Nearly a decade ago, travel writer Ondine Cohane left her life in New York City to move to Italy and open La Bandita, a dreamy Tuscan getaway. We asked Cohane to dish on her favorite restaurants in Italy, from the mountains of the Dolmites to the shores of Sicily. Here are some of her favorite spots.
Marina di Bibbona, Tuscany
This beach side restaurant on the Tuscan Coast is my holy grail for seafood: the crudo, raw fish, is divine, and the wine list is encyclopedic–with 40 pages of the best vintages in Italy.
I love this mountainous area of Italy and this new, tiny, four-top restaurant is alone worth the pilgrimage. It exemplifies the zero kilometer movement with all of the dishes’ ingredients either grown at the chef’s farm or foraged nearby. Incredibly inventive, and delicious too.
This restaurant on the main square of the Cinque Terre gem of Vernazza is one of my happy places. I could eat a million of the fresh anchovies doused with local olive oil and lemon, and plates of the region’s pesto, not to mention their seafood fritto misto, or just caught grilled whole fish.
Ragusa Ibla, Sicily
Ciccio Sultano, the chef here, is one of Italy’s very best as far as I am concerned, with the perfect mix of inventive with amazing local ingredients. I still dream about his spaghetti alla bottarga (fish roe) and swordfish crusted with pistachio. And the restaurant itself is gorgeous with silk flowered wallpaper and clubby leather chairs.
This place has a cult following (Wes Anderson is a fan for example) for good reason: a beautiful setting (a table outside on the main square is a must), old school service, and delectable food. Particular favorites are the roasted turbot served with tomatoes and black olives, and the crudo (raw fish that’s sushi grade).
The best restaurant in town as far as I am concerned, and I am not alone in that belief so book a table (there are only nine) well in advance. My favorite dish is the plate of moeche, tiny soft-shell “lagoon crabs.” A local specialty, they’re only in season for a few weeks in late March and early April, and early October. Deep fried and insanely flavorful!
Alla Vecchia Bettola
Florence, Via Vasco Pratolini
I love the old school trattorias of Florence and this one is my very favorite filled with Florentine businessmen and visiting foodies. I never miss a plate of pasta with porcini mushrooms when they are in season.
Hungry for more? Follow Ondine on Instagram @ocohane.