Foodvixen Does Europe (Day 5) – Polignano A Mare
Our last day in Rome we decided that we hadn’t quite had enough of the Burrata and Pesto pizza at Antico Forno Roscioli so we met our friends there that were also staying nearby and yeah, well, let’s just say we had pizza for breakfast. Afterwards we all made our way to the airport to catch an afternoon flight. Not sure if I have mentioned it already but we are all actually in Europe for a good friends wedding. Many of us have flown over from Australia to attend the wedding which is in London next weekend, so obviously we decided to make a bit of a holiday out of it.
We were meeting more friends in Polignano A Mare, a small seaside town in the city of Bari in Puglia for a bit of pre-wedding drinking, eating and relaxing. Puglia is well known for a few things, most importantly Taralli – a savoury biscuit shaped a bit like mini donut that I nicknamed the Italian Jatz because of their addictive nature. Secondly, Puglia is known for its Burrata. Some of the best Burrata in the world comes from Puglia and in both Rome and Florence I found menus with Burrata from Puglia on it. And thirdly the small little round pasta known as Orecchiette is also famously from Puglia.
When we arrived at Bari airport the five of us collected our two rental cars with MS and I upgrading from our Toyota Yaris to a Renault Clio. It was cheap to upgrade and the Clio had built in Navman. Funnily enough our friends upgraded from their Alfa Romeo Giuletta to a Ford Mondeo wagon which proved to be an extremely bad idea when we arrived in Polignano to find the narrowest streets in existence. Thankfully both cars got away from the trip unscathed but only because of some absolute standout driving from both MS and the Ford Mondeo driver, PS.
The town of Polignano A Mare is one of the prettiest little places that I have ever had the opportunity to visit. It is a quaint little town with a labyrinth of laneways filled with restaurants, cafes, shops and breathtaking lookouts over the Adriatic Sea. Unbeknown to us before we arrived Polignano was also gearing up for their second ever hosting of the Red Bull Cliff Jumping competition. Had we known that we probably would have stayed a couple more days but we had flights booked to leave the day before the competition began. I don’t want to ramble on too much about Polignano because to be honest, it’s all a bit of a blur of drinking and repetitive pasta and pizza eating so I am going to try and condense it into one (or two posts).
On the first night in Polignano we checked into our Airbnb (La Casetta Nel Vico) and reunited with our friends at their Airbnb which wasn’t far from ours. We made our way to a popular little cocktail bar called La Casa Del Mojito down one of the laneways. There wasn’t much to it… a few metal stools to outside to sit on and some nearby steps but man did they do good, cheap cocktails! 7 Euros for a huge selection of cocktails that were certainly not stingy on the pours. I started on the Aperol Spritz and moved onto the Negroni’s which wasn’t the smartest move since I hadn’t eaten since my breakfast pizza. Over the next four days we visited a couple more times. La Casa Del Mojito was a definite highlight of our time in Polignano.
During our stay in Polignano we dined at so many places that it really is just a blur for me now but I do have a few highlights. Fresh seafood is the name of the game in Puglia and there is a tonne of seafood places to eat. Il Pescato was on my radar after it was recommended to me by our Airbnb host Francesco however since much of the group (there was 9 of us) weren’t the biggest seafood eaters so 5 of us made a booking for lunch while the rest fended for themselves. The Grilled Swordfish on the menu was only 9 Euros (an absolute steal) so most of the table ordered that as a starter. It was freshly caught, perfectly grilled and with a squeeze of lemon over the top… Bliss!
I had the Tagniollini with Clams, Red Prawns, Squid and Fava Bean Puree. Fava bean puree with pasta is a first for me but hopefully not the last!
I sampled my fair share of pastas over the week with plenty of memorable ones and some not so memorable ones however the best one for me was at a restaurant called La Locanda Porta Picc. The Spaghetti with Seafood or as they say in Italy ‘Spaghettoni ai Frutti di Mare’, which sounds far better than the English version was a standout for me and the others at the table that ordered it. You can’t beat the simple flavours of top quality olive oil and garlic with freshly made pasta and seafood caught that very day!
