L'Artusi may be an oldie but definitely a goodie

Some people say NYC has some of the best Italian food they've ever had. I've had my fair share of Italian in the city and while some places do stand out (Osteria Morini and Dinnertable) many of them don't. When I heard about L'Artusi I didn't think twice about it- yes it is Italian and it should be ok, I thought. That was until I sat down at the chef's table and watched the concentration in which the chefs and sous chefs were making these dishes. They had an entire cheese counter just for plating cheeses- the garnishes, oil, truffle and sea salt were placed neatly in a row for the chefs. That alone is a sign of a restaurant that knows what they are doing. Sadly I forgot to capture my cheese plate because I devoured it however, I can certainly tell you about it. We ordered La Tur (soft goat, sheep, cow milk) with baked coconut chips. It was served with sweet and savory parmesan crackers. The combination which I would have never put together opened up an entire new palate in my mouth. We later recreated this cheese plate at home because it is the type of dish that stays on your mind. Our pastas were incredible and the desserts are made to finish the night on the perfect note. There is a reason why L'Artusi is a staple in New York's Italian food scene and I am happy to now know why.

Gnocchi, rabbit, basil, tomato, parmasean

Gnocchi, rabbit, basil, tomato, parmasean

Usually gnocchi deflates or is too starchy but mine was definitely boiled at the right temperature and seared just enough to get the brown butter flavor. The rabbit ragu will remind you of veal but, the taste is definitely richer.

Linguine nero, rock shrimp, chilies, breadcrumbs

Linguine nero, rock shrimp, chilies, breadcrumbs

The Linguine Nero with rock shrimp, breadcrumbs and chilies are every squid ink lover's dream (hint: me). Squid ink can be heavy and the breadcrumbs definitely help break that consistency and brings a nice flavor change to the dish. The garlic, chilies and shrimp were deliciously marinated and present throughout the dish. Squid ink may always be a winner but it definitely did not outshine the other components on the dish this time which I was very grateful for.

Olive oil cake, raisins, creme fraiche, vin santo

Olive oil cake, raisins, creme fraiche, vin santo

The olive oil cake with raisins and creme fraiche mousse was heavenly. The cheese and pasta can wear you down but this dish will lift you back up. The cake is moist and the mousse is light. The raisins go very well with the mousse and the cake. Take a spoonful of each for the perfect bite.

Favorites?

Every single item was amazing here. Be adventurous and try a pasta with ingredients you may have never tried before.  The desserts are not to be missed as well. We were tempted to order the panna cotta but, the olive oil cake was screaming my name.  You are in good hands at L'Artusi.

Made in Milan

Compared to Rome and Florence, Milan is one of the more industrialized cities in Italy. I find that people often struggle to say what there is to do in the city except to see the gorgeous Duomo and explore the European capital of fashion (the world's first Prada store and the Gucci flagship store). But the food scene in Italy's New York is worth the trip alone. In fact my favorite meal in Italy was in Milan at a restaurant called, Contraste (expect a sole review for the place soon). From sushi to chocolate beignets to beef donuts, Milan has it all.

1. Taglio- I was so lucky that Taglio was right across from where I stayed in Milan. This great cafe/restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, aperitivo and dinner. If you don't have time to sit down for a meal here grab an espresso and a croissant and be on your merry way. Below is mussel risotto with asparagus topped with black pepper and a ginormous chocolate beignet. The beignet is as chocolatey as it looks so you better have a sweet tooth. 

Mussel risotto with asparagus topped with black pepper

Mussel risotto with asparagus topped with black pepper

Chocolate beignet

Chocolate beignet

2. Pigato- Pigato is a cocktail bar along the side of the canals in the Navigli district (which is my favorite area in Milan). Cocktails come with mini sandwiches, quiches, cheeses and charcuterie. The snacks can really serve as an appetizer before you go out for dinner. Be sure to check out Mag Cafe next door for witty cocktails also. 

3. Temakhino- In the mood for Brazilian Japense sushi? Well you should be because it's delicious. Sushi prices here are pricier than in NY but one roll includes 8 pieces. Below is a variety of tuna and salmon sushi. They always give you a little bit more on the top! 

4. Contraste- I am so excited to introduce you guys to Contraste because it was my favorite restaurant in ALL of Italy. We did the tasting menu at Contraste and it encompassed the best tastes of Italy- the soft cheeses, gnocchi, beef and gelato. It was difficult to choose which courses to show a sneak preview of but, the beef ragu donut and tangerine cream chocolate dessert is a good start. 

