Posts Tagged ‘Italian’

Lunch Date Saturday: Allegria

Allegria BussumItalian. That’s what I was craving when I woke up yesterday morning, still clueless as to where our Saturday lunch date adventure would take us. I wanted simple, authentic Italian food. Nothing fancy, no frills. Just a perfectly cooked pasta perhaps, or a good risotto. And a proper Italian wine to match, of course. But the cure for my craving needed to go beyond pure gustatory satisfaction this time, because in fact, I wasn’t just craving Italian food — I was craving Italy.
After narrowing down my choices, purely based on menus and photos of restaurant interiors, I decided on Allegria in Bussum, a town in the province of North Holland and one I’ve visited many times before.
Part shop and part restaurant, Allegria (meaning ‘happiness’ or ‘joy’) is pretty much a one-stop location for those who love all things Italian. Located in the front is the shop part where you will immediately be welcomed (not to mention helplessly lured) by a broad variety of Italianess: cookbooks, kitchenware, watches, handbags, vintage knick-knacks, wines, pastas, oils, canned tomatoes, sauces, vinegars, pizza ovens, percolators, sweets, and more, and more and more! It’s not just the products that make the heart flutter, but also the way they are beautifully displayed. Every corner of the shop oozes Italian passion. Tastefulness. Definitely pure joy.
Allegria Bussum
A little further on, is the deli section, which also supplies the restaurant with its antipasti and sandwich toppings. There are cheeses, cured meats, olives, pestos and more. I could have easily spent hours here, but it was the restaurant, found at the back of the establishment, that I was most interested in.
Entering the room immediately felt familiar and warm. Plain tables and sturdy black chairs; religious paraphernalia; an attractive buffet cabinet elegantly displaying a collection of wine glasses, above it a framed map of Rome; a row of cookbooks; paintings, priced and offered for sale; and in the middle, a drinks cabinet sumptuously stocked with wines, liqueurs and other spirits. It didn’t feel like being at a restaurant, it felt as though I was visiting an Italian friend.
And the food…
The lunch menu mainly offers a large variety of sandwiches, but there are also antipasti, four pizzas, one soup and one pasta. There is no wine list. Instead, there is wine advice. All you have to do is ask.
We started with the antipasti. I ordered a mixed plate that came with a variety of deliciousness including coppa di parma, taleggio, provolone, gorgonzola (probably one of the best I’ve ever had) and fragrant pesto. Hubby chose the plate with three crostini: one topped with spicy prawns, the other with basil pesto, gorgonzola and a sundried tomato, and the last with red pesto and prosciutto. In a tiny dish, the waitress prepared a flavorful oil for us to dip our bread and breadsticks in. Paired with a glass of Prosecco, we shared the two dishes before moving on to the main.

Allegria BussumMy choice was the ravioli filled with ricotta and black truffle and topped with rocket lettuce and pine nuts. I missed more truffle in the ravioli filling and think the dish could’ve done with a good drizzle of oil, something I could luckily correct myself since there was a bottle of fabulously grassy olive oil on our table. For Hans the pizza ‘Salumi’ was satisfying and uncomplicated: a decent crust (though we suspected not freshly made), tomato sauce and sliced meats. The wine choice was left up to our waitress, who recommended a Nero d’Avola, chock-full of juicy raspberries with a hint of chocolate and a long, smooth finish for Hans, and for me a crisp, minerally Pecorino, a wine that immediately made me think of summer. And in case you’re wondering, yes, the wine pairs beautifully with the cheese that goes by the same name.
Allegria Bussumbonnetje-allegriaNo room for dessert this time, unfortunately, though our espresso and cappuccino arrived with a too-tempting-to-pass-up dish of Italian sweets.
The service was flawless and adept, the food and wine quite satisfactory and the atmosphere precisely what I was looking for when I envisioned an afternoon escape to Italy that morning. I will be back for dinner in the near future — and will definitely drop in anytime I’m lusting after la dolce vita, which in my case, is incredibly often…

