Lima claims a galaxy of star-quality restaurants

Consider visiting this intriguing South American country: Its capital, Lima, has been winner for the past two years of World Travel Awards’ Best Culinary Destination. Visitors have long flocked here as a jumping-off point for Machu Picchu and the glories of the Andes. But Lima, today, also draws masses of culinary tourists. It’s Peru’s gastronomic epicenter — and probably a touchstone for food culture throughout Latin America.

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Summer Fancy Food Show celebrates craft, care and joy

North America’s largest celebration of specialty food — now a $109 billion business — just got bigger. What was at one time a simple trade show burst through its Javits Center walls to create the first-ever New York City-wide Specialty Food Week. Five days were filled chock-a-block with activities embracing the Specialty Food Association’s brand: Craft, Care and Joy.

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Grape Expectations

Just the name — table grapes — evokes a group of friends clustered comfortably around a postprandial table nibbling fruit. But for growers, getting these iconic clusters onto your plate is a less relaxed, more Herculean process.Just ask Grapery’s Jack Pandal and Jim Beagle, professional grape breeders, who employ meticulous farming practices and incomprehensible patience. Some varietals take 12 yea rs to meet expectations. Some never do and are abandoned in trial.

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OTM chimes in on Roma Restaurants

OTM has always been puzzled about something .  Ask most Americans their favorite cuisine, and they will answer Italian.  Yet the Michelin Guide ranks only one Restaurant in Rome in its elite tier, 3-Stars.  And this, La Pergola, is in a Luxury Hotel (Hilton) located in a Park outside the center of the old City where visitors will typically spend most of their time, and the Chef (Heinz Beck) is German.  What we have discovered is that with some effort, dining in The Eternal City can be a great experience on a par with other European Capitals.  There is, however, no substitute for doing a bit of research.  For example, Michelin and other sources give high rating to Ristorante il Pagliaccio, https://www.ristoranteilpagliaccio.com/en/, Chef Anthony Genovese combines his experience cooking in France and Asia with Italian sensibility, in an elegantly appointed dining room, to create 3-Star food in a 3-Star space – how do you find?  It’s affiliated with Relais & Chateau, https://www.relaischateaux.com/us/italy/pagliaccio-roma, and great WOM (Word of Mouth).  Best of all it’s a short stroll from Piazza Navona, most visitors’ favorite Roman Piazza.  Steeler Fans will want to know that down a Vicolo (alley) from the piazza they’ll find a Bar devoted to our hometown heroes, La Botticella, where owner Giovanni Poggi makes sure you won’t miss a play, Facebook- La Botticella Roma.

 

A short stroll from the Via Veneto, and the Borghese Gallery, we found Chinappi, http://www.chinappi.it/en/. Dedicated to Seafood. It was previously  located in Formia, a fishing village half way between Rome and Naples – owner Stefano Chinappi decided to move to Rome 10 years ago, but still buys his fish daily from his Brother in law’s Fish Market in his home town of Formia.  With seafood of this pedigree Chinappi was just the  place to enjoy crudo (raw fish), and for Ann to delight in Calamari (Squid) and Polpo (Octopus).  Here’s a typical display of Fresh Seafood available in Rome.

 

In a residential area north of the river, we found Molo 10, http://www.molo10.it/, a great Seafood-focused spot which needed a veteran taxi driver to find.  A hotel concierge confirmed the recommendation we had received for a “traditional-neighborhood-family-owned spot named Al Chepo, http://www.ristorantealceppo.it/, again in a quiet residential area, but less than 10 minutes by taxi.  Both of these were Hotel Concierge suggestions, and both delivered.

Checchino dal 1887, https://www.checchino-dal-1887.com/, in the distinctly “seedy” neighborhood of Testaccio, and adjacent to the City’s old Abattoir, seemed like it might be a “Tourist Trap”, but we had a most enjoyable Sunday lunch, including several dishes featuring Offal – Romans love their “quinto quarto”, non-prime cuts like livers, kidneys, hearts…...  On-line reviews are mixed, but one by Jay Rayner of Britain’s The Guardian, tipped the scale.  This place has been in the same family since its founding, and today two Mariani brothers head front of house and kitchen. respectively.

