Gianni Franzi - Cinque Terre, Italy

Piazza Marconi 5
19018 Vernazza, Italy
Closed Wednesdays and the winter season

Gianni Franzi has a very gorgeous view of the Vernazza harbor and is located right in the middle of the piazza.  On our first night in Cinque Terre, we decided to enjoy a nice meal overlooking the waters and enjoy the sunset over the mountains.  The food was a bit pricey compared to the other restaurants, but we paid for the beautiful view. It was decently crowded, even at 8:30pm, but we still managed to get a table. Service was pretty slow and not as friendly, but that's what we expected.

We first ordered the troffie al pesto, a Ligurian specialty of pesto (which is basil grounded up with cheese, olive oil and pine nuts) with potatoes and green beans. The troffie is made of chestnut flour.  The dish was quite delicious and the pesto exuded the basil and cheese flavorings very well.

 For our next primi, we had a simple spaghetti with tomato sauce, which was nice, but nothing that really stood out for us. 

We also ordered something like a grilled veal scallopini with a squeeze of lemon.  Again, nothing special here.

Then I tried the Tegame alla Vernazza, another regional specialty.  This Ligurian baked dish has marinated acciughe or anchovies (not the salt-cured American kind, but fresh), with potatoes, tomatoes, white wine, olive oil, lemon, and herbs.  I didn't particularly liked this dish that much. The tomatoes and sauce was nice and somewhat flavorful, but the fish was bland.  I didn't try this dish anywhere else, so I can't compare as to how it should really taste.

Here's a night shot of the piazza in Vernazza.  Such a lovely and quaint town that everyone should visit!  There are other restaurants in Vernazza though that are a bit less touristy and serve more authentic tastes of the region.


Trattoria Da Gino - Rome, Italy

Vicolo Rosini 4, Rome 00186 
Tel. 06-6873434 
Cash only

For authentic Roman cuisine, try Da Gino, which is off the tourist beaten track near the Piazza del Parlamento. The restaurant is in a curvy, narrow hidden alley. There is a "trattoria" sign on Via de Campo Marzio that will point you to the right direction. Reservations are highly recommended, but we were walk-ins and were told to wait an hour and a half. Luckily, though, after an hour, I lingered around in the front for the hostess to notice me, which she did, and we were seated within 5 minutes.
Here is the hostess. She can be friendly if you're really sweet to her.

We ordered a carafe of the house wine (vino roso) and our usual appetizer - the proscuitto and melon, which was refreshingly sweet.

 We ordered a wonderful fettuccine pasta with bolognese sauce and minced beef.

 Next, I had to order the tripe with tomato sauce. The tripe was so soft and delicate. A truly amazing dish.

Next, I had to order the tripe with tomato sauce. The tripe was so soft and delicate. A truly amazing dish.

Our waiter (there were only 2 that night) was graciously friendly in helping us order and serving our entrees.  He knew we were sharing our dishes and would bring out our meal and split it for us.  He provided excellent service which made our last Roman meal more enjoyable.

The restaurant is so hidden from the main Roman sights that it feels homey and "Italian."  Locals and politicians frequent here - being next to the Rome's Parliament. Great service and great food! What more could I ask for.


Pizzeria da Baffetto - Rome, Italy

Via del Governo Vecchio, 114
Roma, Italy
Tel. 06.6861617

Some say that Pizzeria da Baffetto is a Roman institution not to be missed! This popular pizzeria is very close by to Piazza Navona, and you can't miss the long line outside even before the restaurant opens. It's only open for dinner (some say only tourists eat pizza for lunch). Baffetto definitely has a family feel, with nostalgic photographs of the father (who was also working) with many celebrities and guests covering the wall, and the resembling son taking orders and delivering the hot pizzas to the tables. The old gentleman sat us at a table with one other person who was a pilot from Spain and frequents Baffetto almost every time he has a stopover in Rome. It was nice to know that even foreigners are regulars here and love the food, despite the rude and abrupt service.
The menu was quite extensive with many choices to choose from. I suggest ordering some appetizers, such as bruschetta, beforehand because only 2 guys operate the wood-fire oven cooking pizzas for the whole restaurant (we waited 30 minutes after ordering to finally eat).

We first ordered the most famous Pizza Baffetto (8 €) with pomodoro (tomato sauce), mozzarella, funghi (mushrooms), sahiccia, uovo (eggs), carciofini (artichokes), cipolla (onions), peperoni (red peppers). Pizzas here are thin and crisp, but the runny yolk made the middle of the pizza a bit soggy after awhile. I never had egg yolk on top of my pizza before...but the flavors were pretty mild and melded very well together. And the delicious tomato was light and sweet.

Next, was the Pizza Bresaola, Rucola e Parmigiano (9 €) which had pomodoro, mozzarella, bresaola (air-cured meat), rucola (arugula), and parmigiano. The flavors in this pizza was more distinct than the Baffetto pizza with more of a bite from the arugula and the saltiness of the bresaola. The thin and light crust stayed quite crispy - just the way I like it! I liked this pizza very much! Very light and delicious!

I would definitely like to come back here one day and line up with the locals, the outnumbering tourists, the soccer players and hopefully run into some celebrities. The pizzas were very tasty and there are many other pizzas to try. Another restaurant, Baffetto 2, also opened in Piazza del Teatro di Pompeo 18 (near Campo dei Fiori).


