M’s Adventures Top Ten Restaurants in Italy

A crunchy creamy cannolo. Two would be cannoli.

Obviously, this list is a work in progress as I have not been to that many restaurants, not even 100. First, a word about dessert. Stick to the tiramisu. Except when you really want to try the cannoli and the young man says that they make it in house.

This list is only places that are not super super famous. But, first let me mention one famous place in Verona. Antica Bottega del Vino was recommended to me by a sommelier. It is all the pomp and atmosphere that you did not know you wanted to watch with your food. Maybe they hire the barkeeps to look like Roman gods? The food was clearly cooked by someone trained as a professional chef. It looked like that too. But was still great. I have not included any photos from there because their website shows what the place looks like quite well.

Grilled cheese in ‘nni Lausta.

Peccato del Vino, Otranto, Apulia: The owner will make you feel so welcome and the bubbly doesn’t hurt either. Her dishes are riffs on classics and not in a way that makes them unrecognizable, but in a way that makes them delicious, and distinct.

Those russet filaments of chili make my day. This is in Otranto.

‘nni’ Lausta, Santa Marina, Salina, Aeolian Islands, Sicily: of the many excellent restaurants we tried on Salina, this was the one with the most refined food.

At ‘nni Lausta, the classic caponata is presented with bread crumbs on the side.

Mamma Santina, Santa Marina, Salina, Aeolian Islands, Sicily: For their innovative eggplant parmesan, made with local anchovies but still a traditional dish. All their other food was also excellent. This restaurant is located in a hotel but don’t be put off by that. The restaurant is open air and overlooks the town and the sea.

The upstairs garden of ‘nni Lausta is an oasis.

La Tagliata Fattoria, Positano, Amalfi Coast: A recommendation. Also famous, but still on my list, not for the food which is homemade and good, but for the magical view, and the family. And the elevator.

Everything on this plate was made within an arms length of the plate.

Le Comari di Farfa, Castelnuovo di Farfa, Sabine Valley, Lazio: I think this place is only open as part of special tours. I went with Johnny Madge on an olive oil tasting.

This customized vegetarian lasagne was the star at Le Comari di Farfa.

The place that most likely not to be on anyone else’s list was a camping site. In fact, I can’t even find it on my Google maps… But, don’t judge. If the food served there had been served in a fancy place in Bologna or Verona, people would be raving about it. Their pasta alle vongole was so good that we each had our own serving. The cannoli was as gourmet as you can get (as you can see from the photo at the top) served on a slate plate and with a dusting of powdered sugar. Although cannoli are famous from Sicily, this one was at the other end of Italy… the lesson is that if your navigator (me) says to go there, then try it!

Trattoria il borghetto, Salve, Apulia: I recommend this place because the “mayor” of Torre in Pali sent us there. The restaurant is in a small hilltop village and one eats inside a castle courtyard. It has that sort of fairytale feel to it. The meal is a large one with many first courses so make sure you are hungry.

Osteria dell’elefante, Lazio (Where Rome is located): I wrote about this before. I really like them.

Finally, I also recommend the steakhouses (we went to one called 101 Best Steakhouses located near the train station) in Florence. Even if you don’t eat meat. Just thinking about their steak makes me weak at the knees, but their vegetarian ravioli was good too.

Was that ten? But, as I keep finding new ones… I will update this list.

M’s Adventures Recommends Ten Restaurants in Rome

Osteria del Rione

With the return of visitors to Rome, people are asking me for advice on where to eat. Therefore I will publish this list before I’m really ready to as I have not found ten places off the beaten path that I would recommend. Instead, this list is mostly famous places.

First, my recommendations out of the famous places:

Pierluigi, Piazza de Ricci 144 (downtown Rome): it is on its own piazza and you can enjoy the people watching. It is a seafood restaurant, but it has the most delicious vegetarian pasta and tiramisu. You will need to make a reservation.

The tiramisu at Pierluigi is a creamy cloud.