I did really want to go to the Grotto Palazzese (a restaurant built inside a cave) but after reading some reviews about it and looking at the price of the menu I decided that it wasn’t really worth it at all. It seem you’re really just paying for the view and no doubt it’s amazing but I don’t need to spend 40 Euro per dish just to look at a view like that. I mean I work on a ship so that kind of thing isn’t all that foreign to me. Plus according to many a review the food wasn’t spectacular and the service was woeful so yeah, nah.
Polignano is a popular spot for Italian’s that want a seaside holiday where they can lie on the beach in the sun and work on their golden tans. The actual beach at Polignano absolutely tiny. There are so many people crammed into one little spot, it’s quite a contrast to what we are used to in Australia. Not to mention that but the beach is also mostly rock. The ones in the know have special plastic slip on shoes that they wear to walk on the beach and swim in the water – kind of like a cross between a Croc and a reef walking boot. We missed the memo on that one so ended up painstakingly making our way in and out of the water. I also found the beach to be quite dirty. The Italians love a good cigarette and there is no shortage of cigarette butts littering the tiny beach. We even found a sanitary napkin right where we decided to lay our towels which just grossed me out and made me wonder what else was hiding amongst the rocks.
Earlier that day we took the car north to find a sandier type beach about 7km away at the town of Monopoli. What we found didn’t really qualify as my idea of a beach and the large red graffiti on the seawall that said ‘Die Bitch’ was also slightly disconcerting so we had lunch and headed back to Polignano. Other friends had also been scouting for a good swimming spot and found somewhere just north of the main beach in Polignano where we spent a bit more time. I think we are pretty spoilt in Australia in terms of beaches and space as it sure is a premium over here.
We had a fabulous 4 days in Polignano A Mare. In fact it makes me kind of sad that it’s all now just a memory – a much treasured one at that. Afternoons on the terrace with Aperol Spritz’s, cheese and white anchovies and good friends is certainly something I could get used to but sadly all good things must come to an end. Next up Florence….
Foodvixen Does Europe (Rome) – Day 4
We didn’t have anything in particular planned for our fourth day in Rome which just so happened to be a Sunday. Apparently quite a few restaurants and cafes were closed on Sunday’s. At least all the ones I wanted to go to were anyway. But after reading a few reviews and one in particular by Katie Parla (a New Jersey born, Rome based blogger) I had my sights firmly set on De Cesare Al Casaletto, just outside of the main part of Rome. According to her blog Cesare is the place that she takes journalists that want to write about pasta and also where she takes Roman friends. Sounds pretty near perfect to me and they were open on a Sunday so I asked reception at our hotel to book a table for four for that very evening.
Earlier in the day we explored more of the city and I took us on a wild detour to find a gelato shop that had been recommended to me (again thanks Johanna). Il Come Latte seemed a little off the beaten track as it was out of the main tourist areas and we found ourselves to be the only ones around which made me wonder if we had taken a wrong turn. Turns out we did find it and my navigating was on point as usual. Il Come Latte Gelateria was the cutest little gelato shop I think I have ever seen. Very Pleasantville if you have ever seen that movie with Reece Witherspoon. The menu was in Italian so we really didn’t know what all the flavours were but I was able to make out a couple of words including Pistachio and Ricotta so that’s what I ordered. The inside of the handmade waffle cone was also drizzled with white chocolate (you could get milk chocolate if you prefer) with a chocolate dipped wafter chip on top. Perfecto! The server was lovely, even gave MS a warm cloth to wipe chocolate sauce off his shorts.
After our gelato we found ourselves back at the Colosseum eatery that we had eaten at on our first full day in Rome – Angelino Ai Fori – for a late lunch. I had the Caprese Salad with some Bruschetta and MS had the Grilled Provola Cheese with Smoked Ham that we’d previously had.
We both thought the Grilled Cheese was pretty epic but my Caprese Salad was only ok. For such a big and busy restaurant the waiter remembered us and was super friendly in his own brash Italian way.
