Allow me to take you on a tour of Firenze, Italia!
{slide show below)

The light is different in Florence. I can't describe it, but it makes you want to just sit in a square and sketch, paint, write, and/or anything else creative for hours. There is also so much shopping: Leather bags, shoes, coats, the jewels on Ponte Vecchio... I could go on!

{heads up... my ruby engagement ring, which is no where to be found here in the states, is everywhere in Italy. I smell a trend coming across the pond.}

The eating in Florence, in my opinion, is a bit superior to Rome. We found ourselves dining in very reasonable trattorias, wine and panino shops, and the most amazing dinner theatre experience I have ever had in my life. So far.

Here are the foodie highlights:

Trattoria Antico Fattore
Make a reservation ahead of time! Very classic Florentine fare here. We had the gnocchi in pesto, ravioli, and steak. If you print this voucher out, you will get a FREE bottle of wine with dinner, and a cute little plate. The waiter was very nice. Everyone in Florence is nice!

Trattoria il Contadino
Go before 7:30 to avoid the wait. This place is a bargain for great food. 12 Euro per person for a 3 course meal. Just add 1 Euro for wine. And the food is delicious. I've never heard of a deal like this in my life! We also asked for another liter of wine, and weren't charged! There is no menu here, the waiter will speak very slowly so listen up. But whatever you order is tasty. We actually asked him to make recommendations.
I Fratellini & Gustapanino
The two best panino shops in town! I Fratellini was recommended to us by Gaia of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. At 2.50 Euro, a panino and a reasonably priced glass of chianti can't be beat. We also happened upon Gustapanino. I fell in love with a bread they used. A warm, crunchy yet soft, focaccia, sprinkled with sea salt! At both of these places, you purchase your delicious panino and wine and then eat and drink in the street. The breakfast of champions!

Il Fagioli
You must book ahead or stop by before they open to put your name down for a later time. There is an AWESOME Scottish pub right next door too if you need to wait. Great music too.  Ironically, one of the owners is from a town just next to my home town on Long Island. He has my dream life and yet I felt at home... Back to Il Fagioli. Irena from Valdirose recommended this place. Very delicious seasonal food. We noticed that they hand write the menu daily. We had the ravioli with homemade ricotta cheese and veal. Very good wine options and friendly staff.

The Mercato Centrale is a must see in Florence. The vegetables, the meats and cheese, the garlic... it's an Italian cuisine mecca! Do wait on the long line for lunch at da Nerbone. It's in the far corner along the strip of food courts. We had orecchiette in a delightful ragu, tripe, and salad. Tripe (cow stomach) is really flavorful but the consistency is an acquired attraction. I do recommend manning up and trying it.

Nothing can beat our experience at Teatro Del Sale. Once you pay for 5 Euro membership (for 1 year) and sign a contract in Italian that may include your first born (just kidding) you then pay a 30 Euro cover for all the wine you can drink, and all of the delicious food that you can eat. Run by the owner of Cibreo, Fabio Picchi, this dinner theatre experience will WOW you. So much food. Antipasti, spreads, vegetables, pastas, seafood, meats, gelati... and it tastes amazing. Fabio looks like King Triton from The Little Mermaid, and as each dish is ready, he shouts loudly in Italian through the glass window of the kitchen. Once everyone has finished eating, they turn the chairs around and you are graced with a performance. We saw a guitar duo covering Stevie Wonder and The Beatles. I haven't eaten and laughed like that in a long time. Truly special.

 Here is a little slideshow! 



Allow me to take you on a quick tour of Roma, Italia!
What can I say about Rome? It's the perfect combination of Ancient and Modern. Just as you pass by the likes of Prada and Versace, with motorcycles flashing by,  you are then face-to-face with ruins, BC style. Don't let the hoards of tourists turn you off from this wonderful city... there are plenty of cobblestones still left unturned by these dreaded tour groups.

Don't Miss These Restaurants:
{both in the ever quaint and popular Trastevere hood)

Dar Poeta
Apparently the best pizza. I have to admit that I had a horrible cold when I consumed these circular masterpieces but the looks on my fiance's and other patron's faces was enough to assure me that I was eating slices of heaven.
Da Lucia
A very laid-back place tucked away in the Trastevere neighborhood as well. We had lovely pasta dishes, beef, and rabbit. Sorry Thumper! The highlight of the evening however, was watching the little ol' owner surveying the diners. He just walked around, busing tables, and smoking his Marlboro reds... even offered us one. A sweet feisty old man that made the evening special.

Some Dining in Italy Tips
{for the uninformed and naive}:

1. Be patient.
They take their time here. Period.
So try eating slower.

2. Drink wine out of whatever they serve it in.
You may very well not get wine glasses with stems.
It is very typical to drink wine out of water glasses here.
3. Learn Italian.
And no, you don't need shell 300 bones for Rosetta Stone. But speaking the native language in small doses is common courtesy.

Some staples:

4. Do NOT ask for cheese on fish dishes.
That linguine with clams? Forgetaboutit! And if you do and get a nasty look, you deserve it because I bet you'd snarl when Brits put mayo and/or vinegar on fries {which is delish}...

5. Remember that Italy is old.

The traditions and way of life in Italy are older than our great grandparents, so remember to be respectful and go with the flo. Yes, you will encounter a hiss or two if you are a tourist, but you'd get that from me on the streets of New York too, even if you are American!

And Finally:
When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

And that goes for any country with tradition!

And here is a little slideshow:

Buon Martedì!
{Happy Tuesday!}


soul food {jon bon jovi}

When I heard that Jon Bon Jovi {an imaginary flame of mine} had opened a new restaurant in New Jersey, I have to admit that despite our {imaginary} love for each other, that little {ok huge} cynical part of me said, "Really? Another celebrity now claims to be a Foodie? Whatever!"... but then I actually learned the concept of the restaurant and ate my words. 

JBJ Soul Food
(in Red Bank, NJ) is a new concept to the restaurant industry. The establishment is dedicated to feeding members of the community who give their time as volunteers. Whether it's washing dishes at the restaurant, or spending time in the actual community, they get a FREE meal from Jon Bon! Cash paying customers who just want to check out the restaurant {and perhaps a glimpse of my imaginary flame} pay $20.00 per person for a 3 course meal. 

And with prices and a concept like that, don't think the food is frozen junk. All ingredients come from the establishment's local organic gardens and through natural food donations from local food merchants. I'll have to check this one out but I can't even remember the last time I was in New Jersey. It may have actually been for a Bon Jovi concert.

Watch the video for more details:

In other food news...
{yes, this is real}


back in the swing of things... and Steff's brownies!

Hello friends. I am back from a 2-week getaway in Italy. I have so much to share. We took almost 1,000 photos, so there is a lot to cover: Culture. Art. Architecture. Food. People. The list goes on. 

While I get organized, I have a lovely guest post recipe for you all to try!
Arriverderci, for now.

Cheesecake Brownies From A Box
by Steff Scholl
Not everyone is gifted enough to make delicious desserts from scratch, some need a little help from box mixes. However, you’re extremely limited in what you can make when they only offer generic flavors, which can get very boring very fast. Luckily, there are some easy ways to spice up your standard out of the box baking recipes and turn them into gourmet desserts. Make sure you have essential baking supplies such as cake pan, either 13x9 or 8x8, that you can buy from Zappos.com using a Zappos coupon code or discount code.

First off, you’ll need a boxed brownie mix and any ingredients it requires and for the cheesecake filling:
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
5 Tbsp. butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. flour
3/4 tsp. vanilla

Follow the directions of the brownie mix and pour in half of the mix into your greased pan. Mix all of the filling ingredients together until smooth and then spoon in or pour on top of the brownie mix. Pour the remaining brownie batter on top.

At this point it won’t look too appetizing but if you take a knife and swirl the layers together you will create a marble effect.
Once you have swirled to your hearts content, pop the pan into the oven and bake as the box instructed. Once it’s done, take it out, let it cool and cut into squares. Enjoy!

Steff Scholl enjoys baking but knows that it can be difficult to make something from scratch. She ends up experimenting with a lot of recipes so it’s a good thing she has reliable baking pans that she bought with a Zappos coupon code.

These look lovely Steff. Thank you for sharing!!


be back soon

taking 2 weeks off the blog to prepare some really
delicious posts.

or should I say... delizioso!

{hint hint}

a presto!