Colline Emiliane, Via degli Avignonesi 22 (near Piazza Barbarini): This place makes delicious food. It is the cuisine of Emilia-Romagna (Bologna, Modena, Parma, etc.). Small and with no outdoor seating. But, they have a window where you can watch the pasta being made fresh every day. You have to call to make a reservation.

Tonnorello (several locations in Trastevere): I thought it was a zoo eating there, way overcrowded and the same food you can get most places. If you go at 12:30 pm, you can probably get in to one of the locations.

La Matriciana (across from the opera house, near the Termini train station), Via del Viminale, 44: Classic place from 1870.

Then the less famous places:

Fuoco Lento, Via Flavia 63/65 (in Ludovisi/Sallustiano): Old school waiters, outdoor seating as well, never had anything bad here. It’s my “go-to” place. Open on Sunday night as well. Outside the touristy area so much easier get a table.

Da Bucatino, Via Luca della Robbia 84/86 (in Testaccio): outside the tourist areas, has outdoor seating, and is an old school place.

Tratteria Valentino (not to be confused with Trattoria da Valentino on Via Cavour, which is also fine.), Via del Boschetto 37 (in Monti): great local place on a side street in Monti. Near Quirinale palace. Hidden in plain sight because they kept the old facade from when the space was a ice shop.

Trattoria Valentino has kept the old “ice shop” signage on the building.

And one that is not famous:

Osteria del Rione, Via Basento, 20 (near Villa Borghese): Just north of the Via Veneto neighborhood, this place is a real local place located in a basement. There is almost no other business on the street, an extremely limited menu (basically what Bruno, the owner, tells you he has), and a set menu for 10 euro.

The entrance of Osteria del Rione.
The carbonara at Osteria del Rione is one of the best, if not THE best.

Lastly, I recommend one place outside Rome (near the airport) Osteria dell’elefante, which I wrote about before.

Once I have been to ten places that are fairly unknown, like Osteria del Rione, I’ll write about them.

Dhaka-townian’s 100 Eats and the Top Ten Restaurants in Dhaka

Finally, I reached my goal of trying 100 eateries in Dhaka (I did it in 18 months which is six months ahead of my goal). If you wish to read my previous restaurant reviews, please do: part one, part two, part three, part four, and part five. Or, read about where I find the restaurants to try.  I base my reviews on food quality, service, and price (I set less emphasis on presentation and atmosphere). Later, I’ll blog about the FAQ (frequently asked questions) that I get about restaurants in Dhaka including where’s the best sushi… but first, the top ten.

THE TOP TEN

1. Goong, “the Castle”. New name, same location, Road 50, house 12B, Gulshan — look for the wooden fortress style gate with the red and blue yin yang symbol(13/13) (Previously called Dae Jang Geum and not to be confused with the Dae Jang Geum which opened down the street). Korean palace food. A meal will run between 1,000-6,000 Taka ($12-80) per person. But worth it. The best food in town. Even if you don’t like Korean food or fish… get one of the many other dishes on the menu.

Look for this gate.
Look for this gate to find Goong, the castle.

2. BBQ Tonite, Dhanmondi (13/13): Meat on stick. Delicious outdoor atmosphere and smoky grilled meat. Delicious fresh flat breads including “rumali” which is thin yeasty stretchy “handkerchief” bread, paratha (fried bread), and naan.

3. Northend Coffee Roasters (12/13): Coffee and baked goods. Must try: cinnamon buns warm from the oven. Now they have a berry crumble that is super delicious.

4. Bamboo Shoot, Gulshan Avenue, Gulshan (10/13): Chinese. Special Chinese (scribbled Chinese characters on a scrap of paper) menu on weekends. Take a Chinese person with you and have them insist on seeing the Chinese menu. This place also serves Sichuan hotpot.

5. Golden Goose at Lakeshore Hotel, Gulshan (9/13): Continental. I had a good pizza, good naan, good salad, etc. here.

6. Roll Express, Gulshan (9/13): Butter Paper Dhosa filled with potato is one of my favorites here. The chicken reshmi roll is also good cold as a takeaway sandwich.