Back to our hotel for a costume change and then off on the no.8 tram to head to De Cesare Al Casetto. Upon arrival I had a look at the wine menu which seemed ridiculously expensive me. Even my Google Translate app didn’t offer up any help so I asked the waitress if the prices were for a glass of wine. She assured me that all the prices were for bottles of wine. Phew. 15 Euro for a bottle of white Italian wine? Winning!
One of the dishes Cesare is known for is the Fried Gnocchi with Pecorino and Black Pepper Sauce so that’s exactly what we ordered for our starter. When it came out it was far bigger than I expected and it turns out the four of us probably could have just shared the one dish. I could see why it’s a popular dish. Mmmm it was delicioso!
For my main (or as they call it First Course) I had the Tonnarelli All’Amatricana (9 or 10 Euros). Two of my dining buddies ordered the same and the other ordered the Carbonara. There was a slight mix up with the type of pasta that we received but that can only be attributed to the small language barrier.
Oh My Goodness… The Cured Pork Cheek was just to die for! This pasta was something special and to date the best pasta I have eaten on my journey so far, in fact the four of us all agree that our pasta dishes are the best we have eaten.
This was also our last night in Rome so dinner at Cesare was a fitting end to what was a fantastic four days in Rome. I honestly didn’t think I would like Rome, visiting mostly because it has quite a few ‘must see’ places that one needs to visit in their lifetime (i.e. Colosseum, the Pantheon and the Sistine Chapel) however I really enjoyed my time there, despite much of the city smelling like p*ss, and would love to go back again one day.
Foodvixen Does Europe (Rome) – Day 2
We woke bright and early on our first full day in Rome, partly because my pillow was like sleeping on a bag of cement and partly because I can’t go to bed without an alarm set regardless if I’m on holiday. We had a light breakfast in the hotel, well I did. Espresso coffee and some fruit was plenty for me whereas old Fatty McFat Fat aka my other half stuffed himself with danishes, croissants filled with cream cheese, ham, fruit and more cheese.
We had a Skip the Line Tour booked at the Colosseum booked for later that afternoon but figured we would go and see a few of the other sights before then. Campo Dei Fiori where there was so many delicious things I wanted to buy but figured I am going to be in Florence later next week, then the Pantheon which we literally stumbled upon. It’s a pretty awe inspiring place especially when you just stumble around the corner not expecting to see it. Next up the Trevi Fountain. We threw a couple of Euro over our shoulder – apparently there is more than 3000 Euro thrown into it a day. God knows where it all goes but a good friend of mine said that last time she was there she saw a homeless lady fishing some of it out with a pole with a magnet on the end. I must say I’m impressed with her ingenuity and DGAF attitude.
By this time it was about lunchtime so after a toilet stop – and by toilet stop I mean having a coffee at a café with the ingenious disguise of wanting to use their restroom we found ourselves near the Colosseum at Angelino ai Fori – a restaurant within close proximity to the start of our tour. It did look like a bit of a tourist trap and considering how close it was to the Colosseum it most likely was but it was the best looking restaurant in the area so we gave it a go anyway. Are expectations were extremely low but we actually really enjoyed it and even went back a second time a couple of days later. Go figure.
Three and a bit hours later we finished our epic Colosseum tour and headed back towards our hotel with a short stop at a restaurant that I well and truly had my sights set on, hoping to get a seat. The waitress told us that the place was completely booked for the evening much to my despair but said we could come back in 45 minutes and try our luck. 45 minutes later and boy was I lucky. Straight in and straight to an upstairs table at the highly regarded Roscioli.
My sister gave me a book called “Where Chef’s Eat” a couple of years ago (there’s a new edition every year) and I finally decided that I would have a look through it before this holiday. I earmarked a heap of restaurants, cafes and patisseries in the places we were visiting and Roscioli was one them. After doing some Googling there isn’t a blogger that comes to Rome that doesn’t go to Roscioli so as they say, when in Rome.
The menu is literally mouthwatering! There were so many things on the menu that I wanted to eat and still now I am kicking myself for not getting the burrata (some of the best in Rome) but our entrée of Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Roman Oxtail Stew and Peppered with White Cheese Fondue washed down with a glass of Italian Pinot Noir was a decadent and tear inducing hot start to our dinner.
