Tag Archives: Italian

I Trulli

122 E 27th St (between S Park Ave & Lexington Ave)
New York 10016
http://www.itrulli.com/

It’s quickly becoming quite of a theme now – us visiting restaurants featured in TV shows. This next restaurant we went to in New York City was featured in the Food Network’s show ‘Best Thing I Ever Ate’, in their ‘Filled with envy’ episode. The dish featured was the Orecchiette, which is an ear-shaped pasta typical of Apulia, a region of South Italy. In I Trulli, their Orecchiette is handmade fresh everyday by Dora, the mother of the owner. Their entire family moved from Apulia to New York City in 1970, and they have strived to keep the food at I Trulli authentically Italian. Service at I Trulli is unfortunately not the full Italian experience that we love, and there’s little of the loud, friendly, macho banter that we’ve had at other good Italian places, since the servers at I Trulli are (all, it seems,) not Italian. Nevertheless, service is excellent – very professional, attentive, and accommodating.

We were sat in the garden, and it was a lovely not-too-warm, not-too-cool summer evening, so it was really nice being able to get some (relatively) fresh air, away from the noise of the traffic and the hustle bustle of the city.

A little bread ‘basket’ was brought to us, with some very nice focaccia bread with sun-dried tomatoes, and a little side dish of a cheese dip which we didn’t care very much about – the bread was very good by itself.

Our starter of lightly sautéed calamari with garlic and chilies was a very light, clean dish. The slice of toasted bread was a little too overly toasted, and was too hard to bite, but the calamari was very nicely cooked, with a nice subtle heat from the chilies to finish off each bite.



We had a main of Wild Striped Bass with Manila Clams, and this was also a very nicely composed dish. The fish was nicely cooked and the clams brought a ton of flavor to the dish. The only gripe would be that it was a rather small portion for a main dish – where are those famously large American-sized portions? You’re not in Italy anymore – your customers don’t watch their waist-lines so double those portions!

The dish we came all the way to try was their famous Dora’s handmade Orecchiette in a rabbit ragu. The pasta was clearly handmade – each piece different from the one before it, lovingly pinched and moulded by dear old Dora. This is one handmade pasta that definitely elevates the dish. As with some restaurants which do their own pastas or noodles, very often the attempt falls flat, and they would have been better off using store bought pasta instead (Tasty Hand Pulled Noodle Inc, we’re referring to you here). With I Trulli, the handmade pasta makes the dish. It is the dish. The rabbit ragu is also very tasty, but the star is well and truly the handmade Orecchiette.

Service: 8.5/10
Food: 7/10

Ciao Bella

86-90 Lamb’s Conduit St
Bloomsbury, WC1N 3LZ
0207 242 4119
http://www.ciaobellarestaurant.co.uk/

This is a little gem of a restaurant tucked away near Russell Square tube station. It’s always crowded it seems, and for really good reason – the food is rather good, portions are quite generous, and there is a good vibe in the dining area. Service is quite typically Italian, loud, warm, friendly and very macho.

We’ve been here a few times already, and we simply love the Spaghetti al Cartoccio, which is a tomato based seafood pasta cooked in a greaseproof bag, presented to you at the table while still in the bag and unwrapped before your eyes. The amount of pasta and seafood in that one serving is quite impressive, and it delivers on taste big time. The pasta is always perfectly cooked, which requires impeccable timing in the oven, and the sauce is full of rich seafood flavor.

We’ve tried other dishes at Ciao Bella, like the Gnocchi al Ragu, which is good but slightly too chewy perhaps, and the Carbonara, which is served in what is probably too large a portion for a dish that is so rich, but is nevertheless yummy and worth a try. Appetizers at Ciao Bella are quite small in comparison to their mains, but then again, they’re not expensive (most of the starters are under £6) and are generally very yummy. We like the bruschetta and smoked salmon.

Overall this is a really good place for solid Italian cooking. Prices are very reasonable and portions are large, so it does attract a large crowd so reservations are highly recommended.

Service: 7/10
Food: 7/10

Gelupo

7 Archer Street
0207 287 5555
http://gelupo.com/

Tucked away in a small street parallel to the ever-happening Shaftsbury Avenue is a gelato shop called Gelupo. Run by the same people as Bocca di Lupo just across the street, a (supposedly) very good Italian restaurant (we don’t know, we’ve never gone there to eat before), it sells gelato, sorbets and granitas, with a contemporary take on traditional flavours and techniques. (Personally, I just find that sentence really confusing, almost oxymoronic, but that’s what it said on their website, so here’s a huge SIC.)

 

We had, as we usually do, the hazelnut and pistachio flavor. We found the pistachio flavor really light and subtle, quite nice, but if it was slightly stronger we would have liked it better. Almost around the corner is Scoop, which we tried a while back (at their other branch in Covent Garden), and we much preferred that version since the pistachio was far more present in the gelato.

 

The hazelnut was definitely hazelnut-ty, but A complained that it was far too sweet, and that it was probably the sweetest hazelnut flavoured gelato she’s ever had. Well, perhaps, but since the pistachio was so muted I didn’t mind having a lot of flavor and taste in my mouth at all with the hazelnut. J

 Service: NA
Food: 6.5/10

Grom

Via delle Oche, 24-red
50122 Firenze
055 216158

S brought us to this gelateria very near the duomo in Florence. It was quite early in the day, a little surprising to have gelato then, but hey, when in Florence the gelato is so good that I would have it for breakfast if I could.

