Biannual Roundup: What you’re looking at gets a makeover

street art malaga spain pulpo wine

Street art encountered in Malaga, Spain

Only a decade or so old, but WordPress kept dropping hints that my blog format was outdated and becoming obsolete. The time was approaching that it would no longer function on the platform.

So here it is: the first post with a new look in a format I am trying to master. I promise not to include any of the curse words that my slip out of my mouth as I try to make heads and tails of it.

It happens to be that time of the year, halfway through, for that exciting list of what posts you have clicked on most during the past 12 months. My book has not dropped off the list yet, and I am grateful for that and that you continue to let the blog play boulevardier even though the writer actually is in a state of corona-hibernation.

Click here to read the rest of this post and view more photos

Postcard from Lecce, Italy: Sampling seafood and pasta served Apulia-style

lecce seafood ravioli radici

Seafood Ravioli at Radici – Market, Food & Caffetteria

With only skimpy sandwiches for lunch, we were ready for a sit-down meal after arriving in Lecce well after nightfall. We walked out the door of our apartment and crossed the street upon the recommendation of our landlord and entered what became our favorite restaurant in Lecce, Osteria 203.

The intimate restaurant had us hooked with the contorni, a varying trio of seasonal vegetables. Unlike in Naples, vegetable sides and antipasti were easy to come by in Lecce. But Osteria 203 also provided the Mister with his favorite dish of the entire trip, stinco di maiale. The enormous braised pork shank was falling-off-the-bone tender and was served in a pool of a rich red wine sauce. The fried young artichokes were highly addictive, and how can one resist trying purple gnocchi. Our only disappointment with the Osteria 203 is that it closed during our final week to repaint the interior, depriving the Mister of his third order of stinco.

Il Rifugio della Buona Stella is an unpretentious family-run restaurant with generous antipasto plates and regional pasta dishes, such as pasta with rape, turnip tops, all offered at resident-friendly prices. On our second visit there, we were accompanied by our daughter and fidanzato, and it proved a most pleasant experience.

Next to us was a family birthday celebration, a table of about 16 from multiple generations. The group was not rowdy at all, just enjoying exchanging family stories. We lingered sharing multiple courses, as did they. When it came time for them to cut into a luscious cake, they sent the youngest girl over with plates for us. And then they poured glasses of prosecco for us to share in toasting the young woman who was their guest of honor. There was something so warm and touching, and we felt so flattered to be embraced by locals instead of being dismissed as just tourists at the next table. It helped our standing that the Mister was able to go to the other room and ask the owner for a simple birthday toast and thank you he offered to them in Italian.

Other spots we visited represented by photos above:

  • Crianza – If you are pining to sample some of Italy’s prized Chianina beef, the Mister swears his was about the best hamburger he has ever eaten.
  • I Latini  – This spot felt touristy, but it was always open when others failed us. Despite that initial feeling, we must admit the seafood dishes, such as linguini, pistachio-crusted tuna and clam and chickpea soup, were delicious.
  • La Cantina delle Streghe – A good spot for wine and bruschetta
  • La Cucina di Mamma Elvira – Great vegetables and pasta, but do not fail to order the eggplant polpette.
  • L’Ostrica Ubriaca – We trekked to the one way outside the walls. It was a little spartan, but the seafood was always fresh. A new more upscale version recently had opened right outside the old city gate, but we did not try that location.
  • Radici – Market, Food & Caffetteria – Contemporary and casual, attracting a host of locals. The fidanzato highly recommends the seafood ravioli in the featured photo.

Hopefully, all of these restaurants made it through quarantine times and are beginning to welcome diners back.

Postcard from Naples, Italy: Always on the prowl for vegetables

Large mixed vegetable plate, changing daily, at Un Sorriso Integrale

As seen in an earlier post, seafood often dominated our orders in restaurants. Great seafood often proved easier to locate than the vegetables we found ourselves craving.

Un Sorriso Integrale – Amico Bio Napoli was our salvation. We probably ate there five or six times for vegetable catch-up days. The selection is diverse and always changing to take advantage of the best vegetables of the season. And all are amazingly inexpensive. Always start with a dish of their spicy, truly spicy, fried chickpeas. Rather than make up my mind, I loved getting their mixed plate, which comes with a bowl of soup and six different vegetable combinations. The Mister was hooked on the wok plate. Oh, and a little picante chocolate soufflé to round out the meal.

Paccheri, an extra-large tubular pasta, seems to be a favorite regional pasta, with good reason. Antipasti combinations, such as the five-plate selection spread over two photos at Trattoria Scugnizzi Vomero, invite exploration. Two distinctively Neopolitan dishes we tried once but failed to understand their popularity were pasta e patate (pasta and potato is quite a starchy overload) and fried pizza (way too much fried dough).

Most of these restaurants are frequented by locals and were mentioned in the seafood post, so this time around I will just post their links to click in case a photo inspires you to investigate whether to add them to your list of places to try. Since most of these are not tourist-dependent, I am hoping they will survive the current slow-down.

In the Vomero neighborhood:

Trattoria Scugnizzi Vomero

Godot Restaurant

Olio e Pomodoro

Pizzeria Errico Porzio Vomero

In the historic center:

Re Lazzarone Trattoria Contemporanea

Anonymous Trattoria Gourmet

Antichi Sapori Partenenopei

Ristorante L’Ostricaio