There were many reasons to be excited for our European honeymoon. We had planned to visit the Colosseum, St Peter’s Basilica, the Acropolis and all of the other standard famous land marks. But I’d be lying if trying out foods from Italy, Greece, France and Turkey wasn’t on my mind the weeks before our trip. In retrospect, I should have done some more research about our ports and where to go to get the best <insert local cuisine here>. But I didn’t and we had only a couple hours to find something to eat though I think we did a pretty good job. That said, by the nature our or trip, the places we went were sometimes filled with tourists but we made the most of it and had some of the best food we’ve ever eaten.
Here’s what we managed to try in those few hours we had in each city:
Our first stop on our cruise was Nice, France and we were pretty jet lagged from the 10+ hours of flying combined with the 6 hour time difference. So our appetites and our focus were lacking to say the least. Nice was the only city that we traveled on our own and we found our way via train to their shopping district, which is exactly where we found a street vendor selling Nutella Panini’s (pictured above). I wish I could say it was something elaborate but it was simply a generous amount of Nutella on some good crispy warm bread. On our way back to the ship I did try Nice’s specialty sandwich, the Pan-bagnat (pictured in the gallery), but it wasn’t that great. The sandwich is basically a salad on a large round roll, filled with Radish, Eggs, Sardines and ground Tuna. I would have probably enjoyed it more if it wasn’t so hot (were talking 90-100 degrees every day) and I wasn’t so jetlagged.
Florence was one of our favorite cities; it’s beautiful and incredibly easy to walk around and explore on your own. After trying some Gelato (see gallery) and walking down some random side streets, we came across a little shop that was selling sandwiches and individual glasses of wine. There was no seating or even standing room, just a single bar with open wine bottles and piles of different sandwiches. It seemed to be filled with locals so I had a good feeling. I picked up this sandwich because simply it looked delicious. It consisted of a crispy light roll with salty thin slices of prosciutto and creamy goat cheese spread inside. Until we visited Turkey (more on that later) it was my single favorite food that I tried.
We visited Athens less then 12 hours after the riots. We got pretty lucky because everything was very calm when we were there and walking around Athens (specifically the Plaka neighborhood) was really fun and we ended up having a great lunch. Above is a fresh order of Tzatziki, a cucumber flavored yogurt that really goes well with everything. We just devoured it with simple toasted pita. Alli ordered lamb kabobs and I ordered a slow cooked Lamb that really fell apart as I ate it, as good as our dinners were the tzatziki was the star of the meal. Simply put, it was the best I’ve ever had. A wonderful creamy texture with lots of pieces of chopped cucumber and onion, spread on really good pita it could have been my lunch all on its own.
Santorini is one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been to, everywhere you go on the island is a scene from a postcard. Just do a Google image search “Greece” and you’ll see Santorini’s famous white churches with their blue domed tops. After having a less then average meal at a restaurant with our tour guide, we went in search for a better meal. We couldn’t find any street vendors in Athens so we were looking for a place to grab something quick, unfortunately there aren’t a lot of those types of restaurants in Santorini. Most of them were nice sit down restaurants with a patio that over looked the Mediterranean (which I guess isn’t something to really complain about). We eventually found a standing room only restaurant that was serving Gyro’s (pictured above). It was pretty messy but I really enjoyed it. Again, the meat was juicy and bursting with flavor, something you don’t find at many Greek restaurants here in Buffalo Before we left the island I made a point to stop by one of those nicer restuarants and order a Greek Salad (pictured in the gallery). Filled with peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and topped with some incredibly fresh Feta, I’ve been craving it since.
Before we left for Europe I told my family and friends that Turkey was my most anticipated country (food wise) and, sure enough, Kusadasi didn’t let me down. Not only did I enjoy the juiciest lamb kabobs (in gallery) I’ve ever had, but we found a bakery that only made Baklava (pictured above). It was the fluffiest and most delicious Baklava I’ve ever had and cutting through the layers with a knife, the honey just oozed out. all over the place. The shopping in Turkey can be a little intimidating and settling on a restaurant was difficult, but we looked for the signs that weren’t advertising “Fish N Chips” or an “English Breakfast”. What we found was slightly off the busiest tourist streets and when we noticed many Arab speaking people there, we knew we found something good. As I said before, it was probably our best meal in Europe. Alli’s sliced shwarma (first picture way up top) was on top of crispy pita and served with an incredible garlic sauce. The juices from the meat seeped down into the pita and the thought of it is making my mouth water at this very moment. We enjoyed some complimentary Apple tea at the end of the meal (and loved it so much Alli brought a few boxes home) and then our waiter pointed us in the direction of his favorite Baklava shop, without him we probably never would have found it.
Our last stop on our European honeymoon was a trip to Sorrento and it turned out being one of our favorite days. We started the day with a visit to a farm that provided us with Fresh Mozzarella (pictured above), homemade Lemoncello and unlimited house wine. It was the best mozzarella (or cheese in general for that matter) that I’ve ever had in my entire life, hands down. It was sprinkled with a little salt and then topped with some house-made olive oil. We were also served some freshly picked tomatoes, salemi, olives, and crusty warm house-made bread. Very few things compare to sitting on a shady hillside in Italy sipping wine and enjoying fresh homemade bread, mozzarella, and olive oil. It was probably one of my favorite moments of the entire vacation. I would change absolutely nothing about the meal, it was wonderful. We then spent some time in downtown Sorrento where we found a restaurant and ordered a Margherita pizza (in gallery). I wish i could say that I had a religious experience and it was the best pizza I’ve ever had, but unfortunately I can not. Not to say it wasn’t delicious and included all the ingredients a true Italian pizza should, but it just didn’t blow my mind like I hoped it was going to. Alli ordered the Spaghetti Bolognese and loved it, the noodles were obviously cooked perfectly and their meat sauce (and she’s normally not even a fan of meat sauce) was fantastic.
We ate a lot of good food in Europe. Would we have preferred to eat meals in little towns throughout the country side sitting next to locals? Of course, it can be a little off-putting to try and pretend your eating an authentic Margherita Pizza when your surrounded by tourists speaking English. But we don’t have the connections of Anthony Bourdain and we also only had several hours in each city. If you find yourself in a similar situation with limited time to find some good food, I highly recommend you do your best and try to research good restaurants. There are plenty of local eateries if you venture off the main roads, i.e. the tiny sandwich place in Florence was filled with locals speaking Italian and the restaurant we found in Kusadasi had almost zero English speakers and weren’t trying to win tourists with their “English Breakfasts”. I left Europe thinking we did a pretty good job and found a new hunger to travel even more. I never considered myself a big fan of Italian cuisine, but now all I can think about is pasta and wood-fired pizzas. Hopefully, we will get another chance to visit Italy and Greece and we can skip the tourist/sight seeing and venture out on our own.