Some great restaurants in Rome

This entry is about two months too late so you'll have to excuse me if my memory has faded a bit. Still, I made it a point to collect a few business cards when visiting restaurants in Rome. Here are a few that I would recommend and two that I wouldn't.

Colline Emiliane - Via Degli Avignonesi 22 - A 77 year old restaurant that serves up delicious cuisine from my hometown of Bologna and the region of Emilia Romagna. We visited for lunch with my aunt and a group of friends. Both my wife and I stuck with pasta for a main course and then I nibbled on my friend Gianfranco's beef with mostarda (not the mustard you and I know). All excellent. Located just off of Via dell Quattre Fontane and around the corner from Piazza Barberini. The place is small and we saw people turned away so reservations are recommended. 06 481 7538 or 06 48 02 80 70.

La Bottega Del Caffe - Piazza Madonna Dei Monti, 5 - Located in what was once the ancient Suburra of Rome in the Monti, La Bottega Del Caffe is perfectly located in one of the main piazze of the area. It's typically one of the busier spots in the neighborhood and offers up a nice selection of wines and a good mix of entrees. There's plenty of seating outside but you'll find that you need to get there early on a nice evening. Service was a bit surly when we were there. Still, my gnocchi absolutely hit the spot on a cooler day and the cheese platter made for an excellent starter. 393 931 1013

Dagnino - Galleria Esedra, Via V. Emanuele Orlando, 75 - Located inside the small 1950s era Galleria Esedra is Dagnino, a pasticceria and cafe' specializing in cuisine from Sicily. My grandfather used to come here on Sundays to pick up pastries. Anyway, we spent a lot of time here since it was located right across from The Grand Hotel. The desserts - like cassatina siciliana - were to die for. I really recommend the cassatina. You can also order wine, ice cream and more. There are a handful of seats inside but most people hang out in the "outdoor" seating area within the galleria. Depending on your waiter, service can be pleasant or relatively aloof. One of the waiters, Gennaro, pointed us in the right direction to an excellent pizzeria... "da Tito". 06 48 18 660

"Da Tito" - Via Venezia 21 - This small and busy pizzeria was a gem in the midst of an area relatively frequented by tourists. As mentioned, Gennare, our waiter at Dagnino recommended it and we're glad he did. Pizzas were reasonably priced and the house wine was relatively good. They did a nice job of accommodating us with the baby although it was a bit cramped. Definitely a place worth recommending. Just off of Via Nazionale on Via Venezia. 06 474 0832

Ristorante Tullio - Via S. Nicola da Tolentino, 26 - This Tuscan trattoria, first opened in 1950, came highly recommended by the Touring Club guide for Rome. Prices were listed as reasonable but I found that they were a bit high for what one received. The antipasto misto was a bit overboard for four people - way too much food - get half of what you think you need. Still, the carciofi alla romana were so tasty. I had tuna with beans - relatively straightforward and quite pricey for what I received. Is it a good place to eat? Yes. Is it a good value? I can think of plenty others. Located just up a side street from Piazza Barberini. 06 474 55 60

Trattoria Cadorna dal 1947 - Via Raffaele Cadorna, 12 - This trattoria is located on the back side of Piazza Sallustio, on a street parallel to Via 20 Settembre. This was the first restaurant we visited on our most recent trip to Rome and we found the service to be very friendly. The quickly brought us a high chair and were very helpful with the baby. We started with bresaola and then both ordered heaping portions of pasta. I'll admit that we were jetlagged and quite tired that night but the pasta really hit the spot and was a welcome way to return to Rome. Would gladly return on our next trip. 06 482 7061

La Matriciana - Via del Viminale, 14 - This is one of those classic Roman restaurants like Carbonara or La Capricciosa. The restaurant's specialty is, as you can imagine, bucatini alla matriciana. It's located across the rationalist-style Opera House of Rome. We had a very enjoyable lunch sitting outside on a gorgeous spring day. It was perfect. I started with rucola and tomato salad - very refreshing - and then had the bucatini. They were tasty, even if the sauce wasn't exactly to my expectations of amatriciana. Go figure. The house wine is recommended. 06 488 1775

...and now, ones I wouldn't recommend.

Life Ristorante Pizza & Wine Bar - Via Delle Vite, 28/30 - Located in the area around Via Condotti, the restaurant rakes in plenty of tourists. Indeed, it does have a nice modern atmosphere. The pizza selection looked to be very impressive but our pizza was a big disappointment. The mushrooms didn't seem to be cooked right and the pizza was very soggy. We ate it and dealt with it but wouldn't go back. Not what I look for when eating pizza in Italy.

Ristorante '34' or "Al '34" - Via Mario de' Fiori, 34 - Our friends were recommended this restaurant by their hotel. Admittedly, a great location, just a few steps from the Spanish Steps and on the cross-street of Via Mario de' Fiori. It does have a great location. The food was OK. The service was atrocious. None of the waiters were Italian and they treated most of the customers with contempt. When it started raining, the argued with us that it wasn't raining. Diners were packed like sardines, too, and the focus was to move us out. Cannot recommend it.


