Monday, June 6, 2016

Two more finds in Rome

Thanks to Peter Pastan, famed DC Chef Owner of Obelisk, 2 Amy's and Etto for the names of his two favorite restaurants in Rome.
Check them out!


I have no doubt these are very special places with a referral from Peter, it goes without saying that he knows food, especially in Roma!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Houston: The Win-Nguyen Guide to HTOWN

When I finally got a chance to go back to Houston, my last visit was in 1985 I IG'd my friend Huy Nguyen for his favorites list.  Huy (pronounced Wee) the co-owner and culinary chieftain of DC' most amazing Food Truck, PhoWheels was more than happy to oblige!  With a list that will keep me from starving for a month of Sundays.
Here with is his list just as he gave it to me.  Thanks for sharing it Huy!


Vinh hoa - everything is good n cheap here but a must try u won't find anywhere around here is the canada crab (dungeoness crab) w fried rice wrapped in lotus leaf

Saigon Pagolac or Jasmine (Same owner) - 7 course beef & baked catfish ca nuong ...DMV don't got nothing on that either

Phanh Ky - dry noodle spot...also order the fried bread sticks and xí quách (fall off the bone pork) as sides
Cajun kitchen, crawfish & noodles or crawfish cafe - any of these cf joints murder cf over here..other dishes include Turkey necks, charbroiled oysters, oyster nachos, garlic noodles...diff flavor cf like tamarind & Thai (tom yum). Items vary depending on where u go.

Vibe Lounge - hip place in bellaire to eat bomb nhau food (drinking food). Caviar raw oyster w ponzu sauce, good Lau & other dishes. Open late.

Duc Chuong - best bun Bo hue (spicy beef noodle soup)

Cajun kitchen, crawfish & noodles or crawfish cafe - any of these cf joints murder cf over here..other dishes include Turkey necks, charbroiled oysters, oyster nachos, garlic noodles...diff flavor cf like tamarind & Thai (tom yum). Items vary depending on where u go.

Vibe Lounge - hip place in bellaire to eat bomb nhau food (drinking food). Caviar raw oyster w ponzu sauce, good Lau & other dishes. Open late.

Duc Chuong - best bun Bo hue (spicy beef noodle soup)

Tan Tan - Houston staple/landmark. Been open as long as I can remember. Started off small and since expanded in same location.  Pretty much everything here is decent. Tan tan has a rep for being consistent over the years.

Nu Cafe - Taiwanese fried chicken nuggets, other Chinese/Taiwanese fast simple foods...get the ribbon snow shaved ice

Pho binh - pho ga kho (dry chicken pho--equivalent to pad Thai--VA don't got that here), pho filet mignon, pho bone marrow, also have bone marrow appetizer

Pho ga dakao - specialize in pho ga kho, (dry style chicken pho) bomb coffee & deep fried xoi (sticky rice) w rotisserie chicken & lap xuong (Chinese sausage) w soy glaze dip.

FuFu - Legit authentic Chinese joint. ALOT of great Chinese food here they don't offer in VA.

Bò Né Houston - Vietnamese blacksmith steak & eggs. Stir fried beef and eggs comes on an black iron skillet. French bread comes on the side with pate & bơ (viet mayo). Drizzle some Maggi on ur eggs, spread some bơ & pate on a piece of French bread and dip it in that yolk with a piece of steak

House of Bowls - HK style street food. Condensed milk French toast (no peanut butter), spicy chicken w rice, wings, black bean sauce chicken & rice among other stellar dishes.

Juice Box - best shaved ice IMO. Get the the shaved ice with strawberries & mangos condensed milk drizzle & a scoop of ice cream. 100x better than this bingsoo crap they got here. Also get the FRUIT TEA

UCHI - modern Japanese brought frm ATX by Tyson Cole. Nothing over here compares

Kata Robata - modern Japanese. Lobster Mac & cheese, foie gras nigiri...

Mongolian Hot Pot - best hot pot! Nothing like it in DMV.

Fat Bao - big selection of steamed buns. Raw salmon, deep fried softshell crab, porkbelly, ice cream and other type of buns. Get it on steamed OR... Deep fried buns.