 

Grom serves very good gelato indeed. The gelato is handmade, and there is a live demonstration to the side of the shop for tourists to see the gelato making process. We had the hazelnut, pistachio, melon and stracciatella. Everything was heavenly. The stracciatella was a little too subtle, and the white chocolate could be slightly stronger, but it was still pretty good. We seem to have developed a liking for the flavor combination of pistachio and hazelnut, and we have started using this combination as a control to test the quality of a gelateria.

Grom passes with flying colours. The gelato here is very smooth and really top-grade. The bits of hazelnut and pistachio really add flavor and complement the texture of the gelato. In the land of a million gelaterias, this is one of the best. We liked it so much we went out of our way to go back for more on our second day in Florence.

Food: 7.5/10

Old Bridge Gelateria

Vatican, V. dei Bastioni d. Michelangelo 5
0639723026

This is just a tiny hole in the wall, just across the street from the bend in the Vatican museum’s outside wall. This is probably our favourite gelato place in all of Rome. It is also extremely conveniently located, and it would be a very good idea to get your gelato at The Old Bridge, and eat it while you walk into the Vatican City, or queue for the museum.

 

The first time we were here we had our gelato in a cone, and the portions were so huge that it was literally a battle against time to finish it before it melted right in our hands. This time round we had our gelato in a cup. The pistachio was fantastic, with the correct amount of little bits of pistachio, yet still maintaining the smooth, creamy texture of the gelato. The hazelnut was also very good – not as intense to overpower the pistachio, yet still strong enough to impress.

The fruit flavours we tried were also very nice. In particular, the banana was simply divine.

Food: 7.5/10

Il Gelato di San Crispino

V. della Panetteria 42
066793924
http://www.ilgelatodisancrispino.it/

Renowned as the best gelato in Rome, a scoop from San Crispino’s is worth throwing a coin into the Trevi fountain, so claimed our guidebook. Our experience couldn’t have been more different.

 

There was just one server in the shop, and he was probably the most unfriendly person ever to work in the service industry. He served the gelato in record time, scooping it and literally throwing it on the counter. No hellos, no can-I-help-yous, no thank-yous, not even a smile offered. You had to put the money on this little tray and not anywhere else, or he would mutter a not-so-subtle curse under his breath. I absolutely kid you not. The sitting area was fenced off, and he literally scolded anyone who tried to enter. This was the worst example of customer service (or lack of) that we have ever experienced. It was just shocking beyond words. This horrible server also got LM’s order wrong. She wanted dark chocolate chip, and was given dark chocolate, and insisted that the gelato he gave her was dark chocolate chip when it clearly wasn’t, since the tub of dark chocolate chip was on the opposite end of the counter from where he scooped the gelato from. When A went after LM and ordered dark chocolate chip, he went to the correct end of the counter this time and scooped from the dark chocolate chip tub. We were just disgusted.

 

As for the gelato, we were unimpressed. We tried to be objective and not let the horrible experience in the shop affect our opinion on the gelato, but we still felt that this was definitely undeserving of the title of best gelato in Rome. We would rather cross over the river and walk to the Vatican City to have gelato at The Old Bridge than have gelato at Crispino. The gelato was icy, as if it had not been kept at the right temperature, and froze when it was re-introduced into the proper temperature. The mango tasted artificial, and the pistachio was a little too chunky. The dark chocolate was nice though, but not worth the short walk from the Trevi Fountain at all.

Overall, this was a completely waste of time, money and calories. The gelato is not cheap as well – the cups are easily the smallest I’ve ever seen in all of Italy. To sum it up in four words: DO NOT GO THERE.

Additional Comments: We were there on a Tuesday yet it was opened, but as mentioned, we weren’t allowed to the seating area, so perhaps there’s just a limited service on Tuesday.

Service: 2/10
Food: 5/10

Il Pollarola

P. Pollarola 24-25, Rome
0668801654

We flew to Rome immediately after our exams, as a post-exam reward trip. We went with S, who flew into London from Singapore just the day before, and met up with LM who was travelling in Italy. We had one of the best carbonara in Rome the last time we were there, so we headed straight for Grappolo near Piazza Navona for some blow-us-away carbonara. Alas, it was not opened for lunch (how stupid of us, we should have checked). We were starving, and didn’t fancy walking somewhere too far away, so we flipped through our guidebook to see if there were any recommended restaurants nearby. Sure enough, Il Pollarola was just around the corner, so we went there.

Perhaps since we were still recovering from the disappointment of not being able to eat at Grappolo, we weren’t very inspired by the menu, so we just went for whatever dishes were mentioned in our guide book. We ordered 2 canelloni (lasagna with meat), 1 spaghetti alle vongole and 1 penne all’arrabbiata. According to the guide book these were all fine examples of traditional dishes, exquisitely prepared. Deciding that we wanted some meat, we ordered a veal chop as well.

Overall, we were quite disappointed. The spaghetti alle vongole tasted processed, and the spaghetti was overcooked. The penne was decent, but it was such a plain and simple dish that it got boring after a while. I guess since Italians eat pasta as a pre-main course they tend to keep it plain and simple. We definitely wished for a little more excitement.

The cannelloni was quite nice, but it was swimming in a pool of scaldingly hot melted cheese that was quite excessive. By itself the cannelloni was quite al dente and tasty, and really didn’t need all that cheese at all.

Our veal chop never came. They ‘ran out’ of veal at 1pm.

Service: 6/10
Food: 6/10