Long-term memory works in fascinating ways. Mine certainly does. I remember some things in every single detail whilst others I completely forget.
And random memories come to me at random times.
Yesterday I woke up tired. It’s been a busy week. Somehow and out of the blue this vivid memory from three years ago suddenly came to my mind. Sheba and I were in Berlin, on the hunt for breakfast and we thought we’d check out the quirky cafe our AirBnb hostess suggested. That was one of the best breakfasts I ever had.
A great selection of fruit, warm bread, mozzarella, tomato, prosciutto, a boiled egg, olive pate. Everything was fresh and tasted amazing. Such a simple but delicious, full of flavour and full of goodness breakfast.
That got me thinking. A day earlier I was telling my colleagues how the best English breakfast I had was at a small hotel in the mountains, The Royal Ship Dolgellau in Wales. Every single ingredient was locally sourced and tasted incredible. Do you sense a theme here?
Food tastes better when on a holiday, a break, away from work and routine. Especially breakfast. The first meal of the day. It may just be that it happened that the quality of the food was way more superb in these two occasions but no…
The breakfast my wonderful AirBnb hostess Malvina served me every morning when I was in Bordeaux… (I can still taste the homemade honey)
…the fresh pastries the hotel owner we stayed in Rome brought us every day…
and the traditional ones we got from Prozymi bakery in Protaras last September (what I wouldn’t give for a tahinopitta right now)…
I came to the realisation that breakfast (well not just breakfast) tastes much better on holiday mode, weekend mode, break mode, especially in the sunshine, with beautiful views.
I got up, made some porridge and counted how many days I have left before I have a long-term hopefully, break from routine. I reckon breakfast will taste amazing from that day on.
I’d love to hear some of your favourite breakfast meals you had away. Or maybe that’s only me?
Mama Donna left a gift for my birthday on my desk the day before, scrummy brownies from a London based business specialising in gourmet brownies (she knows me too well), Bad Brownie and I just came back from M&S to get more birthday treats.
Sophie came up to wish me happy birthday and try the finger-licking brownies and a couple of hours later we ended up at L’Osteria enjoying the Gnocchi, half Braccio di Ferro (spinach, egg, cheese and garlic) and half Vegetariana pizza (mozzarella, grilled vegetables, mushrooms and garlic) and a glass of Chianti.
She wanted to try the food there since I recommended it after the first ever time I visited about a month ago and she suggested going that night after work. Spontaneous invite, delicious food, chats and making new friends, some of my most favourite things in the whole wide world, I couldn’t possibly say no. It rained on our way there, just like last time…
Back to a month ago, my first time at L’Osteria (I’ve been meaning to post about it since but life got in the way)
Saturday afternoon, 21st of April
I just came home from lunch on the Ventura. I had a couple of glasses of wine and I feel so tired I can go to sleep and not get out of bed until tomorrow.
But I’m meeting a friend for dinner in about two hours. What should I do? I can cancel I guess. I don’t always stick to a plan. My plans change depending on what I really fancy doing at that moment in time. The perks of getting older, only do what you want and consciously choose to ignore social pressures…
After an excruciating half an hour of overthinking, desperately trying to figure out what I really wanted to do, God sometimes is agonisingly painful to be me, I decided I’d go for dinner. I’d like to see my friend and we were to try the pizza at L’Osteria, the pizza place at the Watermark my Italian friend Sofy recommended, ‘The closest to Italian pizza you can find in Southampton’she said.
In the end I’m glad I went.
It was very busy. I’ve unsuccessfully attempted to make a booking the day before, but it was impossible as you’d expect on a Saturday night and the restaurant was fully booked until 9:30pm, but the lovely manager on the phone suggested I’ll have better luck just showing up.
We did just show up but there was going to be a 25min wait unless we sat outside. It wasn’t that cold so we decided to have our pizza al fresco.
