Do you have a to-do list? I do. Mine gets longer by the day. It’s written neatly (shout out to Mrs. Mitchell for perfecting my penmanship) but its contents stir untold anxiety as they become more numerous by the day. For no fewer than 2 years, “Create Barcelona, Venice, and other city guide pages” has been at the top of this litany and in spite of the best intentions, I haven’t gotten around to crafting detailed and SEO-rich pages dedicated to these cities. I hope some day I will, but in the meantime, I will use this page to collect my favorite places to eat and drink across the globe. Be sure to visit my City Guides main page for advice on where to dine and drink in Rome, Istanbul, Tokyo, NYC, and more. And of course, take a spin on my clips page for recent articles and guides published in English language publications in the US, UK, and Australia.
One of my favorite places to eat in BCN (or anywhere) is Bar Cañete. I grab a seat at the bar and watch as the chefs flawlessly execute grilled meat and fish and vegetable dishes. Tied with Cañete for my favorite place in Barcelona is Bar Brutal, an incredible natural wine bar pouring the most delicious vino from Spain and abroad.
Every visitor to BCN heads to the Boqueria market at least once (though often it feels like every single tourist in town is there at the same time). Take a spin through the stalls and have a snack at El Quim and Kiosko Universal.
La Cova Fumada in Barcelonetta is a great spot for cod and awesome cheap seafood dishes served to standing diners (many fishermen among them) at the bar or to seated visitors. While you’re in the neighbohrood, check out the nearby Mercat de la Barcelonetta. This market, as well as Mercat de Santa Caterina a 20 minute walk away, make a great contrast with the super touristy Boqueria.
Along the sea northeast of the center, a number of fish restaurants specialize in paella, a Valencia specialty. I like Xiringuito Escribà on a Sunday when the place is absolutely slammed with groups of friends and family. Order a paella or fideuà cooked with seafood.
Some nice (if touristy) old school spots are Passadis del Pep and Cal Pep. Both are great for tapas and Catalan specialties.
Cervejaria Ramiro is wildly popular with locals and visitors alike so be prepared to queue most evenings–you can pop inside to the bar for beers to accompany your wait. Go in a group so you can try lots of beautifully prepared and gently cooked seafood.
Taberna Da Rua Das Flores is a delightful institution.
At Sol y Pesca it’s all about quality canned fish
’A Ginjinha in Largo São Domingos 8 near the Rossio Metro serves the local sour cherry-infused spirit by the shot. For an extra special buzz, order it with a side of boozy cherries. Nearby, Beira Gare serves home-style fast food. Their bifana (sautéed pork sandwich) is cheap and delicious. Ditto for the prego.
Pastéis at Pastéis de Belém tops every list of recommendations I had for Lisbon’s pastry shops. Located near the cathedral in Belém (at Rua de Belém 84 to be exact), this pastry shop sells egg custard tarts. Patrons queue up for the local specialty and the line moves fast.
There is a full Palermo guide here, but the other places on the island that I love include Caffe Sicilia, Il Crocifisso, and Dammuso in Noto, I Rizzari in Brucoli, San Giorgio e I Drago and Cave Ox on Mt. Etna, and in Catania: Fud, Fud Off, Achille e Davide (horse steaks on via del Plebescito!), Le Tre Bocche, and of course, the fish market near the Duomo. Sicily is an amazing place and a massive island with incredible agriculture. That said, some of the restaurant food is mind bogglingly disappointing. People generally eat at home and cook, transforming fresh ingredients into tasty dishes. If you can, rent an apartment with a full kitchen to make the most of the wonderful ingredients Sicily has to offer and to avoid the all to frequent restaurant disappointments!
Matera in Basilicata is awesome. The restaurant food, not so much. Silver lining: Stano is one of the best trattorias in the region, Il Forno di Gennaro does amazing focaccia, I Vizi degli Angeli‘s gelato rules, and La Bottega del Vicinato‘s selection of cheese is magic. You can find these and other tip in my Matera guide for Australian Gourmet Traveller here.
I recommend Enoiteca La Mascareta for wines–more than 1000 labels, all of which can be poured by the glass. Estro is amazing for a quick glass–there are over 500 natural wines on the list–a snack, or a full-on meal. Al Covo is great for fritto misto and a very good grappa selection. Try Alle Testiere where everything is very good, Bottega Ai Promessi Sposi for cicchetti like sarde in saor (marinated sardines) and baccala’ mantecato (salt cod spread), and Alla Vedova, an institution for cicchetti such as fondo di carciofo (artichoke hearts) and polpette di carne (meat croquettes). If you’re on the move in the lagoon, visit glassmaker Elia Toffolo in Murano en route to lunch at Gatto Nero in Burano.
One of the many perks of a 35-city book tour includes never being hungry. As I criss-crossed the United States and Canada in support of Tasting Rome, I got to explore all sorts of incredible regional North American cuisine, cocktails, and craft brewing. Aside from a few sad airport breakfasts, I loved the food on the road and am excited to share my favorites with other hungry travelers so I made a goofy Google map featuring some highlights for dining and drinking–there are a few book stores in the mix, too! Check out this page for more.
Go to Jareon Saeng for braised pork knuckle and be sure to get there before 9 or 10. Klong Teoy Market was fun to see but messy so wear shoes you don’t mind trashing. For the best experience, visit in the early morning. Such a rad market. Check out one of the spots in chinatown like Tang Jai Yoo or T&K. I enjoyed the drinks at Q&A and Teens of Thailand. Boonsap is super central and a great choice for mango sticky rice.