7. Spaghetti Jazz, Gulshan Circle, Gulshan (8/13): Italian. Closest thing to a thin Italian style pizza in Dhaka. Pasta is home made. I get my garlic and chili carb fix here.

8. Panini, Road 19 in Banani (8/13): The spaghetti with garlic and chili is made with smoked chili flakes and the scent may haunt your dreams.

9. Istanbul, road 118, Gulshan (8/13): Turkish food. Fresh cheese and freshly baked bread. Weekend buffet for 1,000 taka. Turkish. Road 118. You can’t even tell you’re in Dhaka. It’s a massive multi-world restaurant with wood fire oven, Las Vegas painted sky ceiling, and a two level castle for children. They have a creamery on location and sell fresh cheese and bread. Soon will have a level with hookah/nargile/water pipe.

10. Nirob, old Dhaka (8/13). Traditional Bangladeshi mashup or “bhorta” foods. (it’s best to get invited to a Bangladeshi friend’s home for home cooking).

RUNNER UPs

Movenpick, Gulshan Avenue across from Pink City (10/13): Ice cream, Swiss style. Also serves one sandwich type. Must try: a warm freshly made waffle with pecan ice cream and maple syrup.

Spitfire, Gulshan Avenue, Gulshan (8/13): Continental/Western food. Same good juice as Saltz upstairs. Must try: serves warm bread rolls with every meal.

Diner 360, Madani Avenue, on top of VIP photo (8/13): Diner food. Some local dishes. Inexpensive. Steak dinner for $11.

King’s Confectionery, Road 11, Banani (7/13): Baked goods. Sells chicken with curry. Must try: Donuts on a stick.

Villa Ideas – formerly Ideas Manzil, Road 79, House 19, Gulshan – food by appointment only – call or email (11/13): International guest house with private set menus – Bangladeshi, Indian, Thai, European, and seafood. All the food was fresh. The antique shopping was also fun. Unique location much like a secret garden in Dhaka. You must contact them ahead of time to arrange the menu. Owned by an expat who grew up here.

Dhaba, *** Road 10, (was on Road 12), Banani (7/13): Street food in a safe but dark environment. Try the phoughka. Good garlic naan. ***Apparently they have moved to a brighter location.

Prego at the Westin Hotel (7/13): Pizza, pasta, appetizer and a juice for $80. Insanely expensive.

Splash at the Westin Hotel (7/13): Poolside bar.

Bakery at the Westin Hotel (8/13): Good baked bread. Coffee is Illy and they have imported the South Asia Illy Italian expert. Ciao!

Time Out Cafe, Road 10, Banani (9/13): Indian-Bangladeshi-Asian. Note: Dhosa, wings, and noodles can all be had in their courtyard. It’s in the hip area of Banani. Young Bangladeshis like it.

Mallika Snacks, Rupayon Mall near Agora, Gulshan (8/13): Phoughka. It’s a local place and it’s more a snack place. Best phoughka in the Gulshan area. Very local place.

Le Souffle at the Bellagio (6/13): French. Must try: the red mirrored bathroom. One of the few places with a liquor license. Popular with business clientele. The most expensive restaurant in Dhaka. 6,000 Taka for dinner for one.

KFChicken (9/13) on Road 13: Batter fried chicken. The best fried chicken in Dhaka.

AND THE REST

Sakura Golden Rice (5/13) near road 118: Chinese/Japanese/Bangladeshi. Reopened and still mediocre watered down food.

Topkapi, Gulshan Avenue(6/13): Buffet. Mostly Bangladeshi and Thai food. The papaya salad was not bad and it was spicy!

Emerald Thai (8/13): Thai. Located in Uttara near the flagship Arong store but very hard to find… interior decor is elegant but the food is not Thai spicy. Made for the Bangladeshi palate.

