My last trip to Italy was over a year ago. Anxiously awaiting the arrival of my life-long friend and week-long roommate Gabby, I did what you do in Florence to kill time… I ATE. Of course this wasn’t an easy task to perform as I was circling piazza after piazza (jetlagged) passing one bustling café after the next. I stumbled upon one tucked away on a corner. The open façade invited the gorgeous Summer sun into this rustic dining space where I indulged in the most romantic Caprese salad of my life. I think I’ve been trying to relive that moment ever since.
I’ll never forget my server. He was an eager fellow with lots of energy and all smiles as he zipped past the tiny tables. When he proudly presented my salad and beer it looked as if he prepared it himself. I must admit, I was in awe of this tender mozzarella artistically stacked with flavorful tomato slices and basil so aromatic you would believe you were standing in a garden. This salad was all I needed, this salad and one more beer. It felt as if I had failed him when I couldn’t bear to finish the first of 1,000 cheese plates to come that week. My memory is forever burned by his look of disappointment over the remaining slivers.
Over the years I’ve been blessed with tons of international travel and food experiences. Studying abroad was a horrible influence on my wallet, and my scale. The friends I made along the way surely look back on our shared foodie-adventures fondly. (Pictured Above: My dear friend Linda and I sharing a lovely goat cheese salade and tartine in Le Marais, Paris 2007). Those were the days…
I think Americans, particularly NY’ers are infatuated with cafe culture. It’s a reminder of our short lived warm season. Dining “Al Fresco” (on our 1.5 ft. wide sidewalks) that gives us a sense of rebirth and “joie de vivre” lost by suffocating cubicles and fluorescent lighting in The Big Apple.
I found what may have been a close runner up in my book of “Most impressive Caprese Salads” at a small unassuming Italian restaurant in Chelsea. Of course the name was “Chelsea Ristorante”. Founded in the early 90’s (like most awesome things) the owners must have had a big think about that name. (A+ for creativity)
One of my long time college friends whom I have shared numerous cafe experiences with in two international cities now(Paris and New York) was moving out of her place in Chelsea. I decided to jump in there and help her wrap the process up. After a grueling afternoon of packing we decided to reward ourselves with a treat.
It was Fall already and we were soaking up the last of our Indian-Summer heat. While driving through Chelsea dizzy with outdoor choices we settled into this cozy little terrace and ordered two glasses of house white and red. Veggie diners in-crime and on-the-go, we ordered a beautiful porcini mushroom risotto and of course this amazing Caprese salad. Both were devoured in no time.
Who am I kidding? I wish I was in Firenze right now.
Dreaming of a Summer long past and magical Caprese salads to come.
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