Short trip to Friuli-Venezia Giulia

I finally got over the loss of my food travel related epistolary in Chowhound. Unwisely I did not save it elsewhere… I see in “Hungry onion” some familiar names, which motivates me to report again. I hope “Hungry onion” is not going anywhere…

My wife and I have traveled through an infrequently visited part of Italy - Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

What motivated us?

  1. From the time of Chowhound, allende many times referred to it as one of the most interesting parts of Italy in the culinary sense (although he never reported on it).

  2. Fred Plotkin dedicated a whole book to the region’s cooking (La Terra Fortunata). He only did it for one another region - Liguria.

  3. I do not usually go to Italian restaurants in US. The only exception is Il Toscano in Queens NY, where I never had a bad meal. It is owned by a Friuli family, despite the weird name and panItalian menu….

After getting a car in Marco Polo Venice Airport we stayed nearby in charming Treviso. Despite traveling Veneto up and down many times, it was our first time in this town. The town is pleasant and easy to see in one day. They claim invention of tiramisu. Hence every food establishment sells one. Another claim to glory - radicchio. Unfortunately it is a winter product and was not available during the summer.

The choice of the dinner fell on Toni del Spin.The restaurant frequently mentioned in multiple food related publications, including Slow Food guide and Plotkin’s book. Plotkin describes it as a single room with communal tables. Well… Now it is a quite a sizable place with the spread to the next building, extending to a few floors and terrace. We had decent mantecato, bigoli con alice, so-so ravioli with ricotta and capesante (scallops) baked with porcini. Food was OK, but not fantastic. The highlight was definitely tiramisu. Their version is the one I liked the best of anything I have tried. It is served as a cake. It has a lot of texture and taste. Not wet, unlike the usual serving manner.

The next morning we crossed from Veneto to Friuli heading to a small town of Ghirano. There is absolutely nothing to do in this town other than to eat in Allo Storione. The restaurant has very rustic feel, neither the less you will not be seated without the reservation. No English spoken, although probably some understood. It is endorsed with the snail in slow food guide. The food indeed is very good. It comes only from local sources and has the elements of elevated village cooking. Specialty: incorporation of local herbs in the dishes. The menu is recited by waiter and does not exist in printed form. Understanding of Italian food vocabulary is essential. I liked my sformato with local cheese and herbs. My wife enjoyed carpaccio de matzo with chanterelles. The pasta described to us as plin deserves a special mentioning. It does not look like Langhe version of plin. It is much bigger. Probably the thinnest roll of the dough I have ever encountered. It is staffed with herbs and minimal amount of ricotta. Remarkable dish. But itself it is worth the drive to Ghirano. I tried their local specialty - lumache (snails). It was good, but not amazing. My wife somewhat liked the rooster stew. Nice contorni with fresh vegetables.

Laguna Grade is almost equal in size and fish diversity to the Venetian laguna. It is surrounded by the towns of Lignano Sabiodoro, Marano Lagunare and Grado. We headed to Lignano Sabiadoro for beach side stay. The food in this beach town was not up to expectation. So I will skip the description. One mentioning. In supposedly the best place in town - Mandi - sepia with peas was pretty good with rest of it uninspiring. Pastas was especially awful…

We made a side trip from Lignano to Marano Lagunare, which is a principal fishing location of Laguna Grado. The town is small but very pleasant. Highly recommend for individuals enthusiastic for the seafood. We have elected slow food mentioned La Barcaneta. The place was very busy for a Monday lunch in non-touristy town. The reservation is critical. I believe they respond to emails.

