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