Archive for the Calabria Category

Sleepless in Vibo Valentia

Posted in Vibo Valentia with tags , , , , , on September 18, 2010 by gannet39

Vibo ValentiaThis provincial capital is split into two parts, Vibo Pizzo at the bottom of the hill (where the station and the marina are) and Vibo Valentia at the top.

People doing my job usually use the Hotel 501 which is most of the way up the hill, about ten minutes walk up to the town. It would take about an hour to walk down the hill to the marina and there are no pavements.

The 501’s location isn’t ideal but bear in mind it has a pool and free internet. The only other options are a more centrally located 3 star without those facilities or the noisy Locanda (see review below).

La Locanda di Daffina (Intermediate B), 160 Corso Umberto I (entrance at the side), Vibo Valentia,

Had a pleasant meal on the terrace here. To start, some fresh young pecorino with some red onion chutney (both local specialities) followed by Tagliolino con Gambero Rosso e Pachino ((excellent red prawns (A) and cherry tomatoes (B+)) and my friend the Tagliate di Filletto con Tartar di Verdure di Stagione (strips of steak with seasonal veg with tartar sauce (B+))

This was washed down with another Ciro from Tenuto Iuzzolino (B+) which was good, but not a patch on the classico version by the same cantina.

Three of us stayed here for one night, thankfully not longer. The level of disorganisation was such that we got the feeling they had only just opened. The attractive double rooms were quirky, (eg bunk bed over the bathroom!) and had beautiful vaulted ceilings, lovely bathroom tiles and tasteful period decor, but weren’t particularly practical (old creaky beds and floors, no shower curtains etc).

The biggest problem however was the scraping chairs upstairs in the restaurant keeping us awake till past midnight, and then a piano recital at 2am from the owner’s son! By all means come to eat but it’s probably best to stay at the 501 if you want a decent night’s sleep and modern facilities.

L’Approdo (Advanced A+), 22 Via Roma, Vibo Pizzo, Tel. 0963 572640, www.lapprodo.com open every day.

GEM ALERT!

Don’t come to this formal place if you are on a budget, three of us spent €25 each way in a taxi from the top of the hill to Vibo Marina and another €55 each on food and wine, but it was worth it! It’s the kind of posh place that has individual cotton hand towels in the loo. The wine list was a 34 page book with an index.

We started with the Antipasti di Mare (€22) (A) which included Alici Ripiene (stuffed anchovies), Mazzancolle Merosta di Lardo di Colonnata (king prawns with Tuscan fatty pork), Spiedino di Pesce Spada (chunks of swordfish on a skewer), Totuni e Pomodorini al Basilico (a type of squid with cherry toms and basil), Insalata di Pesce Castagna (fish, egg, cheese, chestnuts) and Gratin di Bianchetto (whitebait baked with cheese). Due to the nouvelle cuisine presentation, we couldn’t work out what was what on the plate, but it was all delicious!

My main was Capretto del Monte Puro alla Brace, Timo, Menta e Balsimico (grilled goat from Mount Puro with a local red onion chutney) (B+), and Alison’s Trancio di Pescatrice all Arancia con Lenticchie dei Pollino was very nice (A), but the best main course was Nicky’s Medaglione di Filetto ‘Chianina’ Gratinato ai Funghi Porcini, Radicchio Brasto al Vino Rosso (chianina is beef from highly pampered cattle, similar to Kobe beef) (A+).

The highlight for all of us were the white and red wines, both Ciro Classico (€18) (A++) from Tenuta Iuzzolini (the red was 2006), startlingly unique, and some of the most delicious wine I have ever tasted. (NB although difficult to prove, Ciro is believed to be the oldest wine still being produced in the world.)

I finished with a local grappa (Ronco dei Quattroventi) (B+) but coveted my neighbour’s Cognac Park (cigar blend 40 vielle fine champ). You can also get set course menus for €30 to €45 and a tasting menu for €90.

Fillipo’s (Intermediate B), 128 corso Umberto I, Vibo Valentia, 0963 44870

Had an ok ;ate lunch here that started very well but the quantities seemed to tail off towards the end. Starters included bull salami, mortadella, local sautéed Tropea red onions, stewed pumpkin with cumin, cheese and potato soufflé, vegetable omelette/frittata, pasta with cream, rocket and grana, pasta in tomato sauce and fried fish with raw fennel (all B +/-). The Cauro IGT red (Statti ’05) (B+) and Mantanico white (B) were both from nearby Lamezia Terme. Mentioned in Gambero Rosso and owned by the brother of the Locanda above, it is principally a wine bar that sells food.

