Up Your Romantic Dinner Game at Terrazza Brunella – Capri, Italy

Image via terrazzabrunella.com

Image via terrazzabrunella.com

Walk the Bougainvillea lined streets of Capri to Terrazza Brunella sitting atop a cliff overlooking the Marina Piccola. This really is one of the most romantic restaurants with a break taking view. Fresh caught fish and produce grown right there in Capri fill the menu. Try the branzino fish and octopus carpaccio. Friendly service and comfortable atmosphere, reservations recommended.

You must check out the view, here!

Terrazza Brunella View Terrazza Brunella Capri Bougainvillea Continue reading

Great Italian in Berlin|Mädchenitaliener in Mitte

Mädchenitaliener Chalkboard

Image via Mädchenitaliener Facebook

Image via Mädchenitaliener Facebook

Mitte is a bustling neighborhood in Berlin full of bars, restaurants and close to attractions like Alexanderplatz, Brandenburger Tor and museums. Schönhauser Strasse is a wonderful street with boutiques and cafes with a cozy Italian corner restaurant called Mädchenitaliener.

We happened upon Mädchenitaliener before going to see the Eisbären Berlin play (Berlin’s professional hockey team). The space is cozy and intimate with big round twinkling lights, chalkboard menus and photos with a chrome filter lining the walls. The menu is Continue reading

Italian Food Lover’s Dream – Ciao, Eataly Chicago!

Eataly Chicago Cheese Counter

Mario Batali’s Eataly opened on Monday and is basically Disneyland for foodies. Remember when Whole Foods opened up their store in Lincoln Park and you felt like you could spend hours in there? Well this feels like Whole Food times ten. Two levels full of all the groceries, wine, food, cookbooks and kitchenware you could ever want. Add to that a Nutella bar, wine bar, brew pub, eight restaurants and nine cafes and you can see how easy it is to feel like you could spend days inside this Italian wonderland.

Eataly Chicago 2nd Floor EntranceEataly Chicago Bull

Come along with me on my trip to Eataly –> https://videos.tastemade.com/v/kDP1RePwR0KTHT9XCQbnlQ

You are not going to see, do, eat, buy everything you want in one trip so look at Eataly as a multi trip destination. Each of the restaurants and cafes are categorized by the type of food it focuses on, bread, fish, meat etc. Here’s the restaurant round-up from their website: Continue reading

Rustic Italian at Balena – Lincoln Park, Chicago

Balena Dining Room

From the moment we walked in Balena it was perfect. The high ceiling with wood beams and big round lights give Balena an open and warm feel. Decor elements like the custom leather bar, wood block floor, old-timey cabinets, cutting board style tables, red leather folding chairs and Italian tile in greens blues and cream give Balena a rustic Italian feel.

My favorite design element was the fragments of neon lights covering the north wall of the main dining room. Bright yellow neon over faint writing against the cream-colored wall. Wondering what the story was behind it I asked the hostess and she let me know it spelled out “Fra Mani” meaning between the hands (more or less). This was reference to the homemade pasta and to give a retro Italian movie theater feel to the restaurant.

Check out my bite-sized, one-minute episode to get a peek inside!

Balena Fra Mani NeonBalena Table

The attention to detail extends to the menu where Chef Chris Pandel (named Chef of the Year in the 2012 Eater Awards) offers a bread program, bitters mixology and homemade pasta.

Bitters mixolgy you say? “…exploration of amaro and the bitters from countries surrounding Italy as the basis of our mixology.” The drinks are numbered one through ten based on the level of bitter. My Manlino no3 (Aperol, Bombay, fresh sour, soda) was delicious and refreshing.

Balena Manlino no3

Our server Garren provided excellent service, always there when we needed her but never hovering. With only two people we could not order everything we wanted so she helped us narrow it down. She suggested a wine to accompany the lamb pappardelle and I. Fell.In.Love.  I enjoy wine but I rarely “love” it and so when I mentioned it to Garren she wrote the name down for me. She also told me about an app called Delectable that tells you where you can buy the wine. All you have to do is take a picture of the label and they will  let you know where you can buy it. My new love is a fruit forward Fratelli Revello Barbera d’Alba 2012 and available online.