As there was a large selection of pizzas I couldn’t possibly decide, I thought I’d go for two different halves and after a long deliberation I went for the Capricciosa (ham, mushrooms, artichokes and olives) and the Il Vecchietto (mozarella, egg, pancetta, onions, rosemary and piccante). My friend went for the Hawaiian and not sure what the other half was, I was so surprised he willingly decided to have pineapple on a pizza I can’t recall what he said after ‘half Haiwaiian’…
Since I’ve started the day with a couple of glasses of red I decided to stick to it so I asked my lovely waitress to pick a glass of red for me and she went for Chianti, now one of my favourite red wines. I’d never tried it before but it was smooth, and extremely easy to drink.
After about an hour or so enjoying our HUGE pizzas, wine and plenty of laughs, it started to rain… followed by thunder… and lightning. We moved to a table further in so we don’t get wet and we spent most of the evening watching the thunderstorm. Scary but fascinating.
That’s how I imagined the end of the world would be. Thunders, lightning followed by flying prawns, unicorns and other random objects, like a scene off The Good Place… (sometimes it’s really fun to be me)…
L’Osteria is now one of the very few chains I love. Delicious food and wine, great selection, super friendly staff and reasonable prices.
I have to visit L’Osteria again to try their pasta this time! I can’t promise you any out of the ordinary weather related spectacles, but the Italian language lessons on speakers in the toilet are amusing AND educating (did you know that in Italy they only drink Cappuccino until noon and Espresso in the afternoon?) and the pizza will not disappoint.
After an interesting but challenging, busy day running around for most of it, I could not wait for my dinner and theatre evening.
I’ve been daydreaming for that first sip of wine for days… I’ve been looking forward to seeing Miss Saigon since we booked our tickets a month ago… I’ve been drooling thinking of the Ravioli from the first moment I saw that Insta Story weeks ago…
It’s all about the little things, I lost count how many times I’ve been told by friends, colleagues, even people I recently met that they love how I enjoy life and make the most of it. It’s true. And I looked forward to this evening more than words can describe.
First stop Soleto, a little Italian just opposite the Mayflower. I’ve never heard of this restaurant until a couple of weeks ago. During one of my long sessions on Instagram exploring, I came across this snap on the Southampton location Insta story of the most gorgeous looking ravioli I’ve ever seen. That’s one of the ways I discover all the little gems I often blog about. I googled the place, as one does and it had great reviews on TripAdvisor.
The gang trusts my instinct when it comes to food and they were all up for trying Soleto before the theatre. I’ve made a reservation a couple of days ago and the lovely manager on the phone after hearing my name asked where I was from as my name sounded Greek. I told her I was Greek Cypriot and she had a giggle before telling me that her husband, George/Yiorgos was Greek and he is the cook, he would be the one preparing our meals. It made my day. It reminded me of my dad, cooking delicious fish every night… I almost knew the food would be amazing.
And it was one of the best three course meals I had in a while. Everyone else agreed.
For a starter we shared the Baked Camembert with Garlic and Rosemary which came with Toasted Ciabatta and Chilli and Onion Chutney. Heavenly runny Camembert, with just the right amount of garlic and herbs, warm, crusty on the outside, soft on the inside, homemade ciabatta and delicious, spicy chutney. We loved it so much we ordered a second.
I usually struggle to choose a main, but this time I knew from the moment I’ve seen it on that story that I had to try the Wild Mushroom Ravioli. Oh my lord. Perfectly cooked ravioli beautifully laid in a creamy Leek and Pine nut Sauce, with of course grated Parmesan on top.
I could not decide what to have for pudding, I love a chocolate tart but the lovely manager recommended the Creme Brulee. It was the perfect pudding to finish off this incredible meal. Light and fluffy, not overly sweet.
All the dishes were beautifully presented which makes a difference. If it looks good, it rarely doesn’t taste good!
I’m not a big wine drinker but Dave’s recommendation of red hit the spot. Light, smokey, smooth, it was the perfect choice for our meal, especially on a bitterly cold, winter night.
And for all of that we only paid £35 each, tips included! I’d definitely pay more.
After dinner, warmed up, happy with full belly, we headed to the theatre to see Miss Saigon.
