Ostaria al Garanghelo (Venice, Italy)

After touring the St. Mark’s Basilica we decided to grab a quick lunch before leaving Venice. We randomly picked Ostaria al Garanghelo. We ordered some grilled vegetables, a cheese pizza and spaghetti alla vongole (clams). The veggies were simple and fresh. The pizza reminded me of a NY style cheese pizza. The spaghetti alla vongole was absolute perfection! Everything about this dish was perfect. The al dente pasta, the tasty little clams, just a hint of garlic, perfect seasoning, I contemplated ordering another because it was that good. However, common sense prevailed and I left Ostaria al Garanghelo satisfied, but not stuffed.
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Osteria al Pesador (Venice, Italy)

Finding Venetian food in Venice is not as easy as one would think. Most of the restaurants around the Grand Canal area are catering to tourists by offering up Italian greatest hits type dishes like pasta Bolognese and pizza. We took a boat tour of Venice and our tour guide Claudia recommended Osteria al Pesador for true Venetian fare. We started the meal with a spritz, which is an aperitif made with Prosecco, Aperol and club soda. To start my wife ordered the orecchiette pasta with tuna and tomatoes. I ordered the bigoli pasta with anchovy and onion sauce. My wife’s pasta was delicious with good quality tuna and a tasty tomato sauce. My bigoli pasta was revelatory. It tasted like the best French onion soup you ever had combined with the best anchovies you ever had. The pasta was al dente and there was just enough sauce. For our mains, my wife got the salt cod Venetian style and I ordered the cuttlefish cooked in its own ink. Both were served with polenta. My wife’s salt cod was delicious. The salt cod was cooked in a light tomato sauce. My cuttlefish was delicious. The cuttlefish was tender and the ink sauce was nice and briny. The polenta was made without cheese or butter, but went perfect with the ocean flavors of both dishes. To drink I had some Pinot Grigio, which is synonymous with the Veneto region. Overall Osteria al Pesador was a great introduction to Venetian cuisine.
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World’s most expensive coffee and cookies at Florian Cafe (Venice, Italy)

After a gondola ride (worth it) and walking around the labyrinth that is Venice, we decided to grab a cup of coffee. We wanted to sit outside to drink our coffee, so we ended up at Florian Cafe at St. Mark’s Square. We ordered two cafe latte and the Venetian cookie platter. The coffee was good. There was also a band playing Cuban classics like Quizas, Quizas, Quizas. Our bill came to 40 euros (about $43 US). You can’t beat the location though. By the way, they charge you an additional 6 euro per person when the band is performing.
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Yellow Bar (Florence, Italy)

Our cab driver Luca, who drove us from the Florence airport to the small town of Certaldo recommended Yellow Bar to us. He told us he liked to take his family here for the wood fired pizzas and the simple pastas. He also told me I had to order the Crostini Toscano (chicken liver crostini). We started with the Crostini Toscano. The chopped chicken liver was served separately from the lightly toasted crostini. The chicken liver was amazing! It was garlicky, savory and had a nice kick of vinegar. Hands down the best chicken liver I’ve ever eaten. Next we got the gnocchi in a creamy tomato sauce and the spaghetti carbonara. The gnocchi were nice and light, with a delicious creamy tomato sauce. The carbonara, though not the traditional version was delicious with lots of guaciale and al dente pasta. Our last item was a pizza margherita. This was a straight forward pizza with some nice char from the wood burning oven. We washed everything down with some Prosecco. Overall a nice place to eat in Florence.
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Ristorante L’ Antica Fonte (Certaldo, Italy)

Looking for a true Tuscan food experience we decided to have dinner at Ristorante L’Antica Fonte here in Certaldo. The restaurant is located in Certaldo Alto which is up a large hill from the square. There are two ways up the hill, by stairs or by cable car lift. We chose the lift. We sat on the restaurant’s outdoor patio with a beautiful view of the Tuscan hills. To start we ordered the charcuterie plate which was composed of local salumi, a couple of local cheeses, red onion jam and grilled bread. The salumi was out of this world. Each cured meat had it’s own distinct flavor and seasoning. We washed it down with a glass of Spumante. Next came the pasta course. My wife ordered the ricotta & zucchini blossom ravioli with saffron sauce and I got the gnocchetti with red wine braised radicchio and a zucchini-Gorgonzola sauce. The gnocchettti were amazing! They were light and flavorful with a nice bitterness from the radicchio and rich creaminess from the sauce. For our main we ordered the Bisctecca alla Fiorentina and a side of cannellini beans. To drink we ordered a half bottle of Brunello di Montalcino. Bisctecca alla Fiorentina is a grilled 1.1 kg Chianina beef T-bone steak seasoned with olive oil and sea salt and served rare. This was simplicity at it’s best. By far the best steak I have ever tasted. The beans added some needed starchy earthiness to the meal. After devouring the entire steak, we decided to share a panna cotta with strawberries for dessert. The panna cotta was light and creamy and the strawberries were ripe and sweet. An amazing meal in an even more amazing setting.imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage