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Uccello – Sydney, Australia

With the nice warm weather Uccello seemed like the perfect lunch spot, especially considering it’s on the top floor of the ivy overlooking the rooftop pool.  Eugenio Riva’s restaurant reminds me of mid-century Palm Springs (there are a number of Jonathan Adler pieces accessorizing the space) mixed with rustic Italian.  I loved how open and airy it felt and how relaxing it was.  I couldn’t help but notice all the other diners there in suits.  Talk about a great business lunch spot:)

The food was vibrant in color and taste and everything was so seasonal and fresh.  My snapper was perfect for lunch – light, perfectly pan fried and seasoned and the accompaniments paired with it weren’t fussy or overwhelming, simply great texture and taste to go along with the star of the plate.

I highly recommend this place for lunch or dinner.  I’ve heard that the pool bar can get quite busy at night along with the restaurant so unless you’re planning on a big night out lunch might be the better option.

San Daniele prosciutto, heirloom tomatoes, figs, marinated Spanish onion salad

Roasted Spatchcock, corn and basil risotto, marsala reduction

Roasted snapper fillet, giardiniera and octopus salad, salsa verde

Broccolini, cherry tomatoes, chili, garlic, parsley

Madeo – West Hollywood, CA

This was my first time dining at the popular Northern Italian restaurant Madeo and I can tell you that it won’t be my last.  It was one of the best Italian meals I’ve had.  I normally opt for fish dishes (and I still did this time) however I always rely on my husband for a bite of pasta.  He chose wisely and went with the classic Spaghetti alla Bolognese made with a veal meat sauce and honestly…it was probably the best we had both had.  Simple and far from fussy, the tender meat and perfectly cooked pasta intensified with every bite.  It was sad when it was gone.  My sister-in-law went for the special Veal Meatballs which I think we all assumed would be coming with pasta however it didn’t BUT, these meatballs were melt in your mouth good.  Perfect from start to finish.  They were delicate and soft not over mixed, hard or dry.  They (aside from my Cafe Lago meatballs) are the best meatballs I’ve ever tasted.  Next time I go if these are on the menu I’m getting them!  Another dish in the mix on our table was the Osso Bucco which was also to die for.  The veal shank was cooked the way it was supposed to be with the meat falling off the bone.  Absolutely delicious.  I guess what I’m getting at is that you can’t really go wrong at this restaurant, or at least that’s what my first impression has led me to believe.  The ambiance won’t blow you away but there’s something nostalgic about it and you’re bound to find some famous faces in there which is always fun:)

Carciofi e Parmigiano – baby raw artichokes and Parmigiano cheese and rucola  *SO good!  A light dish that got eaten quickly…everything about it was well balanced and seasoned perfectly.

Prosciutto e Melone – Parma ham and melon  *Classic Italian dish…how can you go wrong?

Fagioli e Aragosta – Italian Cannellini beans with diced lobster and Rucola salad in a lemon dressing  *This was such a beautiful flavorful starter.  Plenty to share but honestly something I could eat everyday.  DE-lish!

Calamari Affogati – sautéed squid in tomato sauce  *Some of the best calamari I’ve ever had!  you need a spoon to get some sauce with every bite:)

Branzino di Mare al Carciofi – filet of wild sea bass baked with white wine and artichokes  *On the special menu…VERY good!

Vitella Arrosto – sliced roasted leg of veg from the cart  *We didn’t order this but as we were paying our bill…STUFFED…we all salivated while the chef started carving this beautiful meat and then carefully coated each delicate piece with some au jus.  Thankfully our waiter saw our oh-so-descreet drooling and had the chef make us a plate.  I can’t describe how flavorful this was.  It was on the special menu but seriously if you go and it’s on there and you have enough people to share with…GET IT!!!

Cook – St. Helena, CA

With so many amazing, credible restaurants in Napa Valley…how do you choose?  I’ve only been to Cook twice (once for lunch, the other for dinner) but both times left me wanting to go back.  Located on Main Street in St. Helena it’s a small, quaint place with great decor inside.  They pride themselves on using local and seasonal ingredients and showcasing simple yet elegant North Italian food.

I highly recommend making reservations for dinner since they get full fast.  Lunch on the other hand I would say you have a much chance of just walking in.

The burger on a ciabatta roll with aged cheddar and grilled onions…yum:)

Cascina Spinasse – Seattle, WA

I LOVE this place!  Hands down my favorite pasta in the city.  Located in Capitol Hill, Spinasse is such a charming restaurant that recently doubled in size.  That being said though, it’s still tough to get a table on short notice so I highly recommend reservations, especially if there are more than two of you.

There are so many reasons I love this place but the food and overall atmosphere are the clear winners in my book.  The space is so cozy and rustic feeling and having the kitchen open to customers is such a fun treat.  With the new addition, you’re able to see the pasta maker at work and have an even bigger view into the busy yet calm kitchen.  Personally, I love sitting at counters where you can have a casual conversation with the waiters.

Every time I get the chance to eat here I always order the Tajarin al Ragu.  I can eat an entire bowl by myself, however if by chance I have leftovers, I have to say they are SO much better the next day like any pasta dish is.  The Tajarin Burro e Saliva (butter and sage) is just as delicious with clean flavors and just as much as a taste bud impact.  Drizzle some truffle oil on there and that’s what I call the perfect dish! *Truffle oil not included…I use it at home on my leftovers:)

GO GO GO…you won’t be disappointed!

The oh-so-yummy tajarin al ragu (I get it every time)

Tajarin burro e salvia (butter and sage)

Milk braised pork shoulder

A delicious gelato terrine..yum!!!

Staple & Fancy – Seattle, WA

If you haven’t yet been to Ethan Stowell’s newest restaurant Staple & Fancy, you’re missing out.  Located in the newly renovated (1 year old to be exact) Kolstrand building in Ballard, this urban yet inviting restaurant showcases exactly what Stowell is great at…refined Italian comfort food.  His use of not so common ingredients is what sets him apart from the rest.  That and his winning execution of simple, unfussy food.

My fiancé and I rode our bikes to the Kolstrand building on this fine Seattle summer night to celebrate the 1 year anniversary of the building.  Because we were on the earlier side we were able to snag two outside counter seats and indulged in a delicious dinner with a bottle of tasty Washington wine.

*If you go with a group I highly suggest doing the Chef’s menu.  It’s an incredible deal considering how much food you get and you’re served dishes that aren’t on the regular menu.  Be adventuresome and go hungry!

Hamachi on avocado puree with cucumber and chilies

Spaghetti with garlic, chilies, anchovies and cuttlefish

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