I do not want to reveal much in case you are about to go and see it but it was hands down one of the best shows I’ve seen at the Mayflower.
Incredible props and sets and beautiful, colourful, authentic costumes, for a moment you forget you are in Southampton and you are transferred to 1970’s Vietnam.
The music was amazing, well done to the brilliant orchestra and the maestro co-ordinating the musicians and the outstanding cast singing.
The whole cast was stunning, especially Kim and the Engineer, but everyone was incredible.
I cried in the end not just because of the tragic ending (as one would expect of an Opera adaptation) but because of the beauty of it all, the set, the music, the acting.
Some of my friends and colleagues I’ve talked to afterwards didn’t think it was that brilliant, as they compared it to the London production they’ve seen years ago but as a first-timer I absolutely loved it.
Needless to say I’d recommend it, it’s worth every single penny. And if you decide to go, pop to Soleto for dinner first. I’m going back at the first opportunity to taste more of their dishes.
Delicious food, great company and an amazing show, definitely a night to remember.
Thank you to Solent Staff Scene for the tickets and to the Mayflower for bringing such a great production to Southampton.
Thank God is Friday. This week has been emotional, busy, full of ups and downs, exhausting.
I’m glad we decided to try Enoteca, the Italian on Bedford place.
The perfect way to celebrate the end of the week.
My lovely friend Jaba recommended this little gem a while ago and today Jamie, Sheba and I gave it a go. I pass by it every day on my way to work and back but is usually quiet so I didn’t think much of it but I’ve heard the best and it has excellent reviews with my all time favourite one: “Just had the Tiramisu. Like angels tap dancing on your tongue. The lamb and the prawns were legendary too. Good work chaps!(Rob Pratt via Facebook)”
Enoteca (the word Enoteca comes from the Greek word Οινοθήκη, which means “wine repository” but is used to describe a special type of local or regional wine shop that originated in Italy) is a small, family run restaurant in the city centre and the menu includes antipasti, sharing platters and tapas.
We love sharing and we wanted to try as much as we could, one of my favourite things to do when eating out, so we had the cheese platter, the griddled lamb cutlets, Arancini (fried breaded risotto balls filled with mozzarella and Nduja salami) and the torta rustica (A filo pastry tart of ricotta, spinach, artichoke).
Everything was delicious! Jamie doesn’t usually like lamb but he loved it at Enoteca! And I personally loved the decoration and the homely feeling, especially their pretty patterned plates.
We could not leave without trying the tiramisu after the glorious review above. And it didn’t disappoint. Light, fluffy cream, sweet, coffee infused lady fingers. I could have 10 of these little pots.
Thank you Jamie and Shebz for our lovely lunch today. One to remember!
I’m definitely going back again to try the rest of the menu and their wine. Needless to say, is now one of my favourite lunch places in Southampton. Great, delicious food, decent prices, fast service, friendly staff and local, independent, cute little restaurant.
I hope more people get to know and try it and support it, it will be a shame if it closes down because of the big, chain competitors.
I don’t get paid to write about any of these places, this is my honest opinion and hopefully this comes across through my posts.
Have a lovely weekend, however you are spending it!
This post is purely dedicated to our Italian cuisine experience, good and bad. I can’t believe it took me three days to prepare this post!
It’s worth mentioning that our food budget was around 10 to 15 euros per meal but to be fair most places we checked out were within that range. I tried to take a picture of all of our meals but unfortunately sometimes we were too hungry we just dug in.
Before we start a couple of useful tips.
Most places have different prices for sitting down compared to takeaway. If you are not desperate to sit down and just fancy a snack, then don’t.
Also, most restaurants in Rome and Florence, I think all of the ones we’ve been, include service charge in the bill (for some of them it was unbelievably high e.g. 22%), so no need to tip.
Thank you to my lovely sisters for some of the photos on this post and helping me remember the names of the places we ate at. Love you.
Just to warn you, I got really hungry reading this and looking at the photos we took, so get a snack and a drink and enjoy.
Let’s start shall we?
