Thursday, August 16, 2012

Eating My Way Through Europe Part 2

Still so much to tell but it's already been over a month and a half since I got back. Around this point, my camera got damaged. Thankfuly I brought a spare one along (sorry about the photo quality). For a country like Italy, there is so much to try and not much time left to try them all. Then there is Greece and Austria where you educate yourself on what the local cuisine really is and there were a few surprises.

Florence, Italy

Italian cuisine is one of my favourites in Europe. I go weak at carbs and the 5 nights spent in Florence, Rome and Venice was packed with pizza slices, pasta dishes and so much gelato. It is no surprise that food plays a major role in the Italian lifestyle. Like France, the cities in Italy (Florence, Rome and Venice) are packed with restaurants on every corner. The locals told us to try and avoid the pricey restaurants aimed at tourists but with so little time, we just went for the most convenient (and less pricey) one when we were starving after all the walking. Notably, restaurants in Italy often adds a service fee on top of the food which can be pretty annoying if the restaurant service was not enjoyable.

You can never get sick of gelato!

We were extremely hungover during our time in Florence so pizza, pasta and gelato became our main sources of hangover food. After the walking tour around Florence, we went looking for the closest restaurant that is cheaper, less touristy and has free wi-fi. This time, we checked out the Osteria Dell Agnolo near the Duomo in Florence mainly for the free wi-fi offer. Apparently this restaurant is renowned for its wine selection, cured meats hanging around the shop and it has been around for about 88 years! Several of my tourmates thought their dishes was a bit too salty for them. I loved the pasta I have chosen (the Osterio special of fresh pasta with duck ragu) as the pasta was al dente and the sauce was dense, creamy and rich. Those who had the pizzas loved it. A truly wonderful Tuscan experience!

Margherita pizza - we probably had at least 10 pizzas in less than 7 days

Osteria specialty - Fresh pasta with duck sauce. Perfect for severe hangovers

Cured meats sitting by the window

I cannot remember the name of the restaurant we went for the optional dinner provided by the tour but it wasn't as great as I thought it would be. We had a set menu where various courses were delivered at the same time - all of which claimed to be authentic Tuscan cuisine. The food was pretty average and basically what we are more likely to make using basic ingredients back in Australia. There were a couple I enjoyed such as the anti pasto plate which had a varied selection of cured meats. Nothing spectacular as the place I went for lunch but it was enjoyable.

Anti-pasto plate

Possibly spaghetti napoletano

Rome, Italy

Throughout the tour, we had regular stops at petrol stations. Before you groan, let me tell you this: petrol stations in Europe are much MUCH bigger - about the size of your local Coles or Woolies. Many of them serve pizzas and paninis which are better than some of the Italian restaurants back home. The one I had below during a stop at the Autogrill in Rome was definitely one that I enjoyed during Europe.

During our time in Rome, a small group and I have ventured into the smaller, less busy streets away from the busy centre of Piazzo Navona. We came across the Osteria dell Anima in one of the quiet areas of Rome. For me, it was one of the best restaurants I've been during my time overseas. The staff was friendly, food was freshly made and the prices are pretty reasonable including the service fee. I shared a few slices with my tour mates (the pizza servings were massive!) and the spaghetti alla vongole. The pasta dish was alright with the exception of several clams bein unable to open. However the pizzas were incredible. Forget your Dominos and Pizza Hut Supreme thick crust pizzas. In Italy, their thin crust pizzas have around 2 to 5 toppings max. Yet their flavour combinations still made the most of the dish. Definitely somewhere I'd recommend to visit next time I head to Rome.

Another margherita pizza

Salami pizza

Check out the crust!

Spaghetti alla vongole

We went to Pompeii and checked out Pizza Suise as we were very hungry after two hours of walking and sightseeing. The pizzas at this place were made on the spot so they were very fresh and you can see the staff making them at every stage. While I loved the crust when I had the margherita with salami pizza, there was too much sauce and the pizza got too soggy by the time I got to the final slice.

Making the pizzas

Margherita con Salame

Venice, Italy

We reached to Venice after a well deserved break in Greece (more on that later). The fact that Venice is built on water and is known as 'The Floating City' plays a role with the regional Italian cuisine with seafood appearing very frequently on the menu. It was also pretty expensive compared to Rome and Florence as the city prides itself on tourism. With their many bridges ad canals, it was easy to lose each other so we stuck with going to the closest restaurants (and bars) from the meeting point.

