14 Days in Italy

While the Foodies were able to keep up with the blog during the first couple of days of our Italy trip, we became too busy enjoying Italy, and some amazing food, to keep up.

Two of the highlights have already been mentioned: the Rare Roast Beef with Infused Flavors of the Mediterranean with Salad from Ristorante Algabbiano on the shore near St Mark’s Square; and Mandy Stanton’s Deconstructed Paella. (See the last two days’ entries.)

But honestly, we did not have a bad meal the entire trip. Mandy prepared a feast for every breakfast with Prosciutto, Parmesan or other cheeses, fresh fruit and a different preparation of eggs every morning. We ate well. Even our “after site seeing, before dinner” snacks were extraordinary.

Mandy and an afternoon snack.

Everything was shopped locally, or surprisingly, at an AutoGrill. Host Chuck Fazio (Chuck@ChuckFazio.com) had effused about the “truck stop” AutoGrills and rightly so. They were amazing. We had some excellent meals from there. For example, Brie and Prosciutto in one and Bresaola, Parmigiano Reggiano, with Salad. (Bresaola is a cured Beef similar to Prosciutto.) The wine selection at an AutoGrill is usually better than most small Liquor stores! Plus comically oversize packs of everything from Chips to Popcorn to Lollypops! They are very unlike any truck stop you’ve been to in the USA.

We were surprised to find that, as well as more traditional Pizza, there was a lot of unexpected combinations to be found, even with Pioneer Woman-style Arugula on top. We definitely enjoyed some non-traditional examples, including a Seafood Pizza that included both Clams and Mussels in their shells!

On Burano (near Venice) we shared two seafood platters – one grilled, one fried – that perfectly hit the mark between being a light meal, having variety and being full of flavor. One of the better waitstaff recommendations.

The grilled platter- we’d just started to attack it.

Upon arrival at our Farmhouse in Campora (near Parma) we enjoyed a table laden with local Parmesan, Prosciutto and wine, along with a Potato Torte and Prosciutto Wrapped Melon that we very much enjoyed in the most amazing surrounding.

A perfect location to enjoy a selection of excellent local produce.

During our stay there, we visited a local Parmesan Factory run by two cheesemakers making six Parmesan Wheels a day, every day of the year. We had special dispensation to dine at a local ‘members only’ club where the Foodies enjoyed authentic dishes including Rabbit.

At the family run Prosciutto factory, we learnt that there were only five members processing a couple of dozen Ham Legs a day, but there was hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of aging Prosciutto at different stages during the process. Some of the best food we had were the simple Prosciutto sandwich they served us at the end of the tour, with Prosecco of course! Both Bread and Prosciutto were excellent.

The family processing the day’s delivery of Ham into young Prosciutto.

Mandy continued to cook amazing meals, and this pasta dish was heavy with Bacon, Salami and Mushrooms, but also memorable because we enjoyed it on the terrace of our 10 bedroom Villa overlooking Florence, even looking down at the runway for Florence airport.

While touring the Tuscan countryside, Chuck guided us to a roadside Burger Truck, where we had a luscious, juicy Burger, with Red Wine Caramelized Onions, and an interesting Aoli.

Chuck Fazio’s photo of our group and our burger cook.

While in Florence we celebrated Chuck’s birthday at Trattoria I Ricchi, and the restaurant had an excellent Steak with Truffle on a bed of Arugula, that Foodie Philip and Foodie Greg was envious of, as he chose the same Steak, but with roast vegetables.

The dish was very generously covered with shaved Truffle!

The next night we celebrated the birthday of another of our travel companions at Lo Streetoio, where the Foodies both had a very excellent Duck Breast as their main course, while Foodie Philip had an okay Steak Tartar, that needed more seasoning.

The sauce was rich and complemented the Duck exceptionally well.

On the road from Florence to the Amalfi Coast for our next adventure, we stopped at another Chuck’s recommendation- a roadside Porchetta Truck. The bread was crusty and tasty and the Porchetta filling balanced the flavor of the Pork perfectly with the seasoning of the Porchetta.

Our Porchetta Sandwiches are on the way,

The final noteworthy meal was on our final ‘real’ night on our way back from a most enjoyable day on Capri. We stopped in Sorrento after our boat dropped us off, and the Foodie chose the Black Pork from the menu at La Cazzarola Trattoria. Having assured ourselves that it was the Pig, not the meat, that was black, we ordered. (In Italian, there is not the distinction between the live animal and the meat.)

The Pork was the best we’ve had! Cooked perfectly the Pork was flavorsome and moist in a way it rarely is in the USA. The “Black” Pig is a heritage breed, from before it became “the other white meat,” so the meat is marbled with fat which moistens it as you eat.

A not-very-good photo of a very excellent piece of Pork, served with Prosciutto.

When every meal is excellent, these are the stand outs from our two week trip. And if you’re thinking of going to Italy take Chuck’s advice and don’t go in Summer. Take my advice and go with Chuck’s Italy. Chuck can be contacted at Chuck@ChuckFazio.com. It is our best vacation ever.

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