We had our first meal in Florence at this cute little restaurant, L’Imperatore on one of the picturesque streets near San Lorenzo market. Stella (sister two) and I were not too hungry so we opted for a starter, grilled vegetables with melted mozzarella on top, and a ‘primo’ (first course) which is hot food heavier than a starter but lighter than a ‘secondo’ (second course) (check out Wiki for more on Italian meal structure). I had the beef cannelloni and Stella the ricotta cheese and spinach one, and our little duckling Anna was very hungry so she had pasta al pomodoro (spaghetti with tomato sauce, which was ‘very tasty, it doesn’t even need cheese’ in her own words) for a first course and grilled chicken with roast potatoes for second. All in all we enjoyed our meal so if you want decent and some of the cheapest food in Florence, give it a go!
Grilled veggies with mozzarella
Pasta al Pomodoro and grilled chicken with roast potatoes
After lunch we bumped into Mercato Centrale, this amazing indoors food court, which included a fancy cooking school we had a peak through the glass doors. We wished we hadn’t just had lunch so we could try some of the delicious food on display. I won’t say more about it, just look at the photos.
In the afternoon we sat at this pretty patisserie, Scudieri, just opposite the Florence Cathedral, which looked awesome but the counter lady was rude. And the tiramisu brought to me the first time was too runny so the lovely waiter didn’t want to give it to me and took it back. The second one he brought me was really nice and the chocolate cupcake the little one had was great but Stella found hers too sweet. We paid around 25 euros for three puddings and a bottle of still water (it cost 5 euros!!), which I think was too much considering the relatively poor service. We found water overpriced in most places in Florence and Rome so get water from a shop for a euro or two instead.
On our second day in Florence we had breakfast at Smalzi cafe. We had freshly prepared paninis and OK coffee. Friendly service, reasonable prices and AMAZING location. I could sit there admiring the views for hours.
Views from Smalzi Cafe
We had lunch at Fiorino D’Oro on Piazza Della Repubblica. Decent food, brilliant location overlooking the square and good prices but the service was slow. It was busy but still.
Carbonara, Fiorino D’Oro
Bruschetta, Fiorino D’Oro
In the evening we got to try the infamous Bistecca alla Fiorentina, delicious, juicy T-bone steak. It’s expensive in most restaurants, but is a very large dish and perfect for sharing. It took three of us to finish it. We had ours plus a delicious margherita at Le Cappelle Medicee. This was one of my favourite meals. Friendly staff who also offered us limoncello shots on the house, good prices and another great location near the Cathedral.
Pizza and steak
Bistecca alla Fiorentina
On Day one at Roma we had the worst meal ever. We were exhausted and starving so we sat at the first cafe we saw, Bar Cottini. It wasn’t very clean, service was slow and we had the most horrible, greasy pizzas. We didn’t even finish them despite our hunger and we didn’t take any pictures! If you ever come across it, avoid it!
On the contrary, our next meal, dinner at Ristorazione Alimentare Romana, I think, (I remember the street, I actually found it on Google maps but there are a couple of restaurants there, is the first one you find on this cute, quiet side street, but it might not be because the food was good but the TripAdvisor reviews are horrible) was really nice. They used fresh pasta for their carbonara, which makes a huge difference to the palete and their capricciosa pizza was decent, although I still can’t understand why the ingredients were clearly divided in two halves.
From day two to our very last day, breakfast was delivered to our room by our lovely hotel owner, Helena. Fresh croissants, coffee and orange juice.
We then had a quick lunch at this small, cute, quirky cafe near the Colosseum, Cafe Cafe. Loved the decoration and our freshly prepared sandwiches. Good prices and service and the music in the toilet activated as soon as you sit on the toilet seat made me laugh.
Cafe Cafe sandwiches
Cafe Cafe sandwiches
We grabbed some ice-cream at Gelateria ai Cerchi on our way back from Tiber island. Their lemon flavour was not the best but their pistacchio was super scrummy.