New Cathay (8/13): Chinese. This new location in Banani, on Road 11, is modern looking but the food and the waiters are as good as they have been for 25 years.

Gloria Jean’s (7/13): Cafe with food. Nice enough atmosphere inside and a place to hang out and grab a light bite to eat. Wi-fi and perky staff seem to be some of the reasons there’s hype about this place. I’m not really into it but then I don’t need a cafe to work from.

Orange and a Half cafe (7/13): New place! Cafe with coffee, shakes, desserts, and sandwiches. Located in Tejgaon, the industrial zone. The cafe is hip looking and located in the Shanta Western building. The owners want a “western” level place. Let’s see if they can reach it. For not, it’s coffee is okay, some of the sandwiches and cakes are okay… let’s see how they do once they have been open for a while. Their goal is to match Gloria Jean’s.

Nagasaki (7/13): Japanese. This place is like stepping back in time 50 years… there are holes under the tables so that you sit Japanese style but don’t have to sit on the floor if you are out of practice. Soggy rice. Not fresh sashimi. Located out in Uttara.

Just Juice, Gulshan Avenue (4/13): Juice and sandwiches. Has a few seats out in front and is otherwise a very small shop.

Attin, Road 24, Gulshan (9/13): Arabic. Located on Road 27 in Gulshan, this is a hipster sort of place with a rustic loft feel. The middle eastern appetizers are not bad and the waiters are talkative.

Cuppa Coffee Cafe (7/13): Continental/Bangla-Asian. Located with a great view of Gulshan II circle, the people watching is the best thing about this place. Usual hit or miss with dishes covered in mystery white “special sauce” or red ketchup chili.

Baristo (7/13) – Road 6, Banani: Cafe/Italian/Smokers Lounge/Lounge. Opened in February 2013. Have the coffee while sitting in a car… this is a large place suited for large groups. Will soon have hookah/nargile/water pipe.

American Burger (5/13) – Road 11, Banani: Burgers and fries. Okay fries. Burger was okay. Small, take out sort of place with three tables.

Rush Tex Mex (5/13) – Road 6, Banani: Burgers and fries. The advertised Mexican dishes were mysteriously not available… small place with two booths. Fries were okay.

Spicy Restaurant (4/13) on Kemal Attaturk: Opened March 15, 2013. Usual burgers, kababs, banglese (bangla/chinese) stuff. Also has Wifi, I think. Has four booths (or half of the table is booth and the other side is chairs) and a table for six.

Atrium (7/13): Chinesey Bangla food. Some Indian. The lunch buffet for under 600 taka is okay. The exterior Japanesey garden and tables could be nice if it weren’t right on one of the busiest roads in the area.

Quesadilla (3/13); The quesadilla was actually okay. Not greasy and edible. The “Mexican pizza” was like a basic frozen pizza with some charred crumbled beefish added plus a few loops of green pepper. The nachos were a plate of fried wonton skins covered in brown beans, cheese, and decorated with swirls of “mexican” sauce — a slightly sweet pink sauce. The garlic bread with melted cheese was so tasteless as to be useless.

Samdado, near Westin (6/13): Japanese/Sushi/Korean. Old established place to take business clients at lunch. Note: saw a rodent skitter across the floor during our incessant wait for the bill.

Crepe-au-Lait, Gulshan, near Thai Kitchen and London Sausage House (5/13): Crepes, savory and sweet. Hip new place filled with hipsters. Note: Savory crepes were not bad. Service is slow.

Kozmo (6/13): Cafe. Hip place in Banani. Various Indonesian and other cuisines on small menu. Note: Mini chicken kebabs are cute.

Bella Italia, Gulshan Avenue (7/13): Pizza and pasta. The Penne a l’Arabiatta (spicy pasta) was the best dish. Note: It’s in the building with Royal Thai and the sign for Roy Rogers Roasters.

Dhansiri, near Gulshan 2 circle and Westin (6/13): Bangladeshi. Next to the Westin. Acceptable local food when you need have people who want to eat Bangladeshi food.