For lunch, a small group of us checked out Kori, which is less than 1 minute walk from Piazza San Marco. Around this point, I was sick of pizzas so I just had pasta. I did try a slice of the pizza and it had a nice crunch along with the soft thin crust base. I chose the Spaghetti ai Frutti di Mare (fruit of the sea) which had a bit of everything that is seafood with marinara sauce. This include prawns, mussels, clams and even a scampi! I absolutely enjoyed this dish though peeling the scampi made for some hilarious moments.

Yet another Margherita pizza!

Wished I remember the name for this pizza...

Spaghetti ai frutti di mare

Around this point, I've realised that I have not tried a tiramisu in Italy once and it is the last stop before heading to Vienna the next day (more on that later). So having tiramisu in Venice is a must. And I did not regret having dessert despite the full meal as the texture was light and heavenly. My tour mates went crazy for the fruit salad with ice cream though. I did not end up having that but it looked really pretty and they seemed to enjoy it.

Ice cream and fruit salad


At dinner we went next door to Birreria Pedavena which is nearby Kori on the same street. The portions for pasta were a bit larger than the place we went for lunch. Loved the pasta but I'm not a big fan of balsamic vinegar which was used to decorate our plates.

Spaghetti alle vongole - was better than the one I had in Rome because all of the clam shells were opened

I cannot remember this dish either *cries* but it was soooo good! I am guessing it is tagliatelle frutti di mare

My friend AC tried the tiramisu this time. I had a small amount and it seemed creamier than the one I tried at Kori

Greece (Corfu)

Before this trip, my knowledge of Greek food consists of anything that George from Masterchef makes, and the food I've had at Xanthi restaurant. Since coming back from Europe, I have been craving for Greek food especially dolmades (grapevine leaves stuffed with herbs and rice). While we didn't go to Athens or Mykonos, 3 days in Corfu was enough for us to get an understanding of Greek life and cuisine. At the hotel, the bar by the pool was selling lamb souvlaki made on the spot. It took a while for the one staff member to make 4 souvlakis but it was worth the wait with crispy chips and lamb made from the spit. While my tour mates enjoyed it, I thought the meat wasn't very tender and slightly hard to chew.


A group of us took a drive to the city centre of Corfu and ended up at Deseo cafe (it was the closest restaurant from our car). Now in Greece, the siesta is very significant to the locals so we had to go to Corfu for shopping and lunch very early to avoid mass shop closures between 2:30pm and about 4-5pm.

More souvlaki!

On the final night in Corfu, we had dinner at a traditional Greek restaurant with a special dance show featuring traditional Greek dancing. Some of my tour mates may say otherwise but I thought this was one of the best dinner optionals provided by Contiki as I enjoyed the food at this restaurant. Did not try the complimentary ouzo shot as I was taking medicine but my tour mates said it was horrific. May stick to ouzo drinks by Xanthi for now.

Greek dip selection

Mixed vegetables

Potatoes for everyone...

Meat platter with rice and veggies - I thought the butter used for the rice was somewhat overwhelming but the meats made up for it

Filo pies with sausages


The food here seemed very similar to what I would usually expect at a German restaurant. Portions are massive and schnitzels and strudels are a big deal here. On the first night in Vienna, we had limited time for dinner before checking out the classical music concert. So we went to find the closest restaurant that are willing to provide quick service for an hour. This led us to Weinerwald (The Vienna Woods) restaurant...which turns out to be one of Austria's (and Germany) fast food chain restaurants specialising in chicken - Austrian style.

Crumbed chicken pieces with chips

"Viennese" Apple Strudel

Cream strudel

Chocolate fondue

We trekked out into the woods after an extensive day of sightseeing and drinking. Surprisingly our Viennese dinner is located at Rieglerhutte restaurant in the middle of a forest away from the vibrant city life. Not that we didn't mind. It was a peaceful vibe until we had more shots inside the restaurant. Over here, we had more unusual food for entrees that differ itself from the usual schnitzels and strudels and it made for a very pleasant and interesting experience. Would love to try the soup again as well as the apple strudel.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this soup. Pretty refreshing

Chicken schnitzel - pretty disappointing as the meat was too dry. Even the lemon didn't help.

Apple strudel - struggle to finish this as I was too full but I did enjoy this dish. More rustic and rich than the one at Weinerwald

More crazy international culinary tales from Czech Republic, Germany, Netherlands and Spain are coming very soon!

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