I'm officially posting on location from Europe. At the moment, I'm in my Milan hotel, and a little bit jet-lagged. It's 6am and I can't really sleep, so I thought I'd get the Arthur Hungry action started.
To give some quick background - I've just embarked on what might be the most ambitious eating trip of my life. I'm starting here in Milan then going to Florence, Rome, Naples, Barcelona, Madrid, and Lisbon. It will be my first time in Spain and Portugal, and the Italian cities are all new to me except Rome. I've got a massive spreadsheet with nearly every meal planned for the next month, and I've brought my camera along with the full intention of photographing everything, then posting very thoroughly like I did back in the old days. Admittedly, I'm on a 10" netbook and my internet will be spotty, so a lot of my updates may not come until I'm back home in November. My eating/sightseeing schedule will also get a lot busier once travel companions join me (starting with my cousin Geoff tomorrow).
But on to meal #1. After 15 hours of travel (I turned down the plane food on Swiss), I was very excited to dive right in. I had made plans to eat at Al Porto, an old-school restaurant established in 1966 in the Navigli area near Porta Genova. In my research, I found that it was one of the most highly-recommended seafood joints, and supposedly has one of the best fritto mistos in town. I figured some simple fried stuff would be the perfect post-flight meal.
I was literally coming right off the plane, and I had to rush a bit to make it to my reservation. I wish I'd changed before I went. The inside of Al Porto doesn't seem all that fancy, with simple tables, wooden chairs, and light reddish tablecloths. The general vibe is reminiscent of North Beach Restaurant in SF. But Milanese fashion is no joke, folks - every guy in the restaurant was wearing at least a suit (with about an even split on neckwear), and all the women were wearing serious dresses. There I was with jeans, sneakers, and a zip up sweater. Oh well - I had to play the ignorant American card. No one seemed offended, but I felt a little out of place.
I started off with some simple crudo, at the advice of my waiter. The tuna was good, if unspectacular - meaty, fresh, and well-seasoned, with a nice olive oil soaking. The scampi were superb. You just don't find pristine scampi like this back home, and I don't recall ever eating it raw. It tasted pretty close to a top-shelf amaebi, but with a softer texture and a lighter flavor. The stuff on the lemon was tuna chopped up with some capers and dressing - pretty tasty.
I had come for the fritto misto, and it did not disappoint. I received a heaping pile of calamari, octopus, whitebait, baby crevettes, rock shrimp, and various small fish I wouldn't be able to name. All were light and not greasy. The variety of textures was wonderful, ranging from the slight chew of the calamari to the crunchy bones of the fish and the shrimp. My dad frequently compares great Italian fritto misto to Japanese tempura, noting that both are delicious because they recognize the need to fry with light battering and a delicate hand. Al Porto's version affirms that observation loud and clear.
So meal one is down, with many more to come. Geoff arrives tomorrow - then the real fun begins.