The few memories that I have from my first visit from Southern Italy in 1987 as a 6 year old boy were enough for me to not visit for another 30 years. We basically only visited family that didn’t speak any English whatsoever, and I missed every amenity the US has to offer for a young child.
July 2019: Whatever negative judgments I had of Southern Italy were quickly erased after this trip….
My Capri Itinerary was pretty much left up to my good Italian friend Vito who lives in Naples and summers in Capri. In very Italian fashion, he instructed me to book my flight and let him know which date I was coming. I was to stay at his villa and that was pretty much all the information I had….
On a busy Thursday afternoon at Delicatessen, I got a text from a friend of mine asking what I know about Mallorca, Spain. Little did I know from that text message, it would have lead to the following…..
Summer vacation started off in the South of France with a group of close friends; home base being the town of Thoules once again, but also with day trips to St Tropez, Cannes, St Jean Cap Ferrat and Monaco. And once again, the days were filled with some of my favorite things in the world: French baguettes, French butter and bresse roasted chicken....
For this year’s birthday, it was both a celebration of life and food in Tulum, Mexico. Cooking in New York City for close to sixteen years now, I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside many phenomenal Mexican cooks. Similar to my Italian culture, Mexicans are raised on a very local, indigenous and extremely flavorful cuisine....
This trip to Antigua was pretty spur of the moment. Every year in late winter in New York, I’m kind of itching to get into some warm weather. Going into this trip, I didn’t know that much about Antigua, besides it being a pretty affordable, direct 5 hour flight from JFK....
My trip to the British Virgin Islands was a great mix of business and pleasure. I was invited to cook at the BVI Food Fete along with two other fellow New Yorkers, Chef Kerry Heffernan of Grand Banks and Chef Christopher Faulkner of Harlem Eatery Solomon & Kuff.
I try to fit in a vacation at least once a year that is not affiliated with work aside from leisurely cooking. This year, I visited the South of France with six long time friends. I was lucky enough to stay at my friend’s beautiful villa in the mountains of Thoules, overlooking Cannes – want to talk about waking up in paradise everyday… this was it.
Who says you can’t mix business with pleasure? This summer while filming another episode of Bar Rescue in Sonoma County, every free moment I had, I explored this beautiful area. I loved this region so much that I extended my stay, deciding to take a road trip through St. Helena and stay in Napa for a few nights.
Before this trip, the last time I visited Montréal I was with a group of friends and 19 years old. Needless to say, the emphasis of that trip was cheap hotels, cheap drinks, cheap food and the world famous Montréal strip clubs. Fifteen years later with the dollar still strong and Valentine’s weekend approaching, I thought it was a perfect time to revisit this city as an adult. Montréal only being a 6 ½ hour car ride from New York City, makes it a great destination for a long weekend...
I figured there was no better way to start off 2016 than with fulfilling a bucket list culinary trip to Japan with two of my closest chef friends: Tiffany Derry from Dallas, Texas and Amornat Fukuda, originally from Thailand, but long time New York City restaurateur....
I have to say that Piemonte is my favorite region of Italy that I've visited thus far. It has it all, from beautiful mountains that border many different countries, to delicious regional food (including the infamous white truffle), and of course - the bustling city of Torino and some of the best wine the world has to offer. I stayed in this region at my cousins house in the small village of Villar Focchiardo. This village is very quiet and peaceful. Most of our mornings started with fresh fruit from their garden and coffee on the porch. In less than 2 hours in any direction, there was so much to see - from a Michelin star restaurant in the mountains, Alps of France, to wine tasting in Barolo.
This city is famous for many different reasons, and for the short time I was here, I tried to indulge as much as I could in each. I started my morning in Modena trying to work up an appetite walking around the Enzo Ferrari Museum salivating over the unbelievable work of arts known to the general public as cars. After a visually stimulating morning, I went on to tease my appetite with the scent of parmesan cheese. I was extremely lucky to have a private tour of a parmigiano reggiano factory, seeing the process of the cheese making start to finish and ending with a tasting that included their top selling cheese to their most prized and rare varieties. Wandering through the streets of Modena, you get a real sense of this city's culture from beautiful architecture and roadways left from the Romans, to ultra modern impressions of Italy. I ended my visit to Modena in a very special way, having the opportunity to dine at Massimo Bottura's 3 Michelin star and currently ranked number 2 in the world restaurant, Osteria Francescana. Continued...
I had high expectations for the rustic, regional cuisine that I heard so much about in Bologna. To be honest, it is rare, but my expectations were surpassed. I stayed at a hotel directly in the center of the historic areas and was able to walk to dinners passing surreal buildings and sculptures from Roman times to the 18th century. Here I found what I was craving so badly, old family restaurants with at least two generations working there that served passed down bolognese recipes. All the pasta was extremely thin and had the mouth feel of silk. The tiny house-made tortellini simply served in a delicious broth were some of my memorable bites of this journey. Everyone in the restaurants were extremely friendly and open to conversation with an American chef. In one of the restaurants, I had a 15 minute conversation through google translator with the owner's mother about exactly how she makes her bolognese sauce. For a true expression of rustic Italian cuisine, I would recommend Bologna first on the list.
I was very fortunate that the Milan Expo was still going on during my visit to Italy. This was an amazing experience with over 130 countries, each creating an art exhibit that expressed their portrayal of food in their country, along with a restaurant serving a small menu with their country's flavors. This is by far, the largest, multicultural event I've ever experienced in my life. And to top it all off, it was solely based on food. The event was so large, and some country's lines were so long, that I had to limit it to a select few exhibits to see. Just to give you a perspective of how large this event is, I spent 10 hours there and walked 11 miles, while only being able to see and taste about 10% of what the expo had to offer.
Cartagena is an unbelievably beautiful city on the water that has a unique mixture of old world cuisine and architecture, mixed with new world. Some of my most memorable culinary memories come from this city. The vibrant fruits that stem from the Amazon is like nothing I’ve ever seen from anywhere else in the world.
St. Croix is a US Virgin Island that holds a close place in my heart. Over the years of participating in the St. Croix Food & Wine Festival, I’ve developed many close relationships with chefs that were visiting as well as locals. In my opinion, this is one of the most fun and relaxing food and wine festivals in the world, and definitely worth making your list of places to vacation.
Me being first generation American with both parents stemming from Italy, my Roman pride is definitely high, but I will say – Rome is similar to New York in a way that it’s easy to get sucked into tourist trap restaurants that are below par and advertise themselves as “authentic” Italian. Also like New York, Rome is a city where you have to know which restaurants are actually the real deal. This city still stands as one of my favorite cities architecturally, that is packed with endless stories of history.
Much like Barcelona, Madrid offers outstanding cuisine from some of the oldest restaurants in the world to some of the most modern 3 Michelin star restaurants. There are not many cities in the world that can offer that kind of diversity in food. Within the same day, I ate at the world’s oldest running restaurant, Botin, and one of the world’s top ranking, 3 Michelin star restaurants, DiverXO.
Annually, the city of Reykjavik holds Iceland’s largest food festival and competition. I’ve had the pleasure of competing at this event twice where 17 top chefs around the world come to take over a restaurant and compete for 5 days. Iceland for me, definitely ranks amongst one of the most beautiful places in the world. I was lucky enough to be able to experience seeing some things that many will never have the opportunity to – standing on the beach with a group of chefs from all over the world, gazing up at the sky in awe over the Northern Lights will be something I’ll never forget. Iceland offered many of these experiences along with a cutting edge, new Nordic cuisine style of food.