Moon Tower Inn - foie gras hot dog

Crown seafood restaurant - heard this is a new place. Heard great reviews per family & friends. Great AUTHENTIC Chinese-Vietnamese dishes & great dim sum as well.

Genjis - (oldie but still a goodie) karaoke/bar w good bar food

Killens BBQ - amazing BBQ...DMV bbq does not compare

Mein - innovative Chinese food. They got this French toast w condensed milk stuffed w salted egg

Izakaya Wa - new Japanese joint...heard its good. Modern Japanese small plates

MF Sushi - new hot spot for sushi in Htown. Everyone's been talkin about this place careful out there...been hearing a lot of crime goin on lately...and a lot of gang activity on " bellaire" (southwest Alief -- Viet/Chinatown) after hours. Best place to hang out for drinks is probably in Washington/heights area ...

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Montreal, a quick list in Chinatown

Just a short post here to record a few spots in one of my favorite cities North America.  It was heating up in DC and two friends had just moved to Florida.  I think they must be crazy, isn't it even hotter there?  They were going to escape winter!  Well, anyone who has lived in the DC area should know that getting away from DC to escape the summer is a significantly better idea.  To prove my point I thought, "If they can go to Sarasota for the Winter, I could go to Montreal for the Summer."  I took the quick flight to Montreal, spent three to four days exploring condos and left the new owner  of a soon to be finished condo in Centre Ville a half block from Rue St. Catherine and Phillips Square, near MacGill University. I can't wait until my first August there!

Here is a quick list of restaurants, best dishes and my favorite hotel:

1. La Maison V.I.P.
    1077 Rue Clark
    515-861-1943    Saute of Lobster in Ginger Sauce
                               Salt and Pepper Shrimp
Better have a reservation, this place is small and packed with hour long waits if you don't have a reservation.

2.  Restaurant La Maison Kam Fung    
     1111 Saint-Urbain
     514-878-2888   Aubergine Fritte
                               Ginger Crab
                               Dim Sum
While Chinatown in DC has disappeared the two blocks of Chinatown in Montreal was a welcome relief with it's little shops, bakeries and restaurants.  It's a busy fun exploration

3. Toque

A Montreal staple of fine dining, cozy up to the bar for an awesome French fare.

4. Nouilles de Lan Zhou
    1006 Boul St-Laurent
Don't quote me but I think noodles in French is Nouilles and this is the place to get them.  Watch them in the window as they make these fresh Ramen noodles and have a big bowl when you get inside.  Long line on weekend and shorter weekdays but still a line.

5.  Hotel Le Germaine
     2050 Rue Mansfield
A very nice boutique hotel a block from the center and within walking distance of just about everything.  Metro close by too.

6. Jean Talon Market
A quick metro ride to the best outdoor market I've ever seen. Definitely not to be missed!

Monday, September 28, 2015


Often when I leave Naples for the north I become sad because I love the south, the food screams at you and the people are full of life.  The food in Bologna does not scream it sings, from gentle sauces to delicate pastas Bologna is a mecca for the elegant and gentile.  I can't help but find my way there every other trip or so.  My friend Kristen told me she was going in  2000 and I thought, why?  Isn't it filled with communists and an industrial city, boy was I wrong.  When Kristen, husband John anther vivacious Mom Shirley returned and shared their stories of this charming elegant city I could not wait to get there!
I've been five or six times now and each time add a few details to my journey.  I've never taken a cooking class there, nor do I care to spend a precious day of my vacation learning to roll dough, I can do that here.
My latest trip was a blast, I traveled with my friend of 45 years Susan.  Susan is n easy traveler, she will report for departure on schedule (mine) and go anywhere, do any thing-just be certain she gets fed and she is happy.  I don't travel well with many, Susan is one I do.
To make things easy, I am going to list the everything so it will be easy to find and read.  Remember, have your hotel make all of your reservations as soon as you arrive.  If this will be your first stop email the hotel and ask them to have your reservations made for you a week before you get there. 

Hotel Corona D'Oro, Via Oberdan 12, 390051-74 57 611,,
A very nice 4 star hotel with great access to the city in a very central location.  The staff is charming and extremely helpful.  The group that owns this hotel also owns several others in the city that are very nice, my preference is this one and Hotel Orolgio which is on the square near the Duomo and the statue of Neptune.

