Italy Trip!

Italy Trip! // www.mesacookingco.comGuys, I’m BACK! It’s been a two-week break since I’ve published anything here on Mesa. It has been great to step away for a bit, get inspired, and come back re-focused and excited! Today I’m tell you a bit about our recent trip to Italy!

Italy, in short, was amazing. I was truly blown away by the history, art, and food – so much more impressive than I had expected! And really, any expectations will be surpassed! This place is something else. We stayed in Rome and Florence and we also visited Pompeii, Pisa, and Cinque Terre. All incredible!

The food was terrific, obviously.

Our favorite place was Pianostrada in Trastevere, Rome. Run by four Italian women, they serve elevated street food and we were in heaven. Wonderful flavors, fresh ingredients, unique combinations – every single thing we ordered there was mind-blowingly good! We made it there three times and I left with SO much inspiration. Eat there, if you ever get the chance!
Italy Trip! // www.mesacookingco.comAnother favorite was the central market in Florence. The first floor of the market was what looks like a typical farmers’ market with fresh produce, meat, and dairy. The second floor has around 10 different small restaurants each featuring a specific type of food (like dessert, a bakery, a pizza place, winery, etc.) and each using food from the market below. So, the idea is they get the fresh food from the market and then they make it fresh in front of you! You could pick up a prosciutto and cheese plate from one restaurant, then walk over to grab a plate of house-made pasta, and then visit the cannoli stand for dessert!

At the pizza place, for example, we watched them make our pizza in about five minutes flat. They rolled out the dough (okay, we didn’t watch them make the dough, but it was clear they had mixed and shaped it earlier), added the toppings, put it into the wood-burning oven which they were stoking themselves, and then pulled it out for us to enjoy just a couple minutes later.

Fresh, good food and the least expensive place we ate at! Most meals we did not limit ourselves based on cost because, hello, half this trip is about the food! But we enjoyed this central market so much and it is a great budget-friendly option!

All in all, we loved how fresh so much of the food we ate was. The house-made pasta at so many places was absolutely delicious. I had this pear-filled bowtie pasta that was out of the world. We also ate a ton of prosciutto – and saw in one kitchen a chef actually hand-cutting the prosciutto from the meat right in front of us! And actually, one of my favorite things that I noticed was the consistency in ingredients at many different places. For example, we found figs and pears in many dishes at different restaurants – because right now they are in season! A lot of the restaurants we ate at clearly strived to us fresh, in-season ingredients and we loved that.Italy Trip! // www.mesacookingco.comIf you go to Italy (and this is a good rule of thumb in many other countries too), try your best to get off the beaten path and away from restaurants along the main drag. The best restaurants we ate at were tucked away from the tourist areas and were filled with mostly Italians.

A great way to quickly judge a restaurant’s authenticity is to look at their menu (usually posted outside the door). The best places had a menu only in Italian, but many other good restaurants did have an English translation as well. The best places also had a smaller menu. Many of the tourist-focused restaurants we saw had menus with fifty to one hundred different dishes. This is a good indication that some of their food is not made fresh – because how could a kitchen keep up with so many different elements? Beyond just looking at their menu, I spent a ton of time researching places. I suggest finding a couple food bloggers that live where you’re heading and looking into their recommendations. The suggestions I gleaned from a few food blogs proved to be far better than what TripAdvisor or other sites like that could recommend.

Try to follow these simple tips and I think you’ll be really happy with the places you find!

And – I couldn’t resist sharing a few more pictures from the trip! Here they are:

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Overlooking St. Peter’s Basilica

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The Colosseum

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The Colosseum was AMAZING. One of my favorite parts of the trip!

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The Roman Forum

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Pompeii! So, SO mind-blowing!

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The counter of a legit fast-food restaurant in Pompeii!

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More Pompeii – so well preserved!

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On a tiny hike in Cinque Terre!

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Pisa! And we climbed it too!

And basically, we saw and visited a hundred more things – but I am happy to share the highlights with you! If you ever get a chance to go to Italy, do it! It is an incredible place just PACKED with history, art, and good, good food. Happy Friday!

And please forgive my terrible phone pictures of food today. I wasn’t about to crack out my DSLR at every restaurant we ate at, but I did try to show decently well how delicious all the food we ate was! Just believe me, it all was 10x prettier than my pictures showed and 100x more tasty!