Scuzzi! Babada Buppi!

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Scuzzi! Babada Buppi!

Milan. Italy.

Trivium and crew had just flown in to Milan to do some headlining dates before reuniting with our friends in In Flames for their headlining European tour, when I said: "As soon as we drop our bags. We gotta freakin' eat." Italy is one of those places (like all places in the world as far as I'm concerned) that you need to get out into. That you need to eat. I will never forget before we ever toured Europe… when we met bands who had been to Europe. They'd say things like: "Dude. The fuckin' food in fuckin' Europe is fuckin' gross." "The cities and the countries fuckin' suck." "Fuck touring Europe." 

Gross food? Fuck Europe? Fuck that!

You'd be surprised that more often than not - that is the attitude of the touring musician. I cannot believe that people who are given the opportunity to do things; to try and eat and drink and see things that some will never be able to even imagine - simply don't out of ignorance or laziness. Almost everywhere in the world has an amazing story… you learn it through their food, their drink, their history. All food in the world uses semi-similar ingredients to what you're most likely eating (unless your vegan or picky or on some new starve-yourself-of-something-trend-diet), and will in most cases (when sent to the right place with a little research or help from your friends) yield memorable results.

Now I am not saying that you can just walk into any spot at a food-capitol of the world and have something great. No… maybe that's where those "certain musicians" went/ go wrong. You can't do that in the States (unless you're going for the all-too-safe cartoon-mascot, recycled newspaper-covering, meat-colored-product, beakless-assembly-line-tourtured-chicken fast-food spots daily). In the States - yeah… maybe it's a little easier to find food thanks to things like Yelp and Google and the instant-accessibility to asking friends on Twitter and Facebook. But with just a little time and research - you can be chowing down on something like I was about to be in Milan that would change my already very high-outlook of Italian food. If you do however - just stumble into any random spot… it's gastro-Russian roulette in my opinion. I don't like to waste my appetite on subpar food when it could be amazing. Milan and all great food-capitols of the world do have restaurants catered to the fanny-packing Disney-shirt wearing tourist. Spots with American-ized, bastardized versions of local cuisine. It's taken me a few years to sharpen my senses to pick out those spots… but nowadays I see the dead giveaways: "Children Friendly!" "Oldest blah blah of the blah blah." "D.J. Booth!" Menus in all languages posted in the front are a new one I learned recently in a disappointing Frankfurt experience...

Since I didn't have a local friend available at the time of that Milan half-day off… I had management get me in touch with Roadrunner/ Warner Italy - people, mind you, I've never met. I know the magic of a good meal with people who know food - and all Italians in Italy know good food. I met with the head of RR/ Warner Italy and Anna Marzia at Ristorante Al Cantinone. The spot they had taken us to was known for doing Milanese Italiano - a spot that locals go and tourists don't know. 

Seated and greeted with a bottle of Cadia red wine, we allowed our hosts to order the traditional starters. We started with Tagliere Di Salumi and Formaggi Lombardi Con Cipolle Rosse Caramellate. The Tagliere was Italian salted cured meats and the Formaggi was cheese. 

My god do the Italians know how to do salted, cured meats. I can't recall the exact names, but the salami-looking and prosciutto-looking ones were familiar to other Italian cured meats… just way way better. The white creamy meat? That was fat. Delicious, delicious, salty, creamy fat. The meats were accompanied by Gnocchofrito - something I'd never eaten before. Imagine a salty, giant Gnocchi, only made of flour-dough, kinda flaky and puffy. It's sort of like a super-fresh made doughnut with salt on the outside, and more air on the inside. The way to eat the fat and puff-ball is to wrap the fat around and go to town. This is one of those little discoveries I'll never forget eating. 

To already be sharing and enjoying food with our new friends in Milan was a beautiful experience. Here were, 6 people brought together over eating the same wonderful food - food for two of them that they had been familiar with since being kids… food for four of us that was blowing our minds. 

The cheese plate was equally as mind blowing as the meat board… only it was cheese. Creamy, impeccable Italian cheese. My main was the Cotoletta Alla Milanese Con Risotto Alla Milanese. Again! Another mind-blowing Italian dish I've never experienced (Italian is so much more than the red sauce-covered strip-mall joints peppered across the Northeast U.S.A.). Those looked… Austrian. It was schnitzel essentially - hammered-thin pork, breaded and fried - served with lemon (just like the Germans and Austrians serve it with). Flaky, crunchy, crispy, porky majesty served alongside some ultra-creamy, perfectly-done risotto. I don't order risotto anywhere in the world unless I know it's done right; done in that painstakingly time-consuming style it ought to be done in. This was done right. Still - thinking of this schnitzel in an Italian place… nuts. It was as much Italian as it was Austrian/ German. You could taste the histories of the different countries intermingling in their food - it's learning with taste (far more fun than a textbook).

To finish: Espresso, Meringata, Apple Tart Tatin (another Austrian/ German relative), Strudel (and another), and a shot of Amaro. Beautifully done were the pastries - utilizing the simple, good stuff; the Meringata was a light creme with chocolate on top. It's always gotta be a feast when I'm around, friends. Always. Amaro is the Italian post-meal, post-espