CombatCritic Recommends the BEST VALUE RESTAURANTS OF ITALY ... BUON APPETITO!

CombatCritic Recommends the BEST VALUE RESTAURANTS OF ITALY ... BUON APPETITO!
TravelValue ... TravelSafe ... ValueTravel

Monday, June 29, 2015

Away From Tourists, Tuscan Charm Meets Fresh, Local Products In EastCentral Florence

Mercato Sant'Ambrogio
Piazza Ghiberti, Florence.

E-mail:  mercato.ambrogio@virgilio.it


Having spent several weeks in Florence over the years, I find myself returning over and over again to the wonderful Mercato Sant'Ambrogio. Situated just northeast of Santa Croce and around the corner from the Loggia del Pesce and numerous antique stores, this indoor and outdoor market sells everything from underwear, socks, shoes and clothing to salami, cheeses, bread, pasta, fruit, vegetables and wine.

Locals abound and few tourists venture this far east of centro storico (historical center) even though Mercato Sant'Ambrogio has been around since 1873. The covered stalls outside offer shade from the summer heat, housing the fruit and vegetable vendors as well as those selling clothing, shoes, household items, and more. 

Much smaller, intimate, and less touristy than the Mercato Centrale located on the northern periphery of the historical center, Sant'Ambrogio feels much more comfortable and authentic. You can even sit down at the small Trattoria da Rocco (Mangino Gianpaolo) for a very inexpensive lunch (open Mon-Sat from 7 AM - 2 PM) at one of the few small tables where you will likely be dining with neighborhood residents rather than droves of tourists.
Gelateria Gallo Ghiottone Offers Tasty, Inexpensive Gelato Just Around The Corner!
So if you are looking for an authentic experience, inexpensive clothing, and fresh, local products away from the relentless tourist traps of Florence, Mercato Sant'Ambrogio is the place for you ...

CombatCritic Gives Mercato Sant'Ambrogio 9 Out Of 10 Bombs





Title: Away From Tourists, Tuscan Charm Meets Fresh, Local Products In EastCentral Florence

Key Words: Mercato Sant'Ambrogio, mercato, sant'ambrogio, ambrogio, Santa Croce, santa, croce, Florence, Firenze, market, indoor, outdoor, fruit, vegetables, shopping, travel, value 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Abondanza ... Simpatico ... Buonissimo ... La Vinaina is a Bargain and Treat in Residential Florence!



La Vinaina
Via dell'Agnolo, 48r, 50122 
Florence, Italy
Phone: +39.055.234.4120
Prices:    € €  



Around the corner from the wonderful Mercato Sant'Abrogio, my wife and I visited La Vinaina on several occasions with the students of the University of Kansas attending the study abroad program in Florence. Our apartment was just around the corner and we enjoyed the proximity, warm welcome, fresh ingredients, and very reasonable prices for lunch.

Being an amateur chef and restaurant critic, and having traveled to 49 countries around the world, I have eaten at few restaurants with the impeccable quality and value as we found at La Vinaina.

The pasta and bread...always fresh; the meat and fish...always prepared to perfection; the service...always attentive and friendly. I would recommend this restaurant to anybody...on a budget, like students, to more EXCLUSIVE and seasoned travelers alike. There is something for everyone at La Vinaina!



Watch my video collage dedicated to our friends at La Vinaina on CombatCritic TV:


Watch My Video of La Vinaina and Surrounding Area on CombatCritic TV!

or read more about this wonderful cucina tipica toscana in The CombatCritic Chronicle: 

http://www.CombatCritic.com

I have also posted reviews on Yelp, Trip Advisor, and Fousquare...search for "CombatCritic" and send a Friend request.






CombatCritic gives La Vinaina 7 BOMBS OUT OF 10...bombs in this case are good!

LIKE La Vinaina on Facebook!

Title: Abondanza...Simpatico...Buonissimo...La Vinaina is a Bargain and Treat in Residential Florence!

Key Words: La Vinaina, vinaina, restaurant, trattoria, pasta, menu, Mercato Sant'Ambrogio, mercato, sant'ambrogio, ambrogio, food, Florence, Italy, Firenze, travel, value, CombatCritic, menu

Saturday, June 13, 2015

I Have A "Hunch" You Will Like "Il Gobbetto"

Il Gobbetto
Via Sergente Maggiore 8
80132 Naples, Campania, Italy
Phone: +39 081 2512435

Prices: $$$$$


I had read the favorable reviews of Il Gobbetto, literally "The Hunchback", so we decided to have a look inside as we happened by. It is a cute little place just off Via Toledo and a stones throw from the infamous Teatro San Carlo, but a bit cramped with too many tables for the small room. It seems as though they cater to tourists as foreigners made up most of the clientele. We were squeezed into a corner table by the owner who speaks a little English, making maneuvering the elbows a little difficult.

As is usually the case, our eyes were, metaphorically speaking, bigger than our stomachs and we ended up ordering antipasti (appetizers) and primi (first courses). For my wife's antipasto she ordered the Pacchero Fritto (€3), four deep fried ??? cheese squares that were rather uninspiring. I on the other hand had l'insalata Caprese (Caprese salad - €6), sliced, ripe, juicy cherry tomatoes on a bed of rucola, and thick slices of mozzarella di bufala (mozzarella cheese made from milk of water buffalo, a specialty of Southern Italy's Mediterranean coastal region) topped with fresh basil leaves. You would easily pay $8 to $15 for a dish like this in the states, so the $6.75 price tag was not difficult to swallow ... yuk-yuk.

For our primi and final courses of the night we decided to go with pasta. My wife had the Gnocchi del Gobbetto (€6), handmade gnocchi (potato dumplings) in a creamy cheese sauce with sliced zucchini and topped with fresh basil. The gnocchi were perfectly cooked, not too soft, not too hard, and the sauce perfectly complimented the lightness of the thinly sliced zucchini. The portion was perfect with just enough to fill you without bursting and the price extremely fair compared to U.S. restaurant standards.

My Orecchiette Salsiccia e Provola (ear shaped pasta in a tomato sauce with ground sweet sausage and melted provolone cheese - €6) was exquisite. Again, handmade pasta, as is the case in most restaurants in Italy, was in just the right proportion to sauce, sausage and provolone, and was perfectly "al dente". One of my all-time favorite dishes is orecchiette salsiccia e friarielli (sausage and broccoli rabe sauteed in olive oil and garlic) and this was the first time I tried a version with tomato sauce. It may not become my favorite, but I will definitely be playing with this recipe at home and would order it again in a flash ... HOOAH!

Cover charge (coperto) is just €1 per person, the service was excellent, and things moved quickly even though they were rather busy.  The owner even took time to dance with a couple of pretty young lady customers in the middle of the room while his wife slaved away in the kitchen (I hope she doesn't read this or I might get him in trouble). Their house red (or white) wine, which is very good, comes in at a paltry €3 per bottle (compare that to a half-liter of inferior house red at Pizzeria Sorbillo - €9) and a liter of mineral water is just €1.50 (€1.50 for a half-liter at Sorbillo). Our bill came to just €28.50 for two courses, wine, and water (plus tip), a tremendous bargain and worth feeling a bit claustrophobic.

CombatCritic Gives Il Gobbetto A Very Solid 8 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better




 Menu (English)


Title: I Have A "Hunch" You Will Like "Il Gobbetto"




Key Words: Il Gobbetto, gobbetto, hunchback, hunch, osteria, restaurant, pasta, antipasto, Caprese, salad, menu, review, Naples, Napoli, Italy, Italia, CombatCritic, travel, value, critic

Friday, June 12, 2015

Not The Bottom Of "The Barrel" (La Botte), Not The Top Of The Charts

La Botte
Scarlatti Street 147, 80127 Naples, Italy
+39 331 856 5398
Website

Prices: $$$$$

The food behind the glass looked enticing as we strolled by, so we returned shortly thereafter for a late-night bite to eat. If you have read my other reviews from Southern Italy, you know that I love salsiccia e friarielli (sausage and sauteed broccoli rabe, a Neapolitan specialty) and it was on the menu ... WOO-HOO!

We entered, ordered two saltimbocca, a "Positano" (speck, brier cheese, and lettuce - €4.50 at the "bar") for my wife and a "Cetara" (salsiccia, "friarielli", and scamorza cheese - €5) for me. But when we delivered the receipt to the counter, as is the custom in Italy for take-away, I was told there was nor frierielli and that I had to choose from the other bleak options. It would have been nice to know that they did not have the item listed on the menu BEFORE we ordered because we would have gone elsewhere, but by then it was too late.

We had a seat at the bar across from the prep area and because they were obviously busy, my wife asked how long it would take and the young woman making the sandwiches replied "a little while". She then sent over Il Tagliere dell' Attesa (the cutting board of, for the, wait), a cutting board loaded with a selection of tiny toasted sandwiches, making our wait a little less noticeable.

Unfortunately, what we received were "sandwiches" on a baguette, not the advertised "saltimbocca" (a Neapolitan specialty with ingredients baked inside of pizza dough).  For $5 to $6, the sandwiches had hardly any meat and were mostly bread, and the half liter of mineral water was a pricey $1.25, not a great value. The staff's positive attitudes deserve an additional "bomb", but otherwise our experience was very "average"

CombatCritic Gives La Botte 5 Bombs Out Of 10 ... Le Bombe Sono Buone! 


Title: Not The Bottom Of "The Barrel" (La Botte), Not The Top Of The Charts

Key Words: La Botte, botte, barrel, Naples, Napoli, Vomero, Vanvitelli, piazza, saltimbocca, panino, panini, wine, vino, sausage, salsiccia, friarielli, CombatCritic, travel, value, menu

Cantina di Sica: Not Great, But The Cockroach Seemed Happy!

Cantina di Sica
Via Gian Lorenzo Bernini 17 
80129 Naples
Telephone: +39 081 5567520
Website: cantinadisica.it
Prices: $$$$$


Yes, we arrived near closing time, but instead of making us feel welcome we were hastily seated and told what exactly we could order ... excuse me, but is the kitchen open or not? Pizza was being pushed heavily.

First of all, be very specific when ordering. The waiter was in a hurry because they were closing at 4pm, so with pizza menu in-hand I ordered "salsiccia e frierielli" assuming I would receive a pizza with the ordered toppings. 

My wife ordered the pizza Lei with no tomatoes, a giant slice of mortadella covered in mozzarella atop a pizza crust with a large dollop of some sort of cream, possibly ricotta, in the middle. Her pizza arrived quickly and I began to wonder what was taking my pizza so long to arrive.

What I received when the waiter finally arrived was a plate of grilled sausage and a side of frierielli. I asked "where is my pizza?", but the waiter seemed too bothered to make it right, telling me that he had to check if pizza could still be made so late in the day (even though I could clearly see the fire in the pizza oven still burning) so I ate what was brought. Instead of €8 for a pizza, I paid €12.50 for something I did not want.

The pizza Lei was ok, minus the mountain of sour cream in the middle. Mine was what it was, not what I wanted, but also "OK". Now I see why they have a rating of less than 3 out of 5 stars on Yelp!

When a customer obviously is not happy, it should be made right. It was a misunderstanding, but in the end I was not happy. I now see why they only have 3 stars. The cockroach blocking our path as we were leaving seemed to enjoy his experience more than we did. Hence, ...

CombatCritic Gives Cantina di Sica 4 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!








Title: Cantina di Sica: Not Great, But The Cockroach Seemed Happy!

Key Words: Cantina di Sica, cantina, di, sica, Naples, Napoli, Vomero, Vanvitelli, piazza, pizza, pizzeria, trattoria, pasta, cockroach, friarielli, CombatCritic, travel, value, menu