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Happy Monday and Raw Pasta Sauce

raw pasta sauceWelcome to a new week! As you may have read in my previous post, I visited restaurant Rembrandt in Amstelveen last Saturday and was quite positive about the experience. If it wasn’t forthe less-than-perfect location, I probably would have given it four stars. The food was absolutely delightful and the wine equally good.
I’ve decided to make the ‘Lunch Date Saturday’ a recurring feature on the blog. Therefore, I’ll be visiting interesting restaurants (if possible, new) for you every Saturday and reporting back here every Sunday. After many lunches out with my hubby at the weekend (something we both really look forward to!), I thought it would be nice to not only share photos through Instagram, but to also post full reviews here on my blog. Honest reviews. I am not being paid for this and even if I was, I have absolutely no interest in praising something I don’t really love. So don’t expect it to always be pretty!
With that, I’m happy to say that I have very high expectations for the resto I’ll be visiting this coming Saturday — also a newbie in the Dutch  food scene and pretty damn cool from the buzz it’s creating!
Today’s post, however, isn’t about fancy restaurant food. It’s about an easy peasy dish that has saved me many a times from succumbing to take-out on days when I know my agenda is an absolute disaster. All it takes is a little bit of mixing and chopping in the morning and by dinnertime, presto! You’ve got yourself one heck of a good meal.
Enjoy and have an awesome week!

Raw Pasta Sauce for Busy Days
Serves 2-3

  • 600g mixed sweet cherry tomatoes
  • 3 cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 1 bunch of basil, leaves torn
  • 3 tbsps capers
  • 3 tbsps good olive oil
  • 2 tbsps balsamic syrup
  • fleur de sel
  • freshly-cracked pepper
  • mozzarella, torn into small chunks
  • 250 g spaghetti

Mix everything except the mozzarella and the pasta in a large pan, place the lid on and leave the sauce to marinate out of the fridge for the whole day. When  dinnertime rolls around, cook your pasta al dente. Add the mozzarella to the raw sauce and toss with the pasta. Serve in bowls with a good grinding of pepper.

Lunch Date Saturday: Woodstone Almere

Woodstone AlmereIn my last post I was still pretty much uncertain as to where we would be headed for our Saturday lunch date. Bel Ami, one of my favorite restaurants, just updated their menu with a mouthwatering selection of autumn inspired dishes such as a seasonal salad with mushrooms and pumpkin, boeuf bourguignon and truffle risotto. I was actually pretty convinced we would end up there, but after a very lazy morning that started off with a huge breakfast of buttermilk waffles, bacon and eggs, it was suddenly 1:30 PM and I was still in my bathrobe.
We decided on Woodstone in Almere (one of their three locations), a place I had been to before, but for some reason hadn’t really warmed up to. Not sure why. Maybe circumstances. Perhaps I was a little under the weather then. Luckily, this time around, I can truly say that the experience (and the restaurant) did not disappoint.
After choosing a table (pretty easy as the place is huge and wasn’t at all busy), we ordered two glasses of their Italian Shiraz, an intensely inky wine full of ripe blackberries, with hints of chocolate and a nice, silky finish.
Woodstone AlmereThe menu is quite ample and offers starters, four varieties of pizzas (with a good selection within each variety), pastas, salads and desserts. There are plenty of healthy choices, too, and should you wish, your pizza base can be made gluten-free. Bonus points for the fact that they predominantly work with organic products. There is also a lunch menu, which consists of sandwiches. It looked interesting enough, but sandwiches never really cut it for me when I go out for a proper lunch.
The choice was quickly made. Hubby went for the ‘Pollo Pepperoni’ (tagliatelle with chunks of chicken and sausage in a spicy sauce of roasted peppers, garlic and basil). I had the ‘Mantello’, new on the menu, and so damn good it hurt. I swooned like Cinderella after each forkful of the ricotta-stuffed ravioli bathed in a truffle-infused velvety sauce with oyster mushrooms and spinach.  With our meal we ordered two other wines, the Negroamaro and the Fortant (enough choices by the glass). Both were quite pleasant.
Woodstone AlmereDessert was ‘Dolcetti’, a tiny sweet treat with a coffee of your choice. Hans went for the cheesecake with forest fruits and I chose the carrot cake. Espresso with both. A perfect way to end a nice Italian lunch at a restaurant we’re glad to have given a second chance.
Woodstone Almere

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