Trattoria Soverina
Via G Oberdon 13A
telephone 051 224 418

We had wonderful food in Bologna but we ate here twice and found the food absolutely fabulous, I think Susan would agree.  These photos are of two dishes we shared and really enjoyed, the bolognese are known for their stuffed pastas and stuffed patrons.

A.F. Tamburini
Via Caprarie 1
40124 Bologna
Tamburini's is my favorite lunch cafeteria and Salumeria.
They serve an amazing assortment of lunch items including a few pastas, a few meats, many vegetables and salads, all cafeteria style. Their spectacular "deli" serves the most stunning cured meats and cheeses as well as pastas and platters.  When in Bologna I have lunch here at least twice.  There is also a fabulous wine bar that serves sliced prosciutto and cheeses with wonderful breads.  You can't go wrong at Tamburini's

Caffe' Pasticceria Zanarini
Piazza Galvani 1
This is a beautiful place to grab a cafe(espresso) or cappuccino(not after 11am unless you want to be spotted as a caffone).  Remember it's espresso not expresso (expresso is a bus)
Beautiful pastries and candies and just such a lovely place you'll wonder why anyone ever left this town for America and the likes of Starbuck's!

                                  Trattoria Anna Maria
Via Belle Arte, tel 051-26.68.94
       Is there a bad restaurant in Bologna?  If there is I have not found it!

Ca' Pelletti
Via Altabella 15D
tel. 051 26 66 29
Remember that this is noodle country so you are likely to find fresh noodles/pastas at every trattoria, typically stuffed as well.  Tortellini, Tortoni, Agnolotti, Ravioli.  It was one a beautiful cold day with light snow flurries that we found ourselves in front of 
Ca' Pelletti, we cruised by but there were too many smiling eating faces in there not to turn around and have lunch.  A very small place, tidy , colloquial but modern Ca' Pelletti was a perfect little spot with amazing food.  Our 33 euro lunch included a half bottle of wine, tortellini, Paglia fiena, eggplant parmigiana and bottled water.  It was delicious and the price was exceptional.

Buca Manzoni
Via manzoni 6G
tel. 051-271 307

Another little treat we found as we wandered around.  Filled with locals Buca Manzoni was one of only a few places opened on Sunday evening and was quite good.  Service was a bit slow but it was Sunday night and not too many people work.  The fare was very much similar to the other restaurants but his one served a nice Zuppa Inglese which is a Bolognese version of an English Triffle which combines custard, fruit and cake and is very typical of this city.  Pictured on the below is a Cotoletta all Bolognese or a veal cutlet with a béchamel sauce, another very typical dish.

I love Bologna, it is a beautiful city, the food is amazing, the people lovely and there are multiple side streets for shopping and walking through the city.  It has an Apple Store too!  It is very well known for it's stuffed pastas and cured meats.  
Consider a 30 minute train ride to nearby Modena or Emiglia Romana, both delightful walking cities.  Modena is home to Ferrari and to Michelin 3 starred Osteria Francescana by Massimo Bottura, if you are a foodie you must secure a reservation here at least a month in advance!
I'm not certain of all the sites in Bologna I have always been so busy just roaming around.  A popular tourist attraction is the Medical School Surgical Amphitheater which is very old and features hand carved wooden human bodies each one displaying different systems; muscles, skeletal etc.  Sounds erie but it is quite beautifully done and an amazing site to see.  The University of Bologna was the first University and Medical School as we know them to be in the world!

I'll post more on Bologna as I go through my journals but these few things should keep you from starving at least.  Buon viaggio!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Napoli, The Fabulous Magical City, Sites to See

I love Napoli, it is an exciting and vibrant city, full of life, the real Italy.  Recently I took a group of 35 doctors to Napoli for a two day conference and tour of Naples and The Amalfi Coast.  Before we left a few of them asked, "Why are we going to Naples?", when we returned they said, "I can't wait to return!"

Naples is a beautiful and magical city filled with warm and charming people and fantastic food!  There are also numerous museum, historical sites, galleries and religious sites.  Let's start our tour.