Travel, Food & Drink Journalists are generally good sources of recommendations (even OTM!).  One such, back over a decade ago, introduced us to Primo al Pigneto, http://www.primoalpigneto.it/en/, in its namesake, now being gentrified, section of the city outside the city walls a short taxi ride from St. John Lateran. 

On a 2016, 10 day Rome visit we were delighted to find that Primo had spawned a new place, Rosti al Pigneto, http://www.rostialpigneto.it/en/,with a large outside dining area, and a menu of updated Roman classics.  It’s also adjacent to a stop on the Metro.  And you guessed it, we dined at both.  We even introduced a Rome-resident friend to Primo, which he didn’t know about.

It was Rome-travel articles which helped us find innovative modern Restaurants. three in particular we consider noteworthy.  Glass Hostaria, https://www.glass-restaurant.it/en/, is notable for being woman owned, also for being a bit out of the way in Trastevere. Cristina Bowerman’s cuisine is both traditional and distinctly modern, some would call it fusion, farm-to-table – we just called it delicious.  Its location is also very lively in the evening, the narrow streets packed with both Romans & visitors.  Don’t be surprised if Cristina’s hair is pink! 

Two other distinctly modern eateries are fully committed to Cucina Moderna, not Cucina Romana.  Coincidentally both begin with M, Metamorfosi  http://www.metamorfosiroma.it/ristorante. and Marzipane, http://www.marzapaneroma.com.   They feature ground-breaking culinary delights in excitingly modern décor.  But Chef Alba Esteve Ruiz at Marzepane noted that when they opened in 2013 they were obliged to serve Carbonara and other Romana favorites.  Metamorfosi’s Colombian born Chef Roy Caceres is more revoutionary – his Carbonara is a total reinvention, no longer Pasta at all. We found both Ms well-suited to a leisurely 2+ hour-long lunch, satisfying enough that we could skip dinner.  A point worth making about Rome dining – locals eat lunch late, 2-2.30 start, and dinner still later – not before 8-8.30.  Not quite as extreme as Spain, but definitely for us requiring an adjustment.

Roscioli, http://www.roscioli.com/, which has a Bakery and Salumeria ,as well as a small eat-in dining room reputably has both lovers and haters in similar numbers.  Being close to the vibrant Flea Market in Campo de Fiore makes for convenience – and our rating of the food and wine was high. If you want sandwiches to go get to the counter early, the Coda (queue) forms quickly for treats like this.

 

 

Two restaurants we found sound like they belong in a different city.  Paris, http://www.ristoranteparis.it/, located in Trastevere, features everything fried, and very tasty, a capacious wine cellar – the source of this recommendation? Relatives here in the USA who just happened to be our friends. that we chatted with about an upcoming Rome trip.  Find Babette, http://www.babetteristorante.it/eng/, on a quiet street close to the Spanish Steps, and the ultra-fashionable shopping district, around Via Condotti.  Here lunch is a bountiful Buffet, dinner a menu of traditional Roman dishes. Sisters Flora and Silvia are the Chef-Owners.

On One of our visits to Rome we arrived on Christmas Day – where to go, who is going to be open?  We need not have worried, one of our favorites from previous visits was delighted to accommodate us, Da Sabatino, http://www.dasabatino.it/welcome.html, located in the elegant Piazza San Ignazio, named for the founder of the Jesuit Order – a Church named for him is there.  But here was the big surprise – photographs of President Clinton on the wall - taken when he dined there - we were in good company!

 

If you really want to do serious homework for an extended stay in Rome, it may be worth your while to invest $11 in the paperback version of Eating Rome: Living the Good Life in the Eternal City by Elizabeth Minchilli.  We tried one of her long time favorites, Casa Bleve, http://www.casableve.com/en/the-restaurant/..  We enjoyed the traditional dishes served in the truly elegant, high ceilinged room; alternately you can indulge in wine tasting – the family business starting out was running a Wine store.

