Sorry for those who have had to wait so long for this itinerary, but here it is: our first dive into the north of Italy, the south of France, and a week long stay in the Marais in Paris.
My lovely Dave, who managed to look Italian in Italy, then French in France. I’m pretty sure he could easily do Spain and Mexico with a little bit more stubble 🙂
Roman pizza and Campari
Our original plan to have a few days on an island a few hours from Bangkok was foiled by riots in the city centre, so instead we just broke our flight at the Novotel Bangkok, had a shower and a Thai massage and continued straight on to Rome. We stayed near the Piazza di Spagna (Spanish steps) at the Frattina Terrace, a little B&B which is only open during the month of May. We were five floors up, and as the lift was broken we worked off our pasta on the stairs.
It took us a few nights to find a decent place for dinner, as we were a bit jet-lagged and slept through most dinner times stumbling out at 9 or 10pm for a little bite, but on our fourth and final night we were determined to eat a proper dinner at a tucked away Italian eatery, so we stopped at the wine bar on via Frattina for olives and a glass of wine to fortify ourselves before we stumbled on a delicious and authentic restaurant called Settimio All’Arancio, on via dell’Arancio just a few blocks from our place on via Frattina. The dish above is baby octopus in a delicious sauce.
You can visit their website at settimioallarancio.com
After purchasing some leather gloves and hiring an Alfa Romeo, we were all set to tackle the Italian countryside, Italian roads however, another story. Dave, to his credit managed to steer us safely through, and though we did think Italian drivers slightly mad with the speed at which they took corners, they also had the skills to back it up.
On we went to Greve in Chianti where we stayed at an agriturismo, visited a wine museum, found the most delicious smelling shop for lovers of prosciutto and a sweet little restaurant we loved so much we ate there two nights in a row.
Terre di Baccio, an agriturismo with an outdoor courtyard, vineyards and just down the road from the wine museum.
The Museo del Vino at Greve in Chianti, you can visit the website at museovino.it
I never wanted to leave Antica Macelleria Falorni, the norcineria (butcher) in Greve in Chianti, the most wonderful house of prosciutto I have ever come across.
I have been transported back here by a piece of pungent pancetta that I recently cooked with, amazing how powerful and emotive smell is.
Nerbone is worth a visit, the regional dish of calves hoof was richly savoury, gelatinous and wonderfully rich, I’ve never had a dish quite like it.
Our favourite agriturismo called I due Ghiri (the 2 mice) was in La Spezia, about 40 minutes drive from the Cinque Terre, set in the mountains on a farm. Behind our room were some lovely sheep grazing on the side of the mountain and at the start of the driveway some well cared for chickens. We ate Gaia’s delicious regional cooking with Gaia and Stefano and a few other guests.
A day trip to the Cinque Terre. We parked in Monterosso and had lunch and then took the train down to Riomaggiore.
The local seafood was fresh and tasty
Our next destination was La Morra in the Piedmonte region in the north of Italy near Torino. We stayed at a small winery that made beautiful Barolo wine called Cascina Ballerin.
Per Bacco, a popular restaurant in La Morra with wonderful food, a great local wine list and exquisite service.
The seafood plate
After eating the rich carbonaras of Rome, we welcomed a lighter style of food in the north. The reputation is for rich food, but somehow we found a lightness and modern approach that was delicious and refreshing. I would head back to this area in a heartbeat. Every wine we tried was great, even the cheap wine on the menu was wonderful. A new white wine variety I tried was Favorita, a white wine vaguely similar to Sauvignon blanc.
The tomatoes were so flavoursome, little mini romas…
Home made grissini and soft and chewy fresh bread made with olive oil, delicious.
We ate here two nights in a row as well
The view of the French alps from La Morra
A fun night out with four Danish travellers who shared our love of Barolo
The print on this plate reminds me of something from my mother’s wardrobe. The steak tartare was delicious.
Egg linguine with a ragu sauce of three meats was a dish we ate at several restaurants, and we didn’t mind at all.
Here ends our Roman holiday, the next instalment will be from the South of France up to Paris.
Watching an advertisement for Criniti’s while at the movies didn’t make me want to eat there. However, somehow I developed a raging appetite at the hairdresser after many hours of being analysed, foiled, washed, rinsed, treated, massaged, cut, heat protected, blow dried and styled. My hairdresser mentioned a great meal she’d eaten at Criniti’s about a week ago- lots of fresh seafood, a garlicky tomato sauce and bread for dipping. Then her assistant piped in about the 1m long pizza. I was sold, the greedy beast had won. There would be no healthy Friday night salad, who am I kidding, when do I ever feel like salad on a Friday night?