Extensive menu with full variety of the local sea products. We tried sarde al saor along with sliced cooked orata. Delicious. The spaghetti con ricci was a bit salty, which made me to think that ricci were not exactly fresh caught. The fresh ones always have a very sweet taste. In the end my wife received an amazing 1/2 branzino sliced along and grilled on one side. I got the second best chunk of grilled anguilla I have ever had (the best one was in Dal Pescatore near Mantua). There were so many other things to try. If we would have time, I would come again…

Grade is an island town connected by the two bridge to the main land. It gave the name to the Laguna and is located in the eastern part of it. There is a sizable historic center with multiple beaches giving a strong resort flavor to the town. The food scene is, as expected is a bit touristy. One place is mentioned by the slow food guide: Agli Artisti. It is on the same strip with all the other restaurants on the mane drag. Typical local fare made well, but not deserving “special destination” trip. Orata salad, sarde, frito misto. We tried one very local “Grado dish” - boreto. It exists in two versions: fish and sepia. The one we had was with sepia. Reminded me of the dish we had in Valencia - sepia stewed in onions for long time. Good, but not a trendsetter.

On the way to Trieste we stopped for lunch in Gorizia in Rosenbar. Endorsed by slow food. Very popular with locals. Has nice internal decor in magenta tones. Has a strong Austrian/ rather than Italian ambience. Once again, solid food, but not sure if deserves a drive. If you stay in town, definitely go. We took all the dishes on the recommendation of the owner. Pretty forgetful “eggplant ball”. Solid antipasti, but would not remember what I ate if would not write down… Spaghetti con alice was pretty good. Seasoning is frequently a problem when cooking with anchovies. This one was perfect. Fried sardines were Ok. Coffee is served in Austrian manner with cup covers.

The first night in Trieste we ventured to close suburb. Trattoria Al Sub is located along the waterfront street a few miles from the city center. The parking is pretty painless in the evening time. The trip was worth it. This trattoria exists for a long time. The tables are served by the owner. We loved every single dish. They are famous for their gratinee of shellfish. We got scallops, razor clams and shrimps. Perfection. Very delicate with precise cooking, taken off the broiler in perfect time. Parmegiano sformato with shrimp was another winner. Sounds strangee, but the combination was perfect. In general I am not a big fun of large sized pasta. The owner convinced me to try pacchieri with sepia ragu. Excellent. Later I have learned that this is one of their signature dishes. Rombo (turbot) encrusted with potato and porcini. Loved it. Not my favorite fish, but this version was juicy and delicious. Highly recommended, if in Trieste.

To contrast our fist seafood dinner in Trieste, for the second one we headed up the mountain in notorious Suban, serving Karst cuisine. Mario Suban, in his late 80s, wonders between the tables greeting the customers, although it is now run by his daughters. Mario is a great-grandson of the original owner - Giuseppe, who opened it after winning the Austrian emperial lottery in 1865. Mario invented some popular dishes and staffed with it some popes and presidents over the years. Mario got us popular local soup jota (stew of sour craft and potatos) to be tried in coffee cups. He called it : Caffe Triestino senza zucchero.

We got to try “cheese strudel” - chunk of the melted montasio cheese wrapped in San Daniele ham. It tastes exactly as it sounds. Soft egg with polenta and deep fried artichokes - Ok, but not spectacular.

The most famous dish invented by Mario around 1974: palacinke alla mandreira. Very thin crepe with melted cheese and basil infused olive oil. Indeed delicious. Must try if in restaurant. Another interesting pasta - potato strudel. Pretty good as well. We have declined their famous veal shank. A bit too much for us. We sheared Fegato alla veneziana, wich was one of the best I have ever tried. Strudel and milefoglie were our deserts. Style of milefoglie in Trieste is very peculiar: dollop of custard with sheets of pastry dough sticking out. Bothe deserts were excellent.

Trieste is a city of Austrian style cafe. We have visited a few. La Bomboniera was the memorable one. Cheery strudel and presnitz are the obligatory toys.

Another favorite The Eppinger. The favorite cafe of James Joice (Stella Polare) was so-so.

There is more Trieste and Udine coming.

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Thanks for the write up! Never been to this region, but it is high on my wishlist of places I’d like to visit.

Welcome to Hungry Onion, and thanks for sharing a lovely report!

It’s funny to see Udine mentioned — I made a detour there a long time ago to visit friends of my parents. I still remember the gorgeous approach, with the Alps in the background.