Main for me was the Big Spaghetti with Albacore Tuna Marrow, Wild Fennel, Minced Tomatoes and Olives (19 Euro).
MS had La Carbonara with Crispy Cheek Pork, Malaisian Black Pepper, Paolo Parisi Eggs and Roman Pecorino Cheese Dop.
In the menu it states that all pasta dishes are cooked ‘al dente’ which is a little hard for my liking but again ‘when in Rome’. Plus I don’t believe in changing dishes at restaurants. You eat them how they are meant to be cooked and served. So far this is our one and only pasta meal in Rome so we really have nothing to compare it to however my tastebuds know a good meal when they taste it and they were beyond content.
I am glad that I did some research of places that I wanted to dine at before we visited Rome because to me it seems like there are more tourist traps that great places to dine. It does take a little bit of time to research but it’s so much more rewarding finding the hidden gems. Plus it saves aimlessly walking in circles trying to decide which place to go to. As for Roscioli, some reviews have said that the restaurant is too squishy inside but I actually really enjoyed the atmosphere and layout of the place plus being that close to the table next to us admittedly allowed me to eavesdrop on the miserable American couple next to us that clearly weren’t having a great holiday together. The pasta was excellent, the service I found to be exemplary. Whether this trip or another Roscioli is somewhere that I without a doubt want to go back to!
Foodvixen Does Europe (Rome) – Day 1
I have been meaning to get my webpage up and running again and what better time to do it than when I am on holidays? Europe has never really been high on my list of places to visit. Just ask my best friend SS who has been trying to get me over for close 7 years I reckon. Now she’s getting hitched in London in a few weeks time and I find myself at Brisbane International Airport at 5am boarding a plane to Rome. It’s not that I never wanted to visit Europe, I guess I just had a few places that I wanted to visit beforehand but now we’re making a holiday of it!
Fast forward about 24 hours – 14 ish hours spent on the plane from Brisbane to Dubai where neither MS nor I slept a wink and then another 5.5 hours from Dubai to Rome. To say it was a long trip would be an understatement and whomever said that flying with Emirates is amazing must have rocks in their head because I have had better service on Jetstar (not even kidding).
We waited a ridiculously long time at Immigration, grabbed our suitcases and made for the train station. Catching trains in a foreign country I find is always a bit of a risk. You never really know if you’re on the right train until you actually pull up at the station and breath a small sigh of relief knowing that – yes you got on the right train and yes it was going in the right direction. Another short taxi ride and we were at our hotel in Travestere, Hotel Ponte Sisto. If you’re coming to Rome anytime soon I definitely recommend it. It seems to be very well positioned to see all the sights in Rome plus most importantly very close to some of the restaurants and cafe’s that I wanted to visit.
Dinner was next on the agenda so we found ourselves at popular pizzeria Dar Poeta, only a 10 minute walk from our hotel. As I said it’s a popular choice amongst the locals and tourists so we put our name on the list at the door and within 10 minutes we had a seat inside away from the wafts of cigarette smoke from the outdoor diners. Pizza was the name of the game at Dar Poeta and after reading through the extensive menu we ordered a pizza each, some still water and half a carafe of white house wine. The place was buzzing with people and it was packed to the rafters but our pizza arrived within about 15 minutes.
Despite eating plane food all day and stuffing ourselves in the Emirates Business Class Lounge in Dubai we were still quite hungry. I ordered the Bufala – Tomato Sauce, Cherry Tomatoes, Mozzarella Cheese and Basil for the bargain price of only 9 euros while MS chose the Rustica – Mozzarella Cheese, Speck, Potatoes and Soft Cheese (also 9 euros). I don’t like to describe the food too much because I think the picture kind of speaks for itself. Yes it was as good as it looks.
We loved Dar Poeta so much – awesome prices, delicious food and a buzzing atmosphere – that we are seriously considering going back again. I’ve heard so many people complain about the simplicity of food in Italy but I think simplicity is often the key to good food because it ensures fresh, quality ingredients and that really rung true to me after our first meal in Italy at Dar Poeta.