Some food experiences in Italy

I hestitate to share my thoughts about the food we have had in Italy when I am “pescatarian,” and mostly vegetarian. Generally, Italy seems very veg-friendly with its pastas and pizzas. I found the choices more limited in Tuscany with its emphasis on wild boar and beef … and limited by my own long-standing aversion to mushrooms. This is mushroom and truffle season, and it seems many non-meat choices feature these fungi! If you like truffles and mushrooms, head to Tuscany in late September/early October.

Despite these limitations, I have eaten well!

Some highlights:

– Tiny sandwiches at Bar Refolo in Venice. Small, whole-grain-looking buns filled with cheese, eggplant, zucchini, and then pressed in the panino grill. Eaten with Prosecco or Campari spritz for lunch.

Tiny sandwiches at Bar Refolo, Venice

Tiny sandwiches at Bar Refolo, Venice

– Peppers stuffed with a savory bread crumb mixture with a slice of grilled scamorza cheese on the side at Da Gignone, Florence.

– Appetizer with anchovies, chickpeas and pesto crostini at Taverna del Grappolo Blu in Montalcino.

Anchovies and chickpeas

Anchovies and chickpeas

– Risotto cooked with wine and a blue sheep’s cheese at La Crociona, Montalcino. This restaurant was on the property of the agriturismo where we happily spent three nights. The night we dined there, we were one of only two couples eating.

– Local honey semifreddo with grappa cream sauce (also at La Crociona). Cold, creamy… and the honey flavor!

Honey semifreddo

Honey semifreddo

– Raw tuna appetizer with a savory relish of teeny pieces of carrots, celery, onion and ??. The tuna was cut into long thick-ish slices that resembled roast beef. (Again, La Crociona)

– Pici (thick, homemade rolled noodles) with pecorino and pepper at Locanda San Antimo in Castelnuovo dell’Abate. This dish looks like plain spaghetti with some cheese, but was richly, deliciously more than a sum of its parts. I ate what seemed like a huge platter full and still made room for a side of cooked spinach, served with lemon and olive oil.  (Stay tuned:  I am attempting to make this at home.)

Pici - cacio e pepe

Pici – cacio e pepe

– Thin slices of smoked swordfish with arugula and local cheese (also at Locanda San Antimo).

Smoked swordfish

Smoked swordfish

– Slices of pizza and plates of veggies at “see your food”  cafeterias outside of Siena and in Rome.

I like "see your food"

I like “see your food”

"See your food"

“See your food”

– Homemade gnocchi with a simple tomato sauce at Il Grottone in Scansano. Unlike the store-made gnocchi I had in Venice, this was the real deal. You could taste the potato in each soft, irregular pillow. This was a casual restaurant that we happened upon during a rain storm, its cave-like interior full of folks enjoying lunch in a warm cozy atmosphere, an elderly couple running the show. We wanted to order pizza and fate intervened when the lady told us pizza was only served in “sera” (evening). Thus, I was forced to try the gnocchi which made me very happy indeed.

– Local cheese assortment with honey at La Cascia in Montemerano (near Saturnia, Tuscany). Five different cheeses, thick local honey, and some liquor-cured dried figs.