We had a fabulous meal (my first “fancy,” coursed meal in Italy, and the first time I had eaten pasta as a primi in the appropriate portion size) and a lovely albeit short stay.

Look forward to reading more.

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Welcome @dostrovs. Thanks for the fun read.

Sorry to hear that you lost your Chowhound archive—I think many of us here on Hungry Onion (HO) did as well. I learned to move on and found a home here on HO. There is an option to request your archive once you accumulate a large number of posts. I have not tried it yet.

It is found:
under your profile picture > summary > settings

IMG_6407

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I apologize in advance for multiple autocorrection made by my MacBook. I am trying to fix them, but can miss some…

Our next lunch stop in Trieste was Trattoria Nerodiseppia. Very conveniently located just off the central waterfront. Ideal for people arriving by cruise.

While in the restaurant I have grabbed Gambero Rosso 2024 edition to read and found that they there given “Tre gamberi”, which makes them best affordable restaurant in Trieste from Gambreo Rosso prospective. Unfortunately this guide is difficult to find in US and too heavy to carry from Italy. I believe there is a kindle version available from amazon, but only in Italian. Getting back to the restaurant, the combination antipasti included a lot of small items: mantecato, tuna carpaccio, capesante, sarde octopus salad. All good. Excellent clam risotto served with crudo branzino on top. We only had a space for a little of desert, so they gave us 1/2 of millifoglie. They have very extensive and affordable wine list with a lot of wines by the glass. Very positive impression. Definitely go.

For the last dinner in Trieste we managed to secure a table in Antica Trattoria Menarosti. You have to call in advance (in Italian) to make it happen. I believe there are people speaking English, but not the fact that they will pick up the phone. So please put your best Italian forward. The sommelier speaks good English and can help you with ordering if you are in trouble. The place is perceived to be the best restaurant in town by many enthusiasts. They got the “snail” recognition from the slow food. By 7:30 pm at our arrival the place was mostly empty, but by the 8:00 in was packed with people with the waiters running in all directions. We had excellent crudo plate ( probably the best one I had in a long time) and their famous Granziola (spider crab) with the sauce made of its liver. I had similar things in Venice in the past, but it never impressed me that much. Some sources report that preorder of this dish is required, so I did so. While in the restaurant, I have realized that every single table has it. I can not believe that everyone did a preorder. I suspect the preordering is a seasonal thing. Small plate of fresh pasta with shrimp in the shrimp head broth. We ordered local fish resembling sea brim, but much more flavorful. It was local and in season, so we had nothing to loose. It was delicious. The bill was above average, but not by much. Highly recommended for food and experience.

In the morning we headed for the mountains in the area of San Daniele. Our goal was Trattoria Da Ivana & Secondo. Another slow food endorsement. A bit tricky to find in the middle of nowhere, but we made it.

Spectacular view from the terrace where we were seated.

Despite isolated location the place was extremely busy for a Friday lunch.

All Italians. We were the only foreigners. No English spoken, but there is an English menu. Most of the customers ordered San Daniele prosciutto plates, but we have had enough of it by then. My wife had delicious melanzana parmegiana. I opted for a combination of appetizers served in 3 changes of plates. They were all good, but not incredible.

We shared a plate of buratta and truffle stuffed ravioli. Most of the customers were ordering them as well… They were pretty good. We finished with a duck breast with the vegetables from the local garden. Excellent. The experience was good. If you have time and stamina please go there.

We came to Udine (about 45 minutes from the restaurant). The fanciest meal of the trip was Agli Amici dal 1887. The restaurant has been run for many generations by the same Scarello family. It is about 15 minutes ride from the central Udine. They have 2 Michelin stars. The sister, Michela, runs the front. While the brother, Emanuele, runs the kitchen. They have vegetarian and non-vegetarian menus. You can pick the dishes from the both if you prefer.

We went with non-vegetarian option. The only plate I grabbed from the other one was rehydrated morels. They were delicious and full of umami.