The cured meat plate was three salami’s with distinct flavors and served with some that famous bread program bread. The meat-eater in the party liked the salami but was really impressed with the bread and subsequently ate it all before I got to try it. That’s saying something because he usually leaves the bread and focuses on the meat.

Balena Cured Meat

Cured Meat: Gin & Juice with Orange, Stagberry & Blueberry, Red Wine & Garlic

I ordered the Tuscan KaleCaesar Salad” with tonnato, sardines, and croutons. I called this the “Never Ending Kale Salad” because although I kept eating and eating it appeared I didn’t make a dent. This is a very well done take on Caesar salad with lemon tang in the dressing, real chunks of sardines and crispy croutons. Great dish to share.

Balena Tuscan Kale Caesar

My favorite dish of the night: Pappardelle, Lamb Sugo, Castelveltrano, Orange, Pecorino di Fossa. The dish was surprisingly light and the star was the pasta itself. The pappardelle was cooked al dente and absorbed the flavors beautifully.  I’m having a moment with Castelveltrano olives so this just added to my enjoyment of the dish.

Balena Pappardelle

The Canestri, Pork Ragu and Porcini mushrooms was a heartier dish given the richness of the ragu and mushrooms. It’s the perfect winter pasta.

Balena Canestri Pork Ragu

Making room for dessert we had the Vanilla Gelato Sundae , Chocolate Chip Cookie, Malt Chocolate Sauce, “Toasted Milk”. No picture of this but you can see this delicious dessert in my video.

My next trip here will include at least one of their pizzas! Balena is across from Steppenwolf Theater and next to The Royal George Theater  so they are great for pre theater dining.

Tasting Life @ Mamma Maria – North End, Boston

Momma Maria Entrance

Located on a quaint cobblestone street just steps from Paul Revere‘s house sits the exceptional Italian restaurant Mamma Maria. With so many Italian restaurants in the North End Mamma Maria is truly a standout with its excellent service, locally sourced food and amazing city views. It should be on everyone’s list to try.

The restaurant itself is a beautiful house with five separate rooms great for a date or special occasion. We sat in a cute porch with mural on the walls full of birds and flowers on pastels and tapped our toes along with the 20s and 30s big band music.

Mamma Maria Porch Continue reading

Coming Home to the Mission and Delfina – San Francisco, CA

Delfina Sign

I wrote about my celebration weekend in San Francisco earlier this month and wanted to follow-up with my trip to Delfina. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Delfina. I’ve been on dates there, had heart-to-hearts with friends, and celebrated many occasions. Each time it has always felt like I was coming home to a comfortable and warm place with the best meals.  I think the last time I was at Delfina was in 2006 (I believe it’s been open since 1999!) and it was much as I remembered, crowded with good energy but this time around minus the tattoo heavy staff. Continue reading

Davanti Enoteca – University Village

It’s good to be back in Chicago after a trip abroad; however, the jet leg is not treating me well. I want to go to bed at 5pm but will myself to stay awake, go to bed at a reasonable hour only to wake up at 2:30am. Hoping to be back on a regular sleeping schedule soon. I will be posting a series of food and travel blogs from my trip in the next few weeks but wanted to give my Chicago peeps something local in the meantime.

I don’t get down to University Village very often but wanted to go to Davanti Enoteca. Getting there early on a Wednesday night assured a seat right away. I would describe the interior as rustic, quaint and cozy. Perfect for a date but also great for dinner with friends.

Continue reading

36 Hours In NYC – Gotham Bar & Grill, The High Line and More!

If you can swing it, last-minute travel can be the way to go when exploring a city like New York.  I had a weekend free and wanted to get out-of-town, have good weather, eat some great food, stay in a hotel with a nice view and celebrate an anniversary, oh and not spend a million dollars on a plane ticket.  I know, a pipe dream.

However, you can find great deals by booking hotel and flight together at the last-minute (I used Expedia). We were even offered a hotel upgrade upon arrival. Now we could focus on eating and shopping. The next thing was to find a restaurant that had an open table on a Friday night at decent time with a couple of days notice. Fortunately for me I was able to reach out to an old friend that hooked me up with an 8pm reservation at Gotham Bar and Grill.

After checking out our lovely room view (support beam in the way but 2 sides of the room were wall to ceiling windows) we headed to Gotham Bar and Grill.

Located in Greenwich VillageGotham Bar and Grill is the perfect place to go for Continue reading