Sunday, November 4, 2012

68 hours in Italy

I had several customer meetings with my Italian colleagues last week, which always mean nice people, great places and... the best food in the world! Lucky girl! This time I got to visit Napoli, Ticino and Milano, Roma is planned in 3 weeks, yay!
Follow the guide..

First stop: Napoli
The city is always busy, there are many people in the streets, even on a Sunday evening. The bus left me at the harbour, in front of the imposing Castel Nuovo built in the 13th century.

I wandered through the streets and chanced upon the Galleria Umberto I, which reminded me very much of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milano. A quick wikipedia search confirmed that the Napolitan Galleria was indeed inspired from the Milan one. A shopping mall, place to have a coffee or an ice and apartments all in one. I would fancy a flat in there, in the buzzing heart of the city.

Walking along Via Toledo, the pedestrian shopping mile of Napoli, I found a museum advertising one of the ultimate artworks of Caravaggio, The martyrdom of Saint Ursula. An impressive restauration work was done on the painting, removing centuries of dirt and old paint. I could sit down for hours looking at his paintings. Il Caravaggio could bring such emotion and realism in his art. Definitely my favorite Renaissance painter.

The eyes full, it was time to fill my stomach. However, finding a restaurant open on a Sunday evening was not as easy as I thought. All the best rated restaurants on TripAdvisor were closed, so I ended up in the Soldino pizzeria on Via Carlo de Cesare.

The antipasto della casa was made of a tomato bruschetta, mozzarella di bufala wrapped in parma ham, an eggplant dumpling, insalata di polpo, some ham bites, green olives and salumi slices. These paired perfectly with the Aglianico house wine.

Of course, being in Napoli I had to have a pizza, which was one of the best in my life. A simple margarita and rucola pizza but made with mozzarella di bufala and baked in a brick oven. The dough was so soft and chewy, perfetta!

The oven.

The next day, I flew to Milano, not without eating a last Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP
 at the Obika mozzarella bar in Napoli Airport. This is a perfect example of the greatness of cucina italiana: use few ingredients but only the best. Trust me, this insalata caprese did not need any seasoning.

I spent the night in a hotel north of Milano. The hotel restaurant served half a salumi as welcome appetizer to all guests, soooo good! Again, perfect pairing with the Montepulciano wine. The saying is true, what grows together matches.

The main was risotto alla parmigiana and insalata di seppie with crunchy vegetables.

The next day we drove to Lugano with my colleagues. Ticino is beautiful!

Gnocchi ripieni alla toma piemontese.

Back in Milano, we stayed at the Country Hotel Borromeo, on the North East side of the city. The hotel restaurant was surprisingly good. Of course, this is Italy ;)
We started with a selection of Italian salumi.

For the main I had paccheri with a pesto of dried tomatoes. Paccheri are cylindric rolls of pasta but not filled. They pair well with a chunky sauce, such as aubergines, large tomato chunks or a thick seafood sauce.

And as dessert, semifreddo di torrone casalingo. A marvel!
Note to self: empty the freezer to be able to make semifreddo at home. It's actually very easy, you mix eggs whites, whipped cream and flavored egg yolk, transfer to individual containers and leave them in the freezer for a few hours. I plan to make a semifreddo of cantucine biscuits, to be served with a vin santo custard.

Of course, un caffe with grappa or sambuca is the best way to finish the meal.

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