Santa Margherita, Italy

Date: June 27, 2011

Cuisine: Ligurian

Rating: Best we had in Liguria

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I did my best at internet research to pick this restaurant in the heart of “downtown” Santa Margherita. It was #2 on TripAdvisor. Now this is a review source that I take with a block of salt, but in reading the reviews I got the feeling I’d like the place — and I was right.


You can see a hint of the quaint little garden inside. Like the rest of Liguria it was a little steamy, even late at night (the weather was 88 degrees and 100% humidity, shades of my youth in Virginia).


The “pre-bread” which look like donut balls but tasted salty — and delicious. After all, they were fried.


The regular bread.

We started with a romantic glass of “special cocktail,” which was probably more or less a Kir Royale.


A special appetizer of raw seafood. Two types of prawn, tuna tartar, and some yellowtail like lighter fish. It was all delicious and exceedingly fresh.


Another nice local white.


This was a marvelous example of a very traditional ligurian pasta. Cheese inside, with “salsa con le noci” which is a pesto of walnuts, milk, butter, flour and pepper. Totally delicious.


An unusual “seafood lasagna.” This was a fairly typical lasagna with a kind of lobster/shrimp ragu. Also wonderful.


Branzino Genovese. Fresh local sea-bass baked with a thin scallop of potatoes.


This was a fairly simple meal, and only for two (so less photos) but the food was pretty impeccable, showing a light seafoody Italian with just a hint of modernity. All very much to my taste. Bravo.

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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 Santa Margherita – La Paranza

Restaurant: La Paranza

Location: Santa Margherita, Italy

Date: June 26, 2011

Cuisine: Ligurian

Rating: Straightforward

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This restaurant was around the corner from the hotel, had a typical menu, and appeared very crowded at lunch. So we gave it a try for dinner.


Santa Margherita is really two towns joined at the hip. This is in the center of the western half of the town, which is far smaller than the eastern.


Normal enough inside.


A variety of breads. Some of these have cheese inside.


An amuse in the form of a sheet of fried cheese. Really, who can beat fried cheese?


The endless menu.


This was a very nice (and cheap) light local white. All local wines in Liguria fit the light, cheap, and white descriptors.


Salmone affumicato (smoked salmon). It’s always served with butter in Italy. Go figure.


Tagliata of tuna. I.e. seared tuna with some vegetables.


Antipasto di mare. Mixed seafood appetizer. Smoked salmon on toast. A bit of marinated white anchovies. Some other kind of marinated local fish and a mixed marinated salad of squid, octopus, and shrimps.


Spaghetti pomodoro.


Gnocchi Genovese. This is one of the 2-3 most typical pesto preparations. Pesto in Liguria (where it comes from) is fabulous, but a little different than in the states. It’s milder, but really emphasizes the basil and olive oil. These were nice fluffy gnocchi.


Troffie Genovese. This is THE most typical and traditional form of the dish. Little twists of fresh pasta in pesto with a few green beans and a little bit of sliced potato.


Fritto misto. Various lightly fried shrimps, squids, and mysterious shellfish.


The ubiquitous mixed salad.


Profiteroles. These were stuffed with custard.


Tiramisu.


A few “free” biscuits with the bill.


The bill. Here largely for the restaurant’s address etc.


Each lady got a rose as a parting gift. This kind of stuff is very Italian — if a little touristy.

La Paranza was a good place. Traditional, reasonable, and tasty. But it’s a little staid and straight up, so there are better restaurants in town as you will see in upcoming posts.

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