Sura BBQ, Road 71, Gulshan (7/13): Korean BBQ, same owners as Sura. Across from Soi 71. Note: It has LA style kalbi (beef rib slices). Most of the food had something missing from the flavor. Too bad. The raw fish was bad.

Do Mi Ok, Road 11, Banani (7/13): Korean BBQ. Try: the cubed daikon radish kimchi was crunchy and acceptable. There was no traditional napa cabbage kimchi served. Rest of the food was uninteresting.

Shwarma, Banani (3/13): Shawarma and mini pizzas. This place is so popular but I can’t really figure out why. The “meat” was chewy and not in a good way.

Cheng Chong, Banani north of Kemal Ataturk (7/13)): Cantonese. Fried rice was good. Corn soup was good. Will try more stuff later.

Spices (3/13): It’s the airport restaurant. They serve fresh juice and all kinds of other items.

The Village, Gulshan Avenue (8/13): Pakistani. Kebabs. Much talked about place. Food okay. Large space is good for business and clients. Noisy. Humid interior has a roof but no airconditioning in the main area. Note: Quirky interior.

Mainland China (7/13): Cantonese. The restaurant revolves at about one rotation in 70 minutes. The food is okay although everything seems covered in “chili sauce” which is fairly common in Bangladesh. Its a sweet red ketchupy sauce. Mainland China is to the north of the airport so almost impossible to get to for dinner during non-Ramzan traffic. Note: the place has a good view.

California Fried Chicken (2/13): Fast food. The service is slow, the marketing looks promising, and the food is awful. Weird rubbery dark meat with bone in the “burger” and the strawberry shake was like bubble gum. Note: also sells cakes and snacks from a separate counter.

Shing Heong (5/13): Cantonese. Average to not good southern Chinese food. Note: they plan on serving dim sum soon.

Club Gelato, Road 11, Banani (3/13): Gelato and cakes. Seems promising but then the flavors are all fake and faker. Disgusting really with a chemical aftertaste. Note: serves coffee and looks like a good place to go.

Urban Spice, Road 11, Banani (8/13): Indonesian. Food is acceptable. Tom Yum soup was good, though not Indonesian. Best chicken satay in Dhaka. Note: Decor is modern and chic.

Hotel Al-Razzaque (5/13): Local Bangladeshi. Very local place downtown Dhaka. Note: So authentic that expats are “protected” from using the bathroom.

Coopers (6/13): Bakery. Dry cakes. Note: popular with locals.

Nandos (7/13): Chicken South African style. Yup, just like in South Africa. Note: Yes, it’s the chain from South Africa.

BBQ at the Ascot (3/13): Continental. Note: Strange small pieces of meat. Some things okay. Some not.

Boomers (4/13): Bangladeshi Chinese fast food. Very popular with locals. Note: The pizza with sweet canned milk on top is too sweet for most expats.

@Corner , Gulshan 1 cirlce (6/13): Thai. Considered by many to be the top Thai restaurant in town. Note: It is located on the top floor of a shopping mall walking past the open latrines can scare newbie expats.

The 8 (7/13): Pan Asian. Great variety. Pepper steak will make you choke from the fumes. Note: looks nice and elegant inside but the food is only okay.

Izumi, Road 118? (8/13): Japanese. Elegant interior. Large. Good for business clients. Note: Interior is dark. Black walls.

Kasturi, Banani (7/13): Bangladeshi. They claim to be the best Bangladeshi restaurant in the world… Note: They have an outdoor patio dining area. It is truly local food if you avoid the Indian and Chinese items on the menu.

New Kings Kitchen, Iqbal Tower, Banani  (5/13): Cantonese. Note: they have karaoke.

Saltz, Gulshan Avenue (8/13): Seafood continental style. Like an underworld theme park. Must try: the fresh juice.

New Mermaid Cafe, Gulshan 2 circle (9/13): Large airconditioned location on Gulshan Circle. Note: wish they had an elevator but maybe that would not be eco-friendly.

