04 Jul2006


I have this theory that you should never eat in mediocre restaurants while traveling. That means you either go super low-end, market turo-turo food, street-food, make your own meal from grocery/deli purchases or go high-end, fine dining. Tourist traps serve mediocre food at ridiculous prices and though you acar2get nourishment, they usually disappoint. Convenience, quality and reasonable prices rarely go hand in hand. Except at some of the spectacular markets around the world…you can usually find pretty good food where the locals buy their produce or where the market workers eat their lunch. Hence, this post on Fabulous Meal # 1 in Florence. After wandering around the market for about an hour, The Kid and Mrs. Marketman were ready for lunch and we passed an aisle of the market that had all of this cooked food and lots of folks from truck driver types to tourists milling about. We took one look at the displays and sat ourselves right down at an ice cream chest freezer turned into a table (the only space available) and ordered four dishes. The first was a simple yet spectacular caprese salad made of ripe, sweet cherry tomatoes with little balls of bocconcini (mozzarella) drizzled with green olive oil, with shredded basil and some salt and pepper added. So simple, so sublime. The quality of the tomatoes and cheese surpassed anything I had tried before, even though this classic salad is served globally with often appalling results. Yum.

Next, we each ordered a main course that we ended up sharing. The Kid ordered a plate of meat filled ravioli with a creamy tomato sauce. It was a substantial dish, not the thin artsy fartsy car3raviolis you sometimes get. The Kid loved it. We also got a plate of eggplant parmigiana that is swimming under all this grated cheese. Despite being made in huge pans for carinderia style serving, this was flavorful, meaty and delicious. Finally, we ordered a polpette of ground beef which is sort of like meat loaf with a tomato-ey sauce on top of it. All of this we had with some decent bread and although it seems like we were drowning in tomato sauce, it was exactly the meal we were hankering for. Take note of the totally empty plastic plates down below…

With three softdrinks/waters the entire bill was just Euro 27 or about PHP600 each…one carr4 of the best value meals we had on the trip! It is worth mentioning that our ultra efficient waitperson served about 40 folks (Italians, Germans, Japanese, us, etc.) without ever writing anything down. She and the large Italian momma behind the counter covered both a standing bar and the 40 seated guests with such efficiency they would put most fast food joints to shame. We sat down, ate, paid and were out of there in about 20 minutes total! We didn’t even mind the chest freezer as dining table… Amazing!




  1. joey says:

    YUM! I totally agree with your eating while traveling theory! When my friends and I visited Bologna (home of spaghetti bolognese, Furla, and what else…bologna…and mortadella!) a couple of years ago it was eating non stop. We had a similar caprese, except with a huge hunk of mozarella intead of the bocconcini, and to this day I can’t say I have ever had a better caprese salad! I am looking forward to more of these posts! :)

    Jul 4, 2006 | 2:26 pm


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  3. mojitodrinker says:

    i am green with envy… =) that looks great MM!!!

    Jul 4, 2006 | 3:55 pm

  4. Gigi says:

    Your traveling principle rules, MM! Eating good food is one of the ways that a traveller can really be immersive in the country. After all, it makes a chunk of the “memories” you’ll make and so it is imperative — if I must say so — to eat well.

    Jul 4, 2006 | 4:31 pm

  5. wysgal says:

    Agree that good food + travel go hand in hand. My parents don’t totally agree though — they’re more of the “let’s see where they have a table big enough for our entire family” variety.

    But now that I travel more with friends it’s nice to be able to try out more foreign food experiences. =)

    Jul 4, 2006 | 4:51 pm

  6. gonzo says:

    you have to admit, nothing like italian food in italy.

    people think i’m some sort of food snob when i say i try to avoid eating italian food outside of italy, but most people, myself included, who are fortunate enough to have visited there have had sublime food experiences similar to yours.

    so after the gastronomic high of an italian culinary holiday, an italian meal back home is kinda anticlimactic and second-rate, so really, what’s the point?

    Jul 4, 2006 | 5:03 pm

  7. gonzo says:

    btw, what camera do you use? i’ll be in europe myself in sept and i need a camera. is a canon powershot A700 good enough for holiday snaps, macro shots of food, etc etc? have no clue when it comes to cameras but i’d like to get a decent one for a change.

    Jul 4, 2006 | 5:08 pm

  8. Marketman says:

    Everyone will laugh when they find out I use a Canon Ixus 430 which is just a 4 megapixel camera that is two years old and I have taken 13,000 pictures with…it’s the instamatic equivalent of digital cameras! Heehee. I almost bought one of those fancier bigger Canon’s but my wife says I couldn’t handle it…

    Jul 4, 2006 | 5:15 pm

  9. virgilio says:

    That reminds me that I have yet to make mozzarela with cherry tomatoes we grow in the garden this summer. The tomatoes are not ripe yet as the weather has been rather erratic this year. Basils are abundant though. And huge! Bad weather most of the time in June this year. Did you and your family cover Vienna during this trip?

    Jul 4, 2006 | 6:00 pm

  10. Marketman says:

    Virgilio, good grief, it’s been eons…I thought you had overdosed on Dayap pie or something…no, unfortunately, we didn’t go by Vienna on this recent trip!

    Jul 4, 2006 | 6:24 pm

  11. Apicio says:

    We use to call them ichamatic. However, I overheard somebody once refer to a camera as paranoid which made me speculate whether it found itself surrounded by expensive and technologically advanced photographic equipment.

    Jul 5, 2006 | 8:58 am

  12. Mila says:

    I could never understand people who’d save on food when travelling, packing nissin ramen and crackers so they could go shopping. For me, travelling to a new place means tasting what a local would eat, and sometimes it’s a hit or miss proposition, but the experience is worth every penny.
    I’m enjoying reading the new posts.

    Jul 5, 2006 | 9:14 am

  13. Bay_leaf says:

    life is too short to miss out on the good things, so i say, splurge and enjoy!

    having said that, it’s been a real hot summer here in Switzerland that i’ve been feasting on those sweet cherry tomatoes with mozzarella, basilicum (some black olives too), with a nice balsamico.

    and while we’re in the Italian side of food, may i add FORZA ITALIA!!! :)

    Jul 6, 2006 | 10:38 pm

  14. fried-neurons says:

    Mmmmm… insalata caprese! One of life’s simplest yet most awesome pleasures…

    It’s very easy to find really good olive oil. It’s relatively easy to find really good mozzarella. The key, therefore, is finding really good tomatoes. Which is why insalata caprese should only be enjoyed during the height of the tomato season, i.e. summer. Off-season tomatoes may look pretty, but they have nowhere near the flavor of the peak-season ones.

    Jul 8, 2006 | 4:58 am

  15. Larees says:

    I agree with you MM. Travelling for me means enjoying that country’s food as well. I think food is one of the best ways to immerse oneself in the country’s culture. I could never understand those people who eat nothing but Mc Donald’s during a trip to another country.

    Jul 8, 2006 | 6:07 am

  16. fried-neurons says:

    Larees said: “I could never understand those people who eat nothing but McDonald’s during a trip to another country.”

    Hahaha. That reminds me of when my cousin visited America for the first time, after years of running a garment factory in Pakistan. She flew to New York to her company’s head office, and I met up with her there.

    On our first night there, I asked her where she wanted to eat, and she promptly replied, “sa McDo!” I wanted to slap her silly right then and there! I mean hello? First time in America, in the middle of Manhattan, and she wants a Big Mac! LOL.

    Jul 8, 2006 | 7:55 am


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