For dinner we visited a bakery close to our hotel, Bakery Roscioli Pietro, which I found out about online as it had great reviews. We had pizza by the meter, a white one/’bianca’ (no tomato sauce) with thinly cut potatoes and a prosciutto with cheese one. They were very tasty but I think we were overcharged! We paid 35 euros just for the pizza and for that amount of money we could have had a nice pizza at a proper restaurant. We bought desserts from there as well, which were alright but not to our like. They did have a great selection though!
Roscioli Pietro bakery
Roscioli Pietro bakery
Roscioli Pietro bakery
Roscioli Pietro bakery
Roscioli Pietro bakery
Day three kicked off with a very average snack at a cafe in the train station. I can’t remember the name but it was the last one on the top floor. I wouldn’t recommend it.
We had great dinner though at Osteria La Mucca Biricchina, which was one of our favourite meals of the whole trip. Reasonable prices and delicious food! Little sister had a Carbonara Calzone (it was massive!), I had Bucatini all’amatriciana (pasta with smokey tomato sauce, bacon and parmesan) and Stella had Spaghetti Bolognese. I loved the traditional, cosy decoration as well. I highly recommend this restaurant!
Osteria La Mucca Biricchina
Osteria La Mucca Biricchina
On our way back we got delicious pudding from Mercato Centrale, the food court next to Roma Termini train and metro station. If you are ever at the train station or near it and you fancy a snack or a meal avoid the cafes/restaurants at the station and go here instead. You won’t regret it!
On our penultimate day, we had lunch at the Vatican museums canteen. Avoid like the plague if you are not that hungry. Very slow service due to the crazy amount of people, horrible food, at least what we had, an army of pigeons was ready to attack our plates at any point, they fly VERY close to your head and grab bread as soon as it drops to the floor or left unattended on the table, and we were served by a very rude waiter.
We had a drink at a little cafe/restaurant near Ottaviano metro station, Tavola Calda Pizzeria Caffetteria. That’s where I had the worst cup of tea (the tea bag must have been really old, at least that’s how it tasted)! And the decoration was horrendous! Definitely avoid if you can.
We had nice dinner back at Mercato Centrale. At that point we wanted a break from all the pizza and pasta so I had a juicy beef burger in a tasty bun, Stella had the Italian version of Greek souvlaki/skewers with a variety of different meats (chicken, pork and italian sausage) and delicious roast potatoes and our duckling had roastbeef which was nice but not what she expected as it was thin layers of cold beef with salad.
On our final day we had the best pizza to all the ones we tried in Rome, at Ai Tre Tartufi on Piazza Navona. Delicious pizzas (margherita and bacon bianca) with the best crust compared to the rest of the pizzas we had, but crazily expensive bottle of water, the most expensive in Rome and Florence, at least at the restaurants we’ve been, 6.50 euros!!!!
On our way back we bumped into one of our now favourite places in Rome, Venchi Ice Cream and Chocolate shop. When you visit Fontana di Trevi and Pantheon, you must pop into Venchi for the tastier, most delicious ice cream! You can smell the chocolate from the outside luring you in, their feature chocolate wall made us crave chocolate even more and they have a chocolate tap (YES, they do!!) they use to pour chocolate on top of ice cream or cornet. My photos don’t do it justice.
Venchi is a large Italian gourmet chocolate manufacturer and I found out they have a branch in London as well. I don’t usually support big chains but I’d definitely recommend Venchi purely based on the quality of their chocolate and ice cream.
Here’s a Youtube video of the chocolate wall!
We had our last drink at Angelo Cafe near Piazza della Repubblica. Nice cafe, fast service and not lovely views.
We had some food at a couple of places at the airport, which was ridiculously overpriced and mediocre so I’d recommend to take some food from town or eat before you go. You will still unfortunately have to get ridiculously overpriced water after you go through security.
All three of us love Italian Cuisine, pizzas, pasta, sandwiches and desserts and despite some bad food, we thoroughly enjoyed our Italian culinary experience.
I hope you enjoyed our food journey in Florence and Rome. I’m off to have some dinner!
Next post will be on Friendfest, a gorgeous day in London with lovely friends checking out memorabilia and the sets from our favourite TV show Friends 🙂