Trattoria Luzzi - Rome, Italy

Via dei San Giovanni in Laterano
(On the corner of Via Celimontana, near the Church of San Clemente)

We wanted to eat where the locals eat, and still be near the biggest tourist spot - the Colosseum. Our B&B hostess suggested one of her favorites - Luzzi, which is just a 5 minute walk from the Colosseum.

That day, the weather was gloomy, hinting of rain. The surrounding neighborhood was empty and quiet. But as we walked closer to the restaurant, we heard the clattering of glasses and plates and people's voices talking over one another. They sat us inside, which was so tight. We had to squeeze our way through and the waiter had to pull out the table just for my husband can sit. There was practically no space between me and the next person.

I have to say the service was horrible and the staff was brusque and rude. When we sat down, my husband said "thank you" in English. Big mistake. The waiter muttered something rather rudely in Italian and the couple next to us were laughing. From then on, it took us a long time to order, to get our food and to get our check at the end. Though I'm sure the slow service was due mostly to the big crowds. Good thing we weren't on a time schedule. If you're planning to have sit down meals in Italy, I think 2 hours need to be allocated.

Anyway, on to the food. I ordered the Penne all'Arrabbiata, a traditional dish from Rome and central Italy. A very simple dish with tomato sauce, garlic, parsley, and red chili peppers cooked in olive oil. This pasta dish was excellent. The sauce was light and sweet and the peppers gave a nice kick to it.

My husband ordered the Rigatoni all'amatriciana - tomato sauce, guanciale (pancetta or dried pork cheek), and red chili peppers. The sauce was really good, similar to the arrabbiata, but more dense because of the pork flavorings. However, the rigatoni was undercooked! It was still edible, but very disappointing.

The dishes were only 5.50 euros each which was great. Plus, it is conveniently close to the Colosseum. It's worth a stop to Luzzi, but be prepared for the unfriendly staff and the long wait. But I guess everything in Italy is slow. Trains, buses, food service. But you have no control. Just go with the flow and enjoy.


Osteria dei Cento Poveri - Florence, Italy

Via Palazzuolo, 31-red (Santa Maria Novella area)
50123 Florence, Italy

Cento Poveri (which translates to "one hundred poor people") specializes in not only Tuscan food, but serves Mediterranean cuisine. Going on a friend's recommendation, we decided to taste a bit of real Tuscan food.

To reward ourselves of our all day adventure of Florentine sightseeing, we somehow managed to order food beyond our stomach capacity. My husband ordered the "Taste of Tuscany" special, which could have been easily shared for 2 or even 3, but being overindulgent, we also ordered a huge appetizer and another main entree.

As for this Tuscan prix fixe menu for 35 , it came with an appetizer, pasta, steak, and dessert. Since it was labeled "Taste of Tuscany," we thought it was just that. A taste. Like a tasting menu in the States where the portions are no larger than a closed fist.

But we were wrong. Each "taste" could have been a meal in itself.

First from the prix fixe menu is the Salami Toscani, Formaggi e Miele (Tuscan cured meat with cheese and honey)
I never had salami and cheese with honey. That was very interesting. But I guess that is equivalent to the figs or other fruits to balance the saltiness with the sweetness. We had 4 different salami, each one delivering a slightly different taste. I liked the more mild and less meaty flavor.
Separate from the tasting menu, we also ordered a mixed crostini appetizer that were topped with pâté, cheese, tomatoes and mushrooms and lightly decorated with very spicy arugula. By this time, I was getting a bit full already.
Next on the tasting menu was Pappardelle alla Chiantigiana e Risollita alla Toscana (Broad pasta ribbons, chiantigiana, and Tuscan soup with vegetables and bread). In Italy, pasta is served first (the primi), then once you're done, the meat dish is served (the secondi). Flavors in this meaty pasta was delicious bold but not too intense.
The last "taste" was the Bistecca Alla Fiorentina e Patate Arrosto (Florentine steak and roasted potatoes). It was enormous! Really, I don't know how one person could have finished this meal. The server quickly walked by and told my husband that he had to finish all the food or else he'll be washing dishes in the kitchen. The steak was cooked nicely for medium rare and was pretty juicy.
As for my one and only entree, I ordered Chitarrina allo Scoglio e Pomodorini (fresh pasta with mixed seafood). The portion served here was incredible. Lots of mussels, clams, calamari, and shrimp. The noodles were different than what I had tasted before. They were thicker, but less dense and somehow managed to hold the wine sauce really well.
Everyone knows the saying..."there's always room for dessert." That's not always true, especially after this meal. Here is the Budino di Castagne or chestnut pudding. Okay, we did have some room, but not much. It was like a caramel flan with sprinkled brown sugar on top. Very delicious!!
The restaurant was a bit away from the main central area, still walkable, but maybe take a bus or taxi if your feet is tired from walking all day. We sat in the more quiet, dimly light, rustic side of the restaurant. There was another side that I think serves pizza and was more causal, loud and bright.

I would definitely come back here but definitely share this scrumptious tasting meal with another person. FYI, although we didn't finished everything, we didn't have to wash the dishes.