So we went to Criniti’s Parramatta last night. Called to book at 6:15pm and got a table for 8:30pm. Not a worry, had a bottle of McLeish Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot (wedding research) and some washed rind and blue vein cheese at home which was a nice way to spend the time. We found a free parking spot down the road on George St and got there five minutes early and had to wait a few minutes until the table was ready, but were quite happy with this as there were people queuing up outside.
Once we were seated we soaked up the buzzy vibe of Parramatta on a Friday night. Unsure of serving sizes, I went for an entree size of the Zuppa di Pesce, a thick seafood ‘soup’ of large scampi, prawns, vongole, scallops, crab and calamari in a rich tomato sauce with two slices of fresh white bread on the side. This is definitely not first date food. I am a big fan of seafood served in the shell, and have no problem getting in there with fingers, teeth, whatever, to get at the luscious tender meat, but others may think this too messy for eating out. I was worried about splashing tomato sauce on my new scarf so had to make a bib of my napkin. Sounds attractive no? A Chinotto was perfect with the food.
Dave had Fettucine Boscaiola, also entree size. It was tastier than your average Boscaiola, but not bursting with flavour. A nice, comforting, creamy dish if that’s what you’re in the mood for. It didn’t leave much room for pizza to follow so we had leftovers for lunch the next day.
I’m looking forward to trying the gelato for dessert next time, and am thinking this is the best pizza crust I’ve found west of Haberfield. A crisp but tender thin base with a little extra thickness at the edge and the distinct aroma of the woodfired oven. Addictive.
Recently, Crust Parramatta has been getting regular business from me, and now their only edge over Criniti’s pizza is that they deliver!
291 Church St, Parramatta
A few weeks ago we went to Filicudi, an Italian restaurant that came highly recommended by a colleague. So highly recommended in fact that discussion of my future firstborn arose. Don’t worry I didn’t promise anything.
Fiore di Zucchini. These were beautiful and cheesy, but starting with garlic bread and then these was not really a good plan considering we ended up having three courses.
Gnocchi Ragu- tender succulent gnocchi with a simple sauce studded with meat chunks.
Penne Granchi (blue swimmer crab in a ‘pink’ sauce is how this dish was described). This was probably my favourite dish, it absolutely tests the love in your relationship- if you’re willing to share this one then you know you’re on to a good thing.
Costolette d’Agnello. Marinaded lamb cutlets (garlic, rosemary and olive oil?) grilled to the customer’s liking (medium to medium-rare) on a bed of soft polenta that was neither dry nor bland.
Baileys Creme Brulee. With enough Baileys added to the mix so that you can actually taste it. The top was satisfyingly hard and shattered on a firm whack of the spoon.
Written up on the specials board quite simply as ‘Mascarpone’. Described by the waiter as a house special, it was magnificent, a rich, creamy, liqueur-laden tiramisu. I want to go back and try the Pere Filicudi- poached pears.
I also think the pizzas are worth trying as we saw several people walk past, arms laden with pizza boxes looking quite pleased with themselves.
BYO is accepted, and for $2 per person is fantastically reasonable.
11 Ramsay Rd, Fivedock
I have been missing my basil plant. It was the first to go after the weather turned cold a few months ago. The sage is still going strong but even the rosemary is starting to dry up. Looking at some photos from a few months ago I came a cross some pics of pizza that I made in my oven, topped with fresh basil. Yum.
Prosciutto, mushroom and olive
Tomato, ricotta and basil
(I would normally use mozzarella, but happened to have some very fresh ricotta in the fridge so used that instead)
1 1/2 teaspoons active dried yeast
1/2 tsp caster sugar
3 cups plain white flour, or strong ‘pizza/bread’ flour is even better
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra
1. Combine yeast and sugar in a bowl. Pour in 1/4 cup warm water, quickly stir and cover. Between 30 and 40C (90-100F), it should feel warm but not hot or it will kill the yeast and it won’t rise. Leave in a warm place for 10 minutes until the mixture is bubbling and frothy. If not, discard and repeat.
2. Put flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Add 1 cup warm water, yeast mixture and olive oil. Using your hands, stir until a dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, adding a little extra flour if dough is sticky, until smooth and elastic. Do not add too much extra flour or dough will be tough. Place in an oiled bowl, turning to coat in oil, then cover with plastic wrap and leave in a draught-free place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.They will sit happily for a few hours if need be.
3. Pre heat the oven to 220C (430F) and also preheat two or 3 baking trays. Divide the dough into 2 or 3 balls, depending on the size of your trays and how thin you like your pizza. Roll out and flatten on sheets of baking paper, remembering that the dough will rise considerably.
4. Spread pizza bases with passata and whatever toppings you like, a little grated mozzarella on top is always nice too. Slide baking paper sheets carefully onto hot trays and pop back quickly into the oven. Bake 15-20 minutes or until the base is cooked and the top is crisp.
N.B. If you don’t roll the pizza bases out thin enough, the top will burn before the base is cooked.