Savory beef ragu donut

Savory beef ragu donut

Citrus tasting- Sweet orange cream in a tangerine  shaped sugar shell with chocolate and vanilla gelato. 

Citrus tasting- Sweet orange cream in a tangerine  shaped sugar shell with chocolate and vanilla gelato. 

Foodie in Florence

I'm very excited to share with you the foods I ate in Florence because it is a foodie's paradise. Unlike Rome, I found Florence to have better options for example, bigger steaks (yes the Florentine steak), superior gelato and great wines. Below are some of my favorite dishes!

1. Carapina- I am willing to declare this as the best gelato in Italy. The peach and three cheese Italian gelato is unlike anything you will ever taste. 

2. Gucci Museo Caffé- You should definitely check out the Gucci Museo which holds decades worth of Gucci's signature travel luggage to his modern day gowns. However before you go up make sure to check out the museum's cafe. They have a delicious coffee shakerato, this delicious apple turnover with cream (pictured below) and it's all decked out in Gucci. 

3. Le Volpi e L'Uva - Wine, cheese and meat plates is what Le Volpi e L'Uva specializes in and they have excelled in their craft. We had delicious full bodied red wines, a generous selection of semi and soft cheeses, unlimited bread and a great tomato and olive side salad. I am drooling just thinking of this meal.

4. 4 Leoni- You HAVE to eat a proper Florentine steak when you're in Florence. It is rich, cooked more on the rare side and giant. The sides are also worthy of praise. We had some delicious tomato bean cake to pair with the steak which added a nice acidity to the meal. 

Florentine steak

Florentine steak

Tomato bean cake 

Tomato bean cake 

5. Mercato Centrale- Mercato Centrale is the best place to taste many foods in one place. It will remind you a lot of Chelsea Market but in my opinion Mercato Centrale offers more variety and has a better price. During the day time you only the first floor of the market is open and you'll find panini shops, pizza stalls and other lunch time vendors. At night they close the first floor and open the second floor where you can access bars, different restaurants than the day time shops and plethora of seating space. If I lived in Florence I could hang here with my friends A LOT. I was lucky enough to go to the market during the night and day and tried two different restaurants. The margarita pizza was from the evening and the risotto was from Nerbone during lunch time. The risotto is some of the best I've ever had in my life. The freshly grated parmesann cheese was also a great touch.

Risotto from Nerbone

Risotto from Nerbone

6. Golden View Open Bar- This cafe was right by our Florence apartment and we would frequently have breakfast there. I highly recommend getting the cappuccino there. They also have a nice selection of delicious pastries which are well portioned for a quick bite. 

7. Vivoli- Many people regard Vivoli as one of the best gelato places in Florence. While it is delicious and I think you should try it because you may think differently, I still think Carapina takes the prize on best gelato. 

8. Il Santo Bevitore- You'll eat plenty of authentic Tuscan food in Florence but if you're looking for modern Italian cuisine then this is your place. Il Santo Bevitore cooks traditional Italian food with a more modern flair- think oyster mushrooms and fried foie gras. Below is their duck confit which was a definite highlight of dinner!

9. Cantina del Gelato- On the Oltrarno side is the second best gelato place in Florence. Pictured below is salted caramel and pistachio gelato. Notice how generous the portion looks? That's not the zoom on my camera. For 2 euros you can get the same!  

10. Amblé- How I wish Amblé was in New York! This great cafe serves delicious coffee shakerato, sandwiches and pastries. They're what every Instagrammer dreams of. Side note: There is an amazing high end vintage shop next door to this place called Marie Antoinette Firenze.

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11. Carmen- On the night before leaving Florence I wanted to eat Italian food that was not too Italian. Does that make sense? Well Carmen serves up exactly what I had pictured in my head. Ravioli with porcini and sesame, smoked salmon and avocado crostini and gorgonzola with fig jam crostini was the craving that I didn't even know I had. The ravioli from Carmen is out of this world!

Ravioli with sesame and porcini (mushrooms)

Ravioli with sesame and porcini (mushrooms)

Gorgonzola cheese with fig jam on crostini

Gorgonzola cheese with fig jam on crostini

Smoked salmon with avocado on crostini

Smoked salmon with avocado on crostini

12. Ditta Artigianale- Ditta Artigianale has great coffee grounds, a more Americanized pastry and breakfast selection as well as smoothies! The decor is also very Brooklyn-esque.