Capodimonte Museum, It was not until my sixth or seventh visit to Napoli that I ventured up to this beautiful museum whose collection rivals the Louvre.  The museum is not in the center but a pleasant cab ride that is well worth the trip to this barely promoted art museum that maintains the Farnese Collection which belonged to Cardinal Alessandro Farnese and later became the property of Charles of Bourbon and then Ferdinand IV, King of Naples.  There you will find important works of Titan, Botticelli, Bellini, Rafael, Caravaggio, El Greco and many others.  It is a spectacular collection of art housed it what was one of Napoli's most prominent villas.  If this museum were in America it would be so heavily marketed and most certainly buses would be running up and down the hill from the port multiple times during the day hustling tourists in and about for three times the $7.00 cost of admission.  The Capodimonte Museum is quiet and peaceful with just a spattering of visitors.  There is also a significant collection of art from Vesuvius I believe, the museum is not to be missed.

Royal Palace of Caserta, Once again a rival of the French, this 18th century palace was one of the largest buildings built in it's time.  Larger than Versailles it was spectacular in it's day.  In this century it has fallen into disrepair and it's gardens once of splendor have overgrown and can be disappointing.  If you have a car and are busting around it might be worth a visit to see it's size and imagine it's former splendor.  Interestingly, Neapolitans will argue as to whether Mozzarella from Caserta is better that that from Battipaglia/Paestum.  To me they are both amazing!

Catacombe di San Gennaro, Another not to be missed attraction, different from the Roman ones and often listed as the top tourist attraction in Naples.

Teatro San Carlo is one of the prim ire opera houses of Europe often noted to be more stunning and acoustically perfect the Milan's La Scala.  Having just been there, I would say this is true.  The Opera House is Stunning and the seating is comfortable and gorgeous.  If you're not there during Opera Season be certain to tour this magnificent work of art!

Royal Palace of Naples Quick, easy and stunning.  Another home of rBourbon Kings, free audio tour with tickets.  Have fun.

Museo Archeologico, A beautiful museum that houses multitudes of statues and architecturally significant art and edifices.  This is a pretty cool place with some very cool art that you should see, I would not have it on the top of my list but for a rainy day it is a good place to be!  If you absolutely love archeology this place is a must!

Castle Uovo and Castel Aragonese,  These are castles and they are beautiful if you like castles.  The Castel Uovo has a bevi of restaurants at it's bases that can be very good and very expensive and can be really working tourists particularly in the season.  Be careful Dining here.  I once had a 85 euro fish at La Sciallupa, it was delicious but I couldn't get the 85 euros out of my head.  Later that week I was having better ones for less than 30 euro.  The waiter at La Sciallupa was quite theatrical flopping the fish around between his fingers as if it were alive!

Naples Restaurant List

Choosing a great restaurant can make or break you evening and your vacation.  I always think that if I am going for 15 days that means I only get 15 chances to eat well.  While Naples does not have as many fast food and even worse, fast casual restaurants there are some trattorie that you would not want to try.  Below is My List prepared just for you.  There will be more to come but these form the foundation.

Trattoria Capresse is in the suburb of Vomero and a shout cab ride or lift ride to the neighborhood from Via Pignasecco, Montenegro Station I believe.  A great neighborhood seafood restaurant with a charming staff and pizzaiola (Carmine)  Have your own cab driver Francesco take you there and buy him dinner, you won't forget this amazing meal and hopefully you'll be able to finish it.

Ristorante Dora is a special place with a beautiful seafood menu.  Stay away on weekends, you won't get into this tiny trattoria.  It is near Via Chiaia in the Chiaia district 

Hidden in the Quartieri Spagnoli is the trattoria Antica Capri.  A charming , tiny trattoria with an expansive nenu of Neapolitan treasues.  I suggest ordering everything on the menu.  The price is right and the food delicious!  Keep your cab driver nearby, you DO NOT want to walk here as there are some sketchy streets on the way. 

