Italy offers culinary landmarks for corporate travelers
Now that Holy Week and summer are fast approaching, if you find yourself—or take yourself—to Italy, here are few highly recommended restaurants.
Milan: Cucina delle Langhe
Milan can be called the commercial business district of Italy. Last February, it was the venue for the Identita Golose, the largest food and wine conference in Italy, where not only chefs but also traders, exporters, restaurant owners and other connoisseurs gathered to discuss the future of food.
(If you are coming to Milan for a conference, ADI Hotel Poliziano Fiera is near the convention center.)
If you find yourself here, whether for business or pleasure, have a classic Milanese dinner at Cucina Alle Langhe near Corso Como. We had the pleasure of dining here with “practically Italian” chef Margarita Fores, who lived in Italy to learn how to cook.
Start with the Puntarelle alla Romana if it is in season. This is a rare asparagus-like chickory that the restaurant simply serves with anchovies. It is so simple yet highly addictive!
Follow this with Milanese mains: osso bucco, saffron risotto, and, if you dare, cow’s brains. The chef may kid you that it is the chef’s brains that he will be serving but don’t back out because it is so soft and so delicious.
Bologna: Ristorante Diana
Just two hours from Milan is Bologna. The street to visit for a food trip is via Pescherie Vecchie where it’s store after store of meats, cheese and wine! There is also an Eataly on this street for all things culinary. But for a proper dinner, head over to Ristorante Diana just around the corner at via Dell Indipendenza.
Being Italy, the tagliatelle at Diana is superb. However, don’t miss out on the Bollito Misto: a plateful of various boiled meats to be enjoyed with a mostarda of cherries and apricots, plus salsa verde if that is what you prefer. The mostarda is real trippy because it looks like a sugary syrup so you think it is sweet. But beware! It is quite spicy—it is a mustard syrup after all!
Frolimpopoli: Casa Artusi
For the best pasta, take a three-hour drive from Milan to Casa Artusi. The good news is that the techniques of Casa Artusi are now available right here in the Philippines as Fores has just opened the first branch of Artusi in Asia at White Space in Pasong Tamo. But, as with any cuisine, there’s nothing like the real thing. If you want to discover how pasta must be made, cooked and served, make the effort and drive to this little gourmet town.
The pasta here is perfectly al dente and not yellow but golden. It is darker than commercial pasta because the chicken here eat lots of corn and carrots so the yolk turns out a dark yellow. And yes, it makes its own pasta from scratch.
Dining here will also show you the proper way of decanting and “rechristening” wine. There is an art to preparing a glass of wine called avvinare. The wine is first poured into a decanter. Then a small amount of wine is poured into the first glass, which is swirled to “rechristen” it; this same wine is then poured into the next glass, and so on and so forth until all glasses have been ‘rechristened’ and cleansed of impurities.
If you find yourself in Casa Artusi, you can also take cooking lessons!
Modena: Osteria Francescana
For that one splurge dinner (170 Euro for a tasting menu), make your way to Modena, home of Osteria Francescana of Chef Massimo Bottura, currently ranked the third Best Restaurant in the world by the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants panel.
Bottura is considered a genius by the international culinary community and is highly respected for his creations at Osteria Francescana. He uses modern techniques but pays tribute to ingredients that promote Modena and Italy in general.
The restaurant is simple, almost austere with turquoise walls and white linen covered tables. But the dishes that arrive on your table are mind-blowing.
A Caesar’s salad has 22 different ingredients that you are challenged to guess. Parmesan cheese is cooked five ways before it is laid out on a plate, looking like a heavenly crown. Pasta is cooked with bone marrow, not butter. What looks like veal is actually beef made oh-so-tender with technique. And before dessert: a pre-dessert. Foie gras and balsamic vinegar made into a lollipop covered with almonds.
A truly unbelievable and unforgettable meal.
Because we Filipinos of strong Catholic faith can’t visit Italy without a trip to the Vatican, here are some of our favorites in Rome:
For pizza, go to Rosa Rosa. This is outside of the city center and is patronized by locals. We were shocked to find that each person here eats an entire pizza! Whether he be the 200-pound guy or the 80-year old grandmother (there was a really a 200-pound man and an 80-year old grandmother on my visit), they each have not just a slice but an entire pizza. Order the Cappricciosa, which has mushrooms, artichoke, black olives and prosciutto. Delizioso!
Alternatively, you can check out Pizzarium, highly recommended by Bon Appetit. Its pizzas are super thick that they are almost like sandwiches! However, this place is only for take-out pizzas so it’s not ideal for a real meal.
For gelato, we found this shop really near the Vatican called Old Bridge Gelateria. It is uhhh-mazing! So creamy, so dense with flavor, that even if it was winter, we just had to have it!
For pastas and steaks, head over to Trastevere where there are rows and rows of restaurants. At Cajo e Gajo, try the crispy artichoke that is served like a flower and you are made to pick off each crispy petal.
For the best bistecca, check out the discovery of Ambassador to the Vatican Mercy Tuason: Antonio’s near the Spanish steps.
Then come home and begin your no-carb diet because you will surely gain weight in Italia!
Florence: La Giostra
This is a Michelin-recommended restaurant that is very affordable. It gives a welcome Prosecco and samplers on the house. Make sure to order the pear ravioli, which is the perfect balance of sweet and savory. The spinach ravioli is very good, too! The restaurant is lit only by candles—how romantic!
Milan in Manila
If you don’t have time to travel, not to worry. I just found out that Bacchus over at Rockwell and Alabang brings in some rare items: De Cecco pasta for pasta that is beautifully al dente because its wheat quality is very good; Aquarello risotto to have a real Milanese-style risotto; Citterio for real salami Milano; and Gallion, the best prosciutto from Parma. Then enroll at Casa Artusi in Pasong Tamo for pasta-making lessons.
No, that food trip doesn’t have to be too far away!
ADI Hotel Poliziano Feria, Via Poliziano, 11, 20154 Milano, Italy. Book via Agoda.com.
Osteria Francescana-L’osteria di Massimo Bottura, Via Stella, 22, 41121 Modena MO, Italy. osteriafrancescana.it.
Bacchus Epicerie, Rockwell and Commercenter Alabang, East Asia Drive, Muntinlupa
Casa Artusi Philippines at The Commissary at White Space. 2314 Chino Roces Ave. Ext., former Pasong Tamo Ext. 7290030. E-mail [email protected] Visit casaartusiphilippines.com.
For details on restaurants in Italy, visit margauxlicious.com. Follow the author @margauxsalcedo on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.
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