It’s Italia Week! I recently ate my way through Italy across five cities (6 including a small pit stop in Naples) and want to share with you all the delicious things I had. I’ll be posting about my foodventures all week, featuring one city each day. LAW and I were most interested in eating where the locals were gathering, rather than checking out the most posh spots in town. We did our research, so if you’re traveling to Italy, I hope you can use this as a guide to great homestyle Italian food! If not, then hopefully this gets you craving some awesome, fresh ingredients and simple cooking.
LAW and I flew into Milan and immediately took a train to Venice. Don’t worry, we return to Milan on the last leg of our trip.
No Euro trip begins until someone picks up a sandwich from the train station! This was the first thing I had in Italy. It’s from a small booth in the Milan train station. Lightly seasoned ham, arugula, swiss, and mustard sandwiched between fresh focaccia. I didn’t expect a train sandwich to be this good. I found myself comparing all the other sandwiches on this trip to this one.
We also had a croissant sandwich. Buttery croissant, savory prosciutto, bitter and crisp arugula, and sweet tomatoes… you really can’t go wrong with these ingredients. That’s the thing with Italian food. Everything is so simply made, therefore quality of ingredients really matters.
We arrived in Venice on this beautiful sunny day. This was taken on a water taxi to San Marco, where our hotel was. I know, San Marco is the most touristy area to stay in. But we only gave ourselves two days to explore Venice, so staying somewhere central was important for ease of access. It ended up being perfectly charming. I fell asleep to men singing old school Italian love songs on the gondolas that floated by our hotel window every night. Legit.
For dinner our first night, we checked out our hotel lady’s favorite restaurant: La Feluca (Calle della Mandola, 3648, 30124). Most restaurants were actually pretty empty, because the winter is a tourist off-season. But this little gem was packed.
Raw ham and melon. I tasted all different kinds of prosciutto in Italy that ranged in texture and flavor. My favorite kind is this kind right here: soft, lightly salted, and full of the natural flavor of the ham. Paired with the fruity sweetness of the cantaloupe, here is one of the finest sweet and salty pairings (joining the ranks of chocolate covered pretzels and dark chocolate with sea salt).
I had the Tagliatelle con gamberi e porcini, or tagliatelle with shrimps and porcini mushrooms. We were catching the tail end of the wild mushroom season so I tried to order as much of it as I could. The sauce was very lightly creamy – just enough to add a buttery flavor to the natural sweetness of the shrimp and earthiness of the mushrooms.
Venice is known for its cuttlefish ink, so LAW got the Strozzapreti al nero di seppie or pasta with cuttlefish ink sauce. I did a bit of googling, and couldn’t figure out the difference between cuttlefish ink and squid ink. Nonetheless, we had only had pasta made with squid ink, rather than normal pasta tossed with a squid ink sauce. This Venetian style is much more flavorful. I can’t really describe what the ink tastes like… it has a mild “sea flavor” (different form fishiness) and a sweet aftertaste.
After visiting the Punta Della Dogana at the tip of the Dorsoduro area, LAW and I stumbled upon a local sandwich shop: Corner Pub (684 Calle della Chiesa, Venice). It was bustling with locals and tourists alike, each with a freshly-made sandwich in one hand and a glass of house wine in the other.
I had the Genovese Porchetta with asiago, radicchio, mustard, and mayo. Porchetta is a fatty, boneless, flavorful Italian pork roast. The sandwich shop made a slaw out of radicchio, mustard, and mayo to go with the porchetta. The slaw tasted like something only adults would love: bitter (from the radicchio), spicy (from the mustard), and mushy. Happy to say this confirms I’m an adult!
For dinner on our second night, we did a ton of research to avoid the 99% of restaurants for tourists in Venice. We decided on Osteria L’Orto Dei Mori (Campo dei Mori, Cannareggio, 3386, Venice). It was tucked in an alley in Cannareggio, a much quieter area north of San Polo.
We started with the Beef Carpaccio with walnuts, rocket, and parmesan sauce (13.50 euros). Rocket is just another word for arugula, both terms used in Italy. This carpaccio was deeeeelicious. Thinking about it is making me salivate. The texture was soft and smooth. It was slightly cured so it had a naturally salty flavor. The parmesan sauce added more creaminess while the balsamic added a nice sweetness to round off the flavors. the peppery arugula and the crunchy walnuts added a nice contrast to the beef. So good.
I had the Pasta del Granaio con bisque e fiori di zuccnino, which was translated into “barn-made” dried pasta with bisque sauce and zucchini blossoms (14 euros). This sounded like a light pasta, which is exactly what I did not want. Being indecisive and feeling adventurous (per usual), I asked the waiter for the heartiest, tastiest pasta on the menu. He pointed at this one. I decided to trust him (not always a good thing) and was served one of the most unique, amazing pastas I had on the trip. Imagine extremely chewy swirly pasta with a thick, creamy shrimp sauce that is just a tad spicy. The shrimps were so sweet, even the heavy sauce, which really was more like a bisque, could not hide its natural flavor. The bisque itself also had a sea-flavor (like the cuttlefish ink earlier), which sounds weird but is so, so tasty and fragrant.
LAW had the Pappardelle with veal ragu (13.50 euros). I expected the pasta to be more tomatoey, as I expected most of our pastas to be (very few pastas on this trip were actually as tomatoey as I expected). Despite my love for tomatoes, this pasta was great without them. The pappardelle was perfectly al dente. The thick egg noodles were complemented by the light, creamy veal and carrot sauce.
Aaaaaand it was great. Tiramisu is really a blanket term for any cake that involves layers of coffee or rum soaked cake/lady fingers and pudding/mascarpone cheese. The thickness of the layers vary greatly. I’ve had tiramisu with thick layers of cake and thin layers of pudding (more cake-like), and thin layers of cake and fat layers of pudding (more pudding-like). This tiramisu here was just how I like it: thick coat of bitter espresso over thin layers of rum-soaked cake and fat layers of pudding.
That’s it for Venice! Florence is on its way tomorrow.