We hope you’ll enjoy OTM’s recommendations, and take advantage of those you can get from hotel concierges, friends and family, food & travel journalists, Romans you meet during your stay, and don’t be afraid to venture away from the old city center.  Unsurprisingly restaurants in this area cater to Tourists who flock to The Eternal City.  And don’t forget to emulate Ann – a coin tossed in the Trevi Fountain will ensure that you return.

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Public notice: Chef draws attention with personal style

Roaming the globe, Chef Brad Farmerie plucks flavors, culinary techniques and experiences from diverse cultures. He then filters these references through his personal, contemporary vision to realize a unique brand of fusion cuisine. The former Pittsburgher says his eclectic cooking style focuses on "richness, acidity and texture." But a restless curiosity and an adventurous palate bolster bold explorations. This is not your '90s fusion.

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Sotiris Kitrilakis: From nuclear to nurturer

Charisma describes attributes of personal magnetism, charm and leadership. It's a Greek word befitting a gorgeous Greek, Sotiris Kitrilakis, a man of warmth, sensibility and intelligence. An internationally renowned Greek food expert, Kitrilakis will visit Pittsburgh this week to create an authentic Greek feast in celebration of Slow Food PittsburghHis life reads like a textbook of super-achievement. Born in Athens, Greece, the son of a Greek army general, he ventured to the United States at age 14 on an exchange student scholarship via the American Field Service. He attended high school in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., then went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned both a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in chemical engineering.

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A tale of three cities

Italy's far northeast corner invites discovery. Beyond the bustle of Venice and the social cachet of Lake Garda, three fascinating destinations -- Verona, Padua and Gorizia -- anchor the exploration of a region frequently missed out by both American and European travelers. Although linked by common control during the eras of the Roman Empire and the Venetian City State, the region otherwise has had a checkered political history. Today, Verona and Padua are in the province of Veneto; Gorizia situates in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The two provinces differ strikingly in scenery, culture and cuisine, but their proximity tucks them neatly into a 10-day excursion

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Extraordinary, diverse restaurants dot northeast Italy

Food is serious in this part of Italy. Extraordinary restaurants rate easily on a par with better-known regions such as Tuscany and Emilia-Romano -- and they're more diverse. In Verona, a modest yellow awning, on a tiny side street, announces Il Desco, one of the best restaurants in northern Italy. The simple entrance belies the gorgeous interior. Sumptuous furnishings and superb service herald wonderful food. For more than 20 years, chef-owner Elia Rizzo has adapted traditional cuisine, bringing innovative touches to seasonal, indigenous ingredients, constructing bold flavors: Guinea fowl, with a sauce of chocolate and balsamic, atop mashed Jerusalem artichokes; sea bass, with veal sweetbreads, oyster sauce and black truffle; beef cheeks, in a sauce of cinnamon and cloves; risotto with celeriac and sweetbread ragout. Ask the sommelier to select wines from the best small local producers.

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Fresh Fare

Just 15 years ago, San Diego was a sleepy Navy town distinguished mostly for its beautiful climate and proximity to Tijuana, Mexico. Fine-dining options were few, and mostly steeped in older European traditions. But today, the region's growth -- in population, convention/tourist traffic and sophistication -- is igniting a vibrant restaurant scene. Drawing upon a bounty of local ingredients, young, inventive chefs and managers address new market opportunities by opening their own, way edgier restaurants.

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Bewitching Barcelona

Last June, banners on every Catalonian highway overpass and numerous billboards urged citizens to vote "Catalunya Si!" They did -- approving a new constitution that gives greater autonomy to this Spanish region. Now travelers should opt in for this area's attractions. Regional pride is everywhere in Spain, but in this northeast corner of the country, citizens identify first as Catalan, then as Spanish. The local lingua references French, reflecting close historical ties between the two regions. Road signs and restaurant menus are distinctly bilingual: Catalan and Spanish. For most of its history, the region struggled through ping-pong politics, imposing external domination. In between strife, though, came periods of prosperity that shaped a rich cultural identity. Today, Catalonia and its vibrant capital, Barcelona, are hot!

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