Specialities of Vibo Valentia province:

According to legend, pecorino cheese-making originated during the Greek period in a small village called Zaccanos (now Zaccanapoli) which literally means sheep corral, and later spread to the Poro, a mountainous area of VV. When it is young and fresh (‘green’) it has a sweet flavour with a sour aftertaste and can be served in slabs as antipasti. The older version (aged 6-8 months) tastes salty and spicy and is grated on to pasta. It is sometimes also used in desserts.

‘Nduja is a huge sausage with a sweet, peppery taste, made from a mix of pork meat including fat, bacon and cheek, blended with salt and red chilli, which is then smoked and hung. It can be spread on fresh bread or bruschetta, or combined with fileja, (the local handmade pasta which is formed by rolling around a small stick), and topped with grated pecorino. The DOP for ‘nduja is around the village of Spillinga where they celebrate the “sagra della ‘ndjua” festival every August.

The coastal town of Tropea is famous for ‘la cipolla rosa di Tropea’, which looks rather like a red spring onion with a white centre. This unique onion has its own DOP from the E.U. which takes in the Tyrrhenian coastal area from Nicotera to Pizzo Calabria. It has a strong and sweet aroma which makes it good for chutneys, omelettes and salads. The flavour can be made stronger by storing. You might see plaits of onions decorating shops and houses in the summer.

Mostaccioli (“pupazzo” in dialect) are hard biscuits formed into decorative shapes with symbolic meanings. They are made by expert artisans called ‘mastazzolari’ from flour, water and honey and originate from the small village of Soriano Calabro. They are considered a symbol of love in Calabria and heart-shaped biscuits are traditionally given as presents to celebrate engagements and weddings. They can also be shaped in the form of saints for religious days or as animals, such as a horse, goat, cock or fish, to celebrate the beauty of nature.

Olive oil production is important throughout the province. One of the most famous extra virgin oils is made from cold pressing the ‘ottobratica’ variety. Other famous varieties include ‘cecerello’ and ‘miseo’.

The villages of Joppolo, Maierato, Soriano Calabro and Piscopio are also famous for honey which comes in acacia, orange blossom and chestnut varieties.

The Serre highlands in the east of the province are known for mushrooms, primarily Porcini, but also the Gallinacci, Pratioli and ‘Drum and Nail’ varieties.

A famous dessert is ‘il tartufo di Pizzo’, an icecream with chocolate inside.

Written November 2009

Reggio di Calabria

Posted in Calabria, Reggio di Calabria with tags , , , , , on September 18, 2010 by gannet39

Lungomare and EtnaAlthough Reggio is the second oldest city in Italy, it’s a fairly unpretty town with few old buildings. However, it’s still popular with tourists who come to see the famous bronzes (see below) on their way to Sicily or elsewhere. Consequently it’s quite expensive. For me, the nicest thing about it is the long pedestrian boulevard along the seafront where you have fantastic views of Sicily looming large across the straits of Messina with Etna dominating the skyline. I love running along here in the dusk with the sun going down behind the volcano. It can be a bit edgy down here at night though with gangs of pushers peddling around the RC Lido station.

Generally I found it pretty tough to find a good value-for-money restaurant in Reggio. This first place is the only one I would really recommend.

I Tre Farfalli (Intermediate B+), 47 Via del Torrione, reservations recommended, Tel 0965817667 or 3389897788.

This is the best all-round place I found here, very atmospheric with lots of dark wood and low lighting. Popular with the locals, I had a family of twenty-six for company on the next table. The menu is fixed so you just decide which courses you want and eat what you are given. Although I had to wait till the kitchen was open at 8.30, whilst munching on some very tasty miniscule olives, the waiter was very helpful, giving me a running commentary on everything that came to the table. The antipasti included capocollo, two types of croquettes, carciofi, pan fried greens, a bowl of bean stew, deep fried bread, a pecorino dipping sauce, ricotta and half a grilled potato. The primi was two kinds of pasta on one plate, ‘macaroni’ (long, thin twists) in tomato sauce and gnocchi with aubergine and peppers, and the secondo was three types of pork (thick pancetta, sausage and a chop). Except for the capocollo and secondo everything was veggie. Along with a bottle of the house red and a bergamot liquer the whole bill came to a very reasonable 25 euro. To be honest, the food was ok but not amazing, hence the B+.

Revisited the next year with five others and had an even better experience because we could share everything. The experience was as good as last time, nice atmos, friendly staff, generally good food and lots of it. My only criticism was that they was a bit too much fried antipasti, which included three kinds of vegetable polpetti (aubergine, broccoli, ricotta ‘balls’), potato and cheese cakes, plain deep-fried lumps of dough (all B/C) with a declicious cheese sauce, caponata (aubergine stew), capocollo (cured ham) and a fagioli soup (all A/B). We couldn’t manage a pasta course and went straight to the mixed grill of beef, pork and sausage (C/B/A). Their delicious house red (B), bearing the restaurant name, was ‘Terramia’ from the Agrila(?) IGT in the nearby hills. To finish fresh fruit and the local bergamot digestive which was clear on this occasion. Total cost, a stunning €20 each. I also bought a bottle of homemade bergamot liquer a from here too for €10. There were fennel, liquorish and plain flavours too, as well as peperoncino (a local speciality) flavoured grappa.

