Italy’s Dirty Little (Dining) Secret
I’m going to tell you a dirty little secret about dining out in Italy.
Chances are you’re going to have an overpriced, uninspired and completely blah meal.
Sorry to break it to you. I’m basing this on the blah, uninspired meals I had the misfortune of experiencing in Venice, Siena and Cinque Terre.
This is what happens: Italian cuisine is supposed to be this fresh, rich, titillating experience. And it totally can be.
But all those great cities you’re exploring? Well, they’re filled with tourists like me and you. And all these absolutely mediocre restaurants pop up, churning out meals that taste almost as good as your airplane entree, and cost you an arm and a leg.
Yes. You can avoid these traps (e.g., stay away from restaurants with “we accept credit cards” signs and restaurants boasting that its menu is translated into 6 or more languages), but even these strategies aren’t always fool proof.
Our first night in Italy we had an awful meal and vowed to not let it happen again. (It did, but only one more time on our 2 week trip).
How did we find good food?
We ate at a place owned by an American.
An Italian American, but still.
Our hotelier in Florence told us about this new “food court” that had opened up just months ago that we should try. My first thought was Sbarro, but we showed up and it was Eataly.
As in Mario Batali’s Eataly.
Being brand new to Florence (and just the fact that Eataly’s concept rocks), the place was filled with locals. Not tourists. Good sign number 1.
Good sign number 2 was the chefs made food right in front of you with fresh ingredients right there (and not a microwave in sight!).
So we ate there. For lunch. For dinner. And lunch #2. Dinner #2.
And it was glorious.
We had margherita pizza. Pasta with seafood. A whole fish cooked in the skillet right in front of us. We ate like kings. Like Italian doges.
And we just gobbled up the irony.