I recently stayed in Kreuzberg (aka x-berg) while working on a book project and loved having the neighborhood as a base. The Bread Station was cool for traditional breads made with freshly milled flour–peep the mill through the window that faces onto the canal. Konditorei Damaskus a 15-minute walk away sells Syrian pastries.
Tadim Ocakbasi in x-berg is a really solid grill house specializing in charcoal-roasted meats. They serve alcohol. Doyum, which does not, is good for a quick lahmacun and Adana Kebab.
If there is another city with more third wave coffee shops I would be shocked. Lots of coffee places also roast their own. I enjoyed Five Elephant in Mitte (there’s another in x-berg), and Ben Rahim (also in Mitte) but there are 1 zillion others. Here’s a nice round-up of top spots from the Barista Institute.
Markethalle Neun (you guessed it, in x-berg) is a fun market hall with a cool butcher, a nice regional cheese shop, produce, and a wine and oyster bar, among other treats.
Getting around town was super easy with the NextBike bikeshare app and Soul Cycle-inspired BeCycle was a decent place for burning off all the sausage and bread and offers a good 2 for 1 class pass for first timers.
Greece (Athens and Beyond)
Italy and Greece are practically neighbors but for some inexplicable reason, I only started really exploring the vast and varied Greek islands and mainland a few years ago. I always start my trips to Greece with a night or two in Athens. I am obsessed with the city’s energy and the sun-bleached hills around the Acropolis are some of my favorite places to run (9/10 doctors recommend little physical fitness before hitting the taverna). In Athens, I love seafood at Kollias, Cretan cuisine at Kriti off Kanigos Square and Katsourbos aka Katsoúrmpos, and yogurt and other dairy classics at Stani.
In spite of its hectic atmosphere and toxic air quality, the port of Piraeus (a 20-minute drive from central Athens) is one of my favorite places on earth because its many ferries whisk passengers away to a zillions kinds of paradise. Lately, my voyages have been to the Cycladic Islands. I steer clear of tourist havens and head to remote places like Iraklia (Population: 141) where the scarce accommodations keep the crowds way down in the summer. The simple accommodations at Villa Zografos offer great views and it’s a short if steep walk down to the beach. For around €80 a day, the proprietor can set you up with a private boat for exploring the island. There are a few tavernas in the main town serving salads, grilled and fried fish, and braised vegetables. Smyrna in the port is my fave.
I have been spending a lot of time in Bologna, partly because I have been writing a pasta book with chef Evan Funke (it’s called American Sfoglino and it’s due to be published in fall of 2019) and party because it’s a delicious city. Bologna is often heralded as Italy’s BEST food town. I think it’s great, but I have experienced more than my share of awful meals recently–I was served a tagliatelle con ragu bolognese that featured what I believe was Fancy Feast where the meat sauce should have been. I think the famous food cities can rest on laurels or become victims of their own success, so I put together this handy guide so you can do it up in Bologna without wasting a single bite.
Check out Osteria Bottega and Trattoria di Via Serra for bolognese classics.. Literally everything is good except the wine list at Osteria Bottega, which needs to be much better to match the food on the table, but the lasagna, tortellini in brodo, tagliatelle al ragu, and salumi more than make up for it. For comfort food like passatelli in brodo, tagliatelle ripassate in padella, and lasagna, visit Golosità di Nonna Aurora.
Cremeria Santo Stefano is ace for gelato, while I visit Cafe Terzi and Aroma for espresso (thanks to Justin Naylor for the gelato and coffee recs). I love drinking natural wines at Enoteca Faccioli, Favalli, and Il Pollaio (a poultry shop turned wine bar in the Mercato Albani). Grab a quick pastry or aperitivo at Gamberini and be sure to pop into Mercato delle Erbe across the street. For an even better market experience, head north of the Stazione Centrale to Mercato Albani. To learn bolognese pasta techniques, visit Maestra Alessandra Spisni at La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese.
You’re not going to want to miss Antica Aguzzeria del Cavallo, a shop selling amazing brass pasta tools and other kitchen implements since 1783. While you’re in the neighborhood, pop into Paolo Atti & Figli for a look at the homemade pasta. For more kitchen tools, visit A. Pezzoli in Via Santo Stefano.
If you’re in Emilia-Romagna and plan to go to Parma, check out Ai Due Platani and Cocchi for traditional dishes. And I cannot recommend Modena highly enough. It’s amazing. You can find my full guide to the town here. Spend at least couple nights. Actually, I think you should stay longer and use Modena as a base for exploring the region. Rent a car and drive it around to awesome working farms/trattorie like La Lanterna di Diogene and institutions like Amerigo dal 1934. It also gives you the opportunity to visit traditional Lambrusco producers. You can read all about Amerigo and Lambrusco, respectively, in recent pieces I wrote for TASTE and Imbibe Magazine.
You guys, please consider going to Naples and Procida instead of Sorrento and Capri. Seriously. I have this whole entire Naples guide here and it is an awesome city worth a seriously deep dive. Procida is beautiful and rules and is a favorite weekend escape of mine. You can read up on it here. The Amalfi Coast can be as touristy as it is beautiful so for the best experience, stick to the places on my map below. And don’t rule out renting a car! Get full insurance coverage so it’s consequence free. It will give you flexibility to pop down to eat amazing mozzarella at Taverna Penta and Vannulo, visit Paestum, and even take a trip to Pepe in Grani in the Alto Casertano.