Italy sexiest bar has awesome sushi

best sushi italy

Honestly, the sushi I’ve tasted (historically) in Italy has been underwhelming and often times just plain bad.

In all fairness, I grew up in a place — southern California — where some of the best sushi joints can be found in strip malls (not kidding).

So I was a little skeptical when Paolo said that we were going for a glass of wine and some sushi at the 300mila Lounge in downtown Lecce last night.

best bar italy

But, then again, I thought to myself, Puglia is one of Italy’s leading destinations and one of the originators of crudo.

The readers (and not the editors) of the Gambero Rosso voted the lounge “Italy’s best bar” last year and it’s on the shortlist again this year.

We got there around 7:30 and it was already filling up. And by the time we left for dinner it was packed.

I was thoroughly impressed by the cocktail program (with a huge selection of top-shelf gin, whisky, and Bourbon)… and the sushi was awesome, very fresh, not fishy or with flash-frozen flavors… really worth writing home about!

Pugliese breakfast in Lecce


My buddy and client Paolo put me up at the Hotel EOS on the edge of downtown Lecce last night.

I like the hotel a lot, in part because they serve classic Lecce pasticiotti (above), soft crumbly pastries filled with pastry cream or chocolate, at breakfast.


They also serve friselle (above), classic savory dried wholewheat buns.

Traditionally, they’re soaked in water and then served with savory toppings — mozzarella, tuna, tomatoes, salt, and olive oil — at lunch and dinner. But at the EOS, they serve them for the tourists (like me) for breakfast.

I couldn’t resist!

My heart, my Italy, my tagliatelle

tagliatelle ai funghi

I’ve devoted my entire adult life to the study of Italian literature, language, culture, history, viticulture, and gastronomy.

But no place in Italy is closer to my heart than the gentle hills of Proseccoland.

Superb tagliatelle ai funghi at lunch today at the Ristorante-Enoteca Salis in Santo Stefano (Valdobbiadene).

I ordered without even looking at the menu: around these parts, the dish is de rigueur.

cartizze prosecco valdobbiadene

The restaurant overlooks Cartizze.

I highly recommend it.

cristian zago primo franco

I came here to meet Primo Franco (right) and we shared two unforgettable meals together.

He’s one of the greats of Prosecco and he insisted that Christian Zago (left), one of the appellation’s rising stars, meet us for lunch today.

These are my people, these are my tagliatelle, this is my heart, this is my Italy.

I’ll tell all just as soon as I can get back home and catch my breath… Still have road to travel and more to taste…

Letter to my daughters, loves of my life

love of my life

september 23, 2013
somewhere above the Atlantic ocean

my dearest daughters, you were both sleeping when I got up this morning and finished packing my bag for my business trip to Italy.

It was still dark and mommy’s eyes were still filled with sleep when I kissed her goodbye and Lila, you were sleeping on her chest.

Georgia, you were sleeping in your bed and nanna was asleep in your bedroom, too.

Yesterday, when I got back from my business trip and family visit in California (your grandma Judy’s 80th birthday party), we got to spend a few, precious, short hours together at home…

Mommy took some fun photos of both of you and I have them loaded on my phone so that I can look at them every time I feel the sharp pangs of missing you…

I said this to mommy the other day: leaving you at home for my trips makes me feel like the first times I had to leave her when she and I first fell in love and decided to devote our lives to each other and start a family… I’ll never forget the very first time we had to say goodbye… we held each other so tightly and the tears fell from my eyes… It was so hard to say goodbye then and it’s so hard to say goodbye now…

please know that I love you… I love you with all my heart and for eternity… and as much as I am not whole without you, the thought of when I’ll get back home to you and to mommy is what gives me strength in the sadness that comes with missing you so much…

please take good care of mommy while I’m gone… I’ll count the moments until I can get back to you…

love, your dad

Great conditions in Montalcino and relief after rainy spring

amiata mountain brunello montalcino

As we rolled into Sant’Angelo in Colle (Montalcino) yesterday, you could feel the cool sea breeze from the west and the gentle clouds that appeared at the summit of Mt. Amiata — the sleeping giant — dissipated by sundown.

My friend Fabrizio Bindocci — winemaker at the Tenuta Il Poggione — said yields would be lower this year. But the concerns raised by a rainy spring had been allayed by a nearly perfect summer. They’re expecting a fantastic vintage, he said, and they had begun picking the Sangiovese for their 2013 Brunello yesterday morning.

This morning we’re going to taste a 1979 “Rosso dei vigneti del Brunello” with Fabrizio at the winery. He believes — and he’s not the only one — that this vintage may achieve the same greatness of that unforgettable year.

Posting in a hurry this morning as the internets come and go here in southwest Montalcino.

So much to tell, so little time…

Nonino does it better (incredible dinner last night in new tasting room)


An incredible evening at the new Nonino tasting room, which just opened. Matriarch Giannola was so proud of the centerpiece she had prepared. The red grapes are Fragolino. So much style and character in everything they do…

cult prosciutto

Prosciutto Bagatto with fig and fig preserves. I know, right? You had me at the Bagatto…

risotto scampi

Risotto agli scampi… This was ridiculously good.

braised veal

Veal braised in Fragolino reduction with potatoes, olives, and diced eggplant.

I have to be careful about my pancia on these trips. But I decided to make this my “splurge” meal: it’s easy to throw caution to the wind (sorry for the bad pun) when the materia prima is so wholesome and delicious…

pecorino honey

Pecorino and honey paired with their amazing chestnut honey distillate.


But the slivovitz was my favorite (if only for the nostalgia, as my co-religionists will surely agree).

At dinner we drank a jaw-dropping bottle of Specogna Sauvignon Blanc (one of my favorite Friulian grower/producers) and Zamò Refosco, which was also delicious.

Posting in a hurry this early fall morning in Friuli. Heading to Venice later today. Stay tuned…

can’t smile without them (heading to Italy)

barry manilow karen carpenter smile

Friuli, Venice, Montalcino… and then down to Salento.

That’s the itinerary for the week or so ahead of me.

If you would have asked me to go on a trip like this five years ago, I would have jumped at the chance.

These days, the thought of an ocean and continent between me and my girls is pretty tough to palate.

I broke down and wept and wept last night when I gave Georgia P her bath. When she gave me a big kiss goodnight, she had no idea that she wouldn’t see me again for another ten days.

This morning, when the cab arrived to take me to the airport at 4:30 a.m., the house was dark and silent and I was lucky to be able to give Tracie P a kiss without waking Lila Jane, who was sleeping in her arms.

There are worse jobs in the world and I know I’m a lucky dude to have a small business that takes me across the world to one of the places I love most.

But I just can’t smile without them…

See you on the other side…