On my fairly extensive experience 2 Michelin star restaurants are a crap shoot. Some are very good aspiring to get a 3rd star. Others just looking for an opportunity to raise their prices and to drag alone. Luckily this one belongs to the first category. The food was very thoughtful and presented well. We had a lovely chat with waiter and Michela during our meal. The amazing bread. They served us a local potato bread, which I have identified as a knish. Funny enough they were not aware about existence of a knish. During the dinner Michela warned us a few times to “lay off the bread” because we will not be able to finish the meal. Regretfully we had to obey. It is difficult for me to describe the entire meal but the experience was very pleasant. I got to drink Oltre from Specogna Winery (blend of refosco, pignolo and schiopettino) and an excellent Pecolit.

The one set back was a charge of 25 euro for sitting outside the restaurant door for a few minutes before the meal. Many high end restaurants in rural setting do it to have aperitif, but it is the first time we were charged just for the fact of sitting, besides the drink prices….

The last lunch we had was Borgo Poscolle in the mountainous region of Carnia. It was a pretty painless drive on the autostrada for 30 minutes. Another “snail” endorsement. There are few more “snail” endorsed restaurants in Carnia, but they are farther. (The fact of multiple ’snails” in such a small region is a good sign for culinary traveling.) The location is spectacular with Alps surrounding you. Once again it is a husband and wife team feeding you an incredible food. I had their local cheese Sfomato with the herbs (you have figured by now that I am a sucker for sfomato). My wife had a place of roastbeaf with kren (horseradish) (Austrian influence!). As well we shared cherry gazpacho and cjarsons. Cjarsons are as local as you can imagine. Regretfully that was the first palatable ones I have had. All precious attempted were failures and I prefer not write about them here. We had Frico ( you thought I am going to leave Friuli without eating Frico !?!?!). It was very cheesy and delicious. You could probably have this dish for breakfast lunch and dinner, but it is straight path to coronary angiography. Plate of local cheeses. All excellent and not available outside of the region… Highly recommend this place if you in Udine and have a car.

For a final dinner we picked the simplest place we could find. Al Canarino in Udine is a very plain local hangout spot with incredible food. It is mentioned by the slow food. When we came over we thought we are in the wrong place. Bunch of local males watching the football (soccer) game. Luckily I fave recognized a few tables in the corner with posting “reserved”. We were seated and fed an excellent meal. No menu/ no English, but do not be intimidated by that. Owner is extremely forthcoming and will take care of you. He pours you fantastic wines for the fraction of the price (rhyming is not meant). Truffled egg (yes the real truffle in local sports bar!). Melanzana. Another good cjarsons. Salumi plate. Fantastic carpaccio.

That is it. My graphomaniac opus is over. We have really enjoyed the experience. Highly recommend. Happy to answer any questions.

Standby for reports from my beloved Andalusia in September. Coming back to Sevilla/ Zahara/ Malaga. I know exactly where I am going to eat. And my Spanish is way better than my Italian…

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(post deleted by author)

I’ll be in Malaga in September as well, what’s on your list??

I think La Cosmopolita is my favorite.
Araboka (than I believe they had different name ? Eriboka) was pretty good.
El Reflectorium did not impress, but i probably got the wrong staff. Although their ensaladillia russa is award winning, did not impress me.
Tried Kaleja (same chef as La Cosmpolita - Dani Carnero), but was not too inspired .
I am usually looking in Guia Repsol for updates. Somthing tells me you speak Spanish, so upload their updated free app and use it when in Spain. Everything what has “a sol” is worth a try.

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(post deleted by author)

Thanks! La Cosmopolita is definitely on my list, as were El Reflectorium Malagueta and Kaleja, but I’m not sure about those 2 now now. Sadly I don’t speak Spanish, but I do have Google translate! :smiley: I’m renting an ebike to check out some of the chiringuitos farther from the center of the city.

Good to see you posting, looking forward to your continuation!