Rok, Banani (8/13): Meat of choice on volcanic hot rock. It’s a gimmick. Note: interior is more swanky than caveman.

Sajna, Road 11, Banani (7/13): Indian. Good for business meetings. Must try: Can’t think of what.

Red Shift (6/13): Cafe. Rooftop. Note: It’s a coffee shop. Enough said.

Flambe (4/13): Random menu but not much to offer. Note: some dishes okay but not a repeat kind of place.

Pan Thao, Road 12, Banani (8/13): Best Thai food in Dhaka. Note: Service can be slow… slow.

Thai Kitchen, Gulshan (8/13): Thai cooked by a Thai cook – must try: chicken dumplings steamed.

Oh Calcutta (8/13): West Bengali food – must try: Luchi/puri = fried bread. Elegant interior and good for business clientele.

Caspian, Agora building, Gulshan Ave. (6/13): Persian. Must try: Baklava bites.

El Toro, Gulshan 1 (3/13): Mexican. Must try: going on a night when they have avocados.

Soi 71 (7/13): Thai. Must try: the play room in the basement. Good for business clientele.

The Steakhouse (8/13): Steak. Must try: Australian beef medium rare.

Khazana (7/13): Indian. Must try: the naan? This place is the place recommended by Indian business clientele.

Heritage (7/13): Indian/Bangladeshi. Must try: the buffet lunch for 450 Taka? Also popular with business clientele.

Don Giovanni (4/13): Italian. Must try: fried cheese.

Wasabi at the Bellagio (5/13): Japanese. Must try: a drink at the bar. One of the few places with a liquor license. Popular with business clientele.

Arirang (3/13): Korean.

Koreana (7/13): Korean. Must try: jigae.

Sura (3/13): Korean. Must try: shabu shabu.

Best Western (2/13): Hotel food.

Cream and Fudge (6/13): Dessert. Ice cream, homemade waffles, and cake. Why don’t they serve the freshest waffles when ordered? Note: The toilet sign is out of this world…

Ichi, Road 11, Banani (7/13): Japanese. Looks like “South Pacific” inside and the ramen is too authentic smelling for me.

Cafe Italiano, Road 11, Banani (7/13): Italian. Illy brand coffee in K-cups. Good view (fourth floor) of Road 11. I could see folks hanging out to do some telework here.

Korean Guest House, Gulshan (4/13): Korean. The Bangladeshi manager lived in Korea and speaks Korean.

Olive Garden, Road 24, Gulshan (6/13): Chinese. Bare bones interior but clean. Why go? To laugh at the plastic pandas in the aquarium.

Melange, Gulshan (4/13): Who knows? It’s a melange! Looks like a brothel inside.

Royal Park Hotel, Gulshan (7/13): Sri Lankan. They have a buffet. It’s okay food. Don’t order pizza.

Sky Room, Kemal Ataturk, Banani (3/13): Not sure what the cuisine was… some of the salad was so awful smelling that we worried it might be poison.

Chang Pei, Kemal Ataturk 22, Banani (1/13): Chinese. The place is lit with a weird dim green light. The ladies’ room is labeled, “SHI…” because someone rubbed off the arms on the “E.”

Maple Leaf at Sweet Dreams Hotel, Kemal Ataturk 60, Banani (2/13): Whatever-you-like cuisine. This is located in a 24-hour hotel with only men waiting on the leather couches… it took 90 minutes for our pineapple juice to arrive, the glasses covered in plastic wrap. The glasses still had the tidal marks of juice up the sides of the glass from the rickshaw ride (I’m fairly sure that there was no cook or kitchen at the “restaurant.”)

The title of this blog post is a tribute to the Washingtonian’s annual roundup. As they say here, “shesh”… done. I am done. From now on, I’ll only eat at the places I like. Reshmi chicken…

Reshmi chicken from BBQ Tonite in Dhanmondi.
Reshmi chicken from BBQ Tonite in Dhanmondi.