There are a couple of friendly bars just a few doors down, and a shop that sells all things bergamottian. Bergamot, by the way, is a citrus fruit found only in this province. It’s kind of a cross between a lime and a lemon and is mainly produced for the perfume industry, and also for Earl Grey tea. The liqeuer is very tasty too, drunk chilled and similar to limoncello. Ask for a bergamino in restaurants (grammar note, one bergamino, two bergamotti).

Da Giovanni (Intermediate B), 77 Via del Torrione

An old school restaurant complete with bow-tied waiter and pictures of clowns and kittens on the walls, no TV or music, but reccommended for its seafood. This is a good place to taste spada (swordfish) which is supposed to be ‘the best in the world’ in the sea around here. I had a nice Critone white wine from the Val de Neto IGT to wash down the seafood antipasti (delectable octopus, prawns and smoked spada), grilled spada steak, an overdressed salad, fresh strawberries and a berganino. The handwritten menu was unreadable so I got shock when the bill came in at 48 euro. Don’t think I would go again as it was expensive and stuffy.

Osteria Symposuim (Intermediate B), 6 Vico le Roma, left out of the Hotel Royal and second left.

A modern place with light jazz and a sullen waitress (probably sick of being ordered around by the affected owner). I had an excellent steak, salad and chips with a couple of glasses of red Ciro and a grappa. Again it was expensive, 32 euro, so another one to maybe give a miss. First courses were 8 to 12 euro and mains 8 to 15.

La Rosa dei Venti (Intermediate B), Piazza Monsolini – Lido Communale, (go to the other side of the RC Lido station entrance on the lungomare, take the stairs down towards the sea, the restaurant is on the far side of the car park).

Three of us had the €18 Menu Fisso (fixed menu) here. We shared Insalata di Polipo, Pepata di Cozze and Alice Marinate to start (all B), followed by Risotto ai Frutti di Mare (B), Tagliatelle all Ancona (olives, toms, uninteresting lumps of swordfish) (C) and a delicious Pesce Spada Arrosto (swordfish steak)(A), with a green salad and a 1/4 of white wine each. Strange that the swordfish was so variable, especially as the straits of Messina are supposed to be the best place to fish for them. Uninteresting decor, rather dark except for all the tellys (at least five) but ok reasonably priced food.

Gelataria Cesare sells ‘the best icecream in Calabria’ according to one of the teachers I worked with, and it is very nice. It’s the green hut just over from the RC Lido station.

Untried:

Baylik, 1 vico Leone, (the best place in town but a long way?) not Thurs (from Gambero Rosso and internet)

Le Rose al Bicchiere, 118 via D.Tripepi (from Gambero Rosso)

Bronzi di RiaceThe ok but nothing special Hotel Royal is literally next door to the archaeological museum which houses the famous Bronzi da Riace, two wonderful greek bronze statues found by a scuba diver in the sea nearby during the 70s. They are a big tourist pull which is probably why everything is so expensive in the area. The museum closes at 8, entrance is 4 euro.

The sister hotel of the Royal, the Excelsior just over the road, has internet for €5p/h.

Buffet Stazione F.S. Villa San Giovanni (Elementary D-)

Villa San Giovanni is the ferry port next to RC where you catch the ferry to Sicily. This hole surely has to be a contender for the grimmest station bar in the country. We had to spend an hour here having missed the ferry to Messina which left 5 minutes early, by their own clock. Bastardi! The mistake we made was trying to buying our tickets from the bookstore on platform one from the pretentious proprietor who wanted to demonstrate his (bad) English. We decamped to this grimy dark hole to wait for an hour till the next ferry. To pass the time we invested €8 in possibly the rankest Nero D’Avola ever bottled, something like a fizzy rose laced with Benolin. No wonder the girl on the till looked at me as if I was insane when I asked for it. All the same, we flopped onto the Coca Cola high chairs and did our best to drown our sorrows under the searching stares of various misfits and scornful bar staff, one of whom suggested a spag bol might help the wine down. One look at the food on display was enough to dispel that idea. Glistening processed cheeses nestling against sweating mortadella, flapping between slices of wonderloaf with the crusts cut off. Buxom cakes with beige cream fillings, topped with glinting glace cherries, cosying up to huge canolos with ricotta oozing from within. Singed grey croissants sat in a glass case like a museum display. Once on board though we were cheered up by the recorded Inglish safety instructions which were hilariously incomprehensible. For future reference you can buy your tickets on board, the crossing takes 25 mins.

Updated Nov 2009.

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