Barcelona. Oh, Barcelona. Has it been one year already?
In 3 weeks my husband and I will travel to Italy for another international adventure and I can't help but sit back and think fondly of our time last year in Spain and France.
Gearing up for a 2 week trip is exciting. In December I purchased our airfare and then immediately dove into filling up our time abroad with activity. With 16 days to work with (14 being solid touring and 2 days of travel) I feel like we have a nice block of time to really see and experience the Italian countryside and culture.
Our intended stops? Milan, Venice, Bologna, Florence and Rome with day trips to Parma, Pompeii and Naples.
I was adamant that I wanted to spend time in Bologna. The open food markets there are supposed to be the best in the world although it is hard for me to imagine something more spectacular than Barcelona's La Boqueria.
My husband is more on a pizza and prosciutto fantasy and cannot wait to take our food tour in Parma. Our food and wine expectations are over the top and I really don't think we'll be disappointed.
We weren't disappointed in Spain - not much. We learned where to go, how to look for good food and plan on taking those tips and tricks with us to Italy.
1.)Go off the beaten path
2.) Don't enter restaurants where someone outside is trying to bring in passerby tourists to dine.
3.) For an authentic meal don't go to restaurants where the menu is in 4 different languages.
DO look for the restaurants with daily menus written on a chalkboard. Where the diners are quiet (as American's are known to be loud and obtrusive) and specialty dishes take an extra 20 minutes to prepare <-- this means its cut, chopped, prepared fresh people! This is the Italy I want.
I'm looking forward to being surprised. I had a food moment, a "surprise" if you will in Spain that I will never forget. It began with Pizza Husband wanting Pizza (of course) and me scouting for nearby restaurants OFF THE RAMBLA for us to walk to since we had been out and about walking the city all day and wanted something close to our homebase.
I found a close by establishment called 'Sportsbar'. It was a pizza place, small and not too far from where we were. The name doesn't do anything to me initially. I'm thinking back to California sports grills and pizza parlors. This place is for sure trying too hard. We still go though. Pizza man wants what he wants.
Walking in it was a narrow restaurant with a huge round pizza oven independent from the establishment just kind of sitting there in the middle of the place tiled to look like a giant soccer ball. "Uh oh" went my inner dialogue but we were here, no going back-sees.
The waiter comes over to us with a huge smile on his face, we were the only people in the building except for 2 other people. He explains to us how he and the owner are from Naples and how he has his dough ingredients flown over from Naples directly and that it is the best in Barcelona. It doesn't take long for us to order two pizzas and some wine. Before long our wine had been served and the pizzas were on the table maybe 3 minutes later.
I was in awe of the chef, watching his dance in front of the pizza stove, cutting, shaping, topping and cooking his product in record time. I looked over at my husband who was reclining back in his chair, eyes half rolled back into his head with the most satisfying smile across his face. Mission accomplished.
The pizza was the best we had ever had.
After dinner the waiter came over and was talking up dessert so much we had to have a taste. In fairly good English he explains how this was the owner's mother's recipe and how we will not find it anywhere in Spain. We're still riding pizza high that it doesn't take much for us to concede to dessert.
To our table comes two complimentary shots of limoncello - homemade of course, and what looks like tiramisu except its not tiramisu. There is cream and soft chocolate biscuits, a dusting of cocoa powder all culminating to this greatness that just melts in your mouth. I studied it, I took a picture and then I tried REALLY hard to remember everything about it so I could replicate it back home.
Flash forward to this year's Easter I attempted to recreate my Barcelona memory with much success. It was a huge hit. The consistency was there, the flavor was there but of course, as I suspected, that good old Barcelona charm was missing. In my next post I will outline my adapted recipe of a long ago memory. One that I will revisit every time it is prepared. One that I hope to re-encounter on my next trip to Spain.