Festiggiare - To Celebrate

It was the last day of our trip to Lucca and Judy and I decided to festiggiare - a word that can mean to celebrate or to feast. We did both at one of our favorite restaurants.

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Gli Orti (the gardens) di Via Elisa is a beautiful restaurant on, you guessed it, Via Elisa just outside of Porta San Gervasio, one of the medieval gates inside Lucca's walls.  

 Porta San Gervasio, one of two remaining medieval entrances to Lucca.

Porta San Gervasio, one of two remaining medieval entrances to Lucca.

We celebrated two things: a successful trip (the first time Judy and I have actually traveled together) and also the launch of this blog, a project months in the planning. We've had fun writing and have really enjoyed the responses we've gotten to our first posts. 

 The entrance to Gli Orti di Via Elisa, still decorated for the Christmas season.

The entrance to Gli Orti di Via Elisa, still decorated for the Christmas season.

On the menu was a guilty pleasure called Pasta Fritta - little pieces of dough fried in oil, sprinkled with a good coarse salt, served warm and layered with a soft melty cheese and a piece of prosciutto. I first tasted this a couple of years ago in a Sicilian-style restaurant in Lucca and then again on an excursion into the hills outside of Lucca with a group from Lucca Italian School last spring. It's one of those dishes that combines warm, salty and savory in just-the-perfect combination and it's an unforgettable flavor. It's also not something found at home (at least not in New Mexico), so don't pass this up if you find it on a menu in Italy. It's an antipasto, so was our first course and perfect for sharing. Remember, this is a festa so a bit of decadence is not just ok, it's required!

 Pasta Fritta warm, salty, and delicious.

Pasta Fritta warm, salty, and delicious.

Judy is a pizza purist, so for her main course she ordered a pizza Margherita, an Italian classic topped with a touch of tomato sauce, good mozzarella and some basil. She pronounced it to be in her top 10 all-time pizza experiences.

 Pizza Margherita. It smelled so good Judy had to taste it before I snapped a photo!  

Pizza Margherita. It smelled so good Judy had to taste it before I snapped a photo!  

I went full out carnivore, ordering a steak grilled, sliced and topped with herbs, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Alongside came roasted potatoes with rosemary, perfectly cooked with a crisp outside and a creamy, tender inside.  

 Steaks are cooked rare in Italy; this one was tender and flavorful.   

Steaks are cooked rare in Italy; this one was tender and flavorful.   

You might notice a lack of veggies. They are not abundant on menus here, other than salads or spinach and a few season-specific vegetables like asparagus. As one Italian I know put it to me, "You can eat vegetables at home. No one goes to a restaurant for vegetables." Ah, Italian wisdom!

Happy and full, we skipped dessert and had just a caffe macchiato to finish the meal. We've made a bit of a study of caffe macchiato this trip, which is sure to end up as a future post.  

-post by JB

 Caffè macchiato - espresso with just a touch of milk.

Caffè macchiato - espresso with just a touch of milk.

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contact info:   Gli Orti di Via ElisaVia Elisa 17, 55100 Lucca, Italy         ristorantegliorti.it