Trattoria Castle Nuova is very near the port and a great little place with classic local dishes like Spaghetti con Vongole,  La Genovese (a meat and onion sauce  served with Paccheri that is delicious and Spigola Napolitana.  Call ahead and request these special dishes, tell them I sent you and be sure too ask for my friend Roberto 

A great Neapolitan menu that my seem closer to home is available at this popular Neopolitan restaurant near the port.  Big soft meatballs, pasta and eggplant parmesano can be found on their menu 

Now you are on the Amalfi Coast so put on your radar.  Restaurants here are lying in wait for tourists just like you.  I recall the famous on US Travel shows, La Tagliatta with it's stunning views before it became a tourist mecca and lowered its quality of food and it's once authentic standards.  Ristorante  Lido Azzurro is not one of those restaurants.  Dine on the water and eater delicious food made with high quality products
I am going to post a few more places but these can get you started.
But don't miss Pizzeria Sorbillo on Via Tribunale in the Historic part of Naples.  It is the best pizza you will ever eat.  Do your homework, check their website .  I believe they open at 5:30 so get there by 4:45 or you'll never get in.  This is the only place in Italy where Italians actually wait in line!

Coming up Next:  Via Pignasecco, the best street in Napoli

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Car Service in Rome, Naples and the Amalfi Coast

I have known Josephine and Reno of Italy Limousine for six or seven years now and have never been disappointed in their drivers, their vehicles and the level of their service.  They are truly professional and honestly the best car service in Italy.

Here,s how it works;  
You contact them via e-mail with your 
1. flight info, 
2. arrival time, 
3. Flight Number, 
4. dates and of course 
5. your name and 
6. number in your party

Josephine arranges your proper transport from the airport to the city or the train station (Roma Termini) depending on your plans.

If you are traveling to the Amalfi Coast they can take you directly there (aprox $400) or your can take the train to Napoli and they will have another vehicle meet you there and take you directly to your hotel in Positano, Vico Equense, Sorrento, Massa Lubrense or any other of the stunning coastal towns.

I suggest the train to the station from the airport and the Limo/van to the Amalfi Coast

Avoid trying to take the train to Sorrento because you will have to change trains in Naples, likely get your pockets picked or your purse snatched because you were trying to save a few bucks and your trip will be soured.  I've never had a problem in Naples but I am very cautious because these types of crimes are typical there.  Pick pockets are expert in the beautiful city of Napoli.  I tell my friends, you will arrive at the station, head to your hotel and find that your underwear have been stolen!  Hey, it's better than DC where you get clubbed to near death, beaten, shot and robbed.  Be alert, watch each other.

Day trips:

Josephine can always count on me for an excursion tour to some crazy place I can't wait to see along the coast or on Mt Vesuvio.
My typical trip, whether alone or with others involves a ride to Tenuta Vannulo and Antica Macelleria both near Santa Cecelia in Eboli.  I love passing through the Mozzarella Country of Italy, you will see mozzarella store dotting the roadside, for every gas station there are 12 mozzarella stores.
Your visit to the Antica Macelleria, a simple butcher shop manned by Antonio and his Mama Piera selling the absolute best house made Soppresata, Salami, Mortadella in Italy.  The farm raised pigs Antonio uses have pedigrees like AKC Poodles!  You're in the Salerno region, this is where this stuff is the best in the world.
Your visit to Tenuta Vannulo will be the memory of a lifetime.  I met Sr Palmieri the proprietor of the farm many years ago, a true gentleman his farm spares nothing to provide the finest mozzarella, cheese and gelato that ever touched your lips.  The artistry in their leather shop is magnificent, try to leave without purchasing a bag, wallet or belt, good luck.
From here we shoot up to Cantina del Vesuvio for an amazing lunch and wine tasting with Maurizio.  Delicious and entertaining, the best pasta you'll have on your trip with Maurizio's fresh tomatoes  from his garden on the slopes of Vesuvio.  This make the notion of Farm to Table in the US the biggest joke in history.
Still time for a run to Herculaneum and a short ride back to Napoli.

Italy Limousine has taken me on ancestral tours to find relatives of friends and family, I recall my driver knocking on doors with me to find my friend Linda's family in the hills of Salerno.  We sat and ate with her cousins she had never seen and left with arms filled with Tirelli and goodies from their village.

Enjoy your vacation and call me if you need any help.