Getting to know tango and Buenos Aires

One way to start to understand Buenos Aires is to get to know the tango. You'll notice, as I've stated before, that the tango is truly ingrained in the culture - not just in streetside tango shows for tourists but throughout the city.

To know tango in Buenos Aires, you should get to know three names. The first is Carlos Gardel, a 1930s era tango singer who died in a plane crash and is been revered to this day. The second is Astor Piazzola, a tango composer and musician who many feel revolutionized tango. The third, though not Argentine, is Gotan Project, a multinational group from Paris that has modernized tango.

Here is your quick crash course...

Carlos Gardel

Astor Piazzola

Gotan Project


Voice: Worth Listening

Can't believe I waited so long to post this entry but a few weeks ago, we headed to one of the best new restaurants in Houston during date night - VOICE Restaurant and Lounge at Hotel Icon. Early reviews and the word on the street about the restaurant tend to be glowing. Michael Kramer has brought some wonderful new flavors to the Houston dining scene. The wine list is very extensive and is reasonably priced, much more so than Bank's previous offerings. My wife ordered the venison sous vide and I ordered the Alaskan halibut although we swapped plates. I'm glad we did - the venison was excellent. The forest mushrooms made an excellent a la carte side dish. Dessert was a delicious warm apple crisp. Next time I would like to try the tasting menu but our first experience was really very very good. Oh, and by the way, if you haven't stayed at Hotel Icon, it is rightfully one of the top rated hotels in Houston.

More insight on Zihua

This article from the San Diego Union Tribune may be a crusty three years old but it provides a nice general overview of Zihuatanejo and it's relationship to neighboring Ixtapa.


Staying Fit and Classic Cocktails

I've talked about being a fan of Craig Ballantyne and his Turbulence Training web page. One of his recent blog entries included some more good tips on taking care of yourself and staying fit while traveling. It's not the first time I've referenced him and probably won't be the last...

But I don't stop thinking about my fitness and DIET when I'm gone. However, most guys and gals use travel as an excuse for eating junk and skipping workouts. But travel is NO EXCUSE for bad body behavior.All it takes to succeed is a little planning. In fact, here's what I've done to stay on track while spending time in the airports and stuck in 13-hour per day seminars.

Read his entry for some good insight that is not hard to apply.

On an unrelated note, one of our favorite things to do when visiting New York City (although it's been a while) is to check out some classic cocktail bars. I'm not talking about your run-of-the-mill meat market; rather, the classic landmark cocktail bars that have been around since the 40s or 50s. Places like the Monkey Bar in the Hotel Elysee and Bemelmans in the Carlyle Hotel. Bemelmans is simply one of those places that must be experienced - the whimsical illustrations that decorate the bar's walls, the extremely knowledgeable bartenders, the outstanding service. It's a great place to start or end an evening. The Monkey Bar has a completely different feel - much more lively, less refined but still a classic art deco bar. My dad used to hang out there in the 50s and he'd probably find the place a bit too loud today. Bemelmans, on the other hand, would probably be more his style.


Changes Afoot for the Greek Islands

It wasn't that long ago that I was writing an entry about our future trip to Athens and Santorini. I had listed a few hotels that we'd chosen in Athens, Oia and Kamari. Well... let's edit that last entry. Santorini is out... Milos is in.

Why the change? Simply put, fares to Santorini are absurd - and when I say absurd, I mean around 400 Euros for two people on a little puddle jumper of a flight. Sorry... just doesn't make sense. Yes, we could take a ferry if we had a ton of time but, unfortunately, our trip will be somewhat short. Fortunately, accommodations on Milos were available and our flight, for two people, will be roughly 170 Euro. Much better. Much more reasonable. Besides, in Milos we'll have free rein to run around the island, explore one of the islands 70 beaches and just relax in a much more casual environment.

So, what hotel did we choose? We opted for the soon-t0-be opened Melian Hotel, run by the owner of the Villa Notos hotel in Adamas. Are we going out on a limb? You bet... the Melian will open in mid-June so not many pictures are out there. We've seen renderings here and there, have a good idea of the location and are banking on the reputation of the owner of the Villa Notos. Local Milos experts have also vouched for the owner's reputation so that helps.

Besides a more Greek experience, fewer crowds and better prices, what makes Milos special? These pictures, all from Milos is for Lovers, should explain the many reasons...


Northern Europe's Influence in Bariloche

One of the must-see destinations in Argentina is Bariloche, located about a 2 1/2 hour flight from Buenos Aires, this alpine wonderland near the Chilean border is a real jewel. The full name of the town is San Carlos de Bariloche - located in Patagonia, it offers visitors all kind of fun activities - skiing, white water rafting, mountain climbing... you name it. One of the things I most liked about Bariloche was the strong European influence (as is the case in Argentina). What you'll see here is a strong northern European influence in the architecture, the cuisine, the chocolates (lots of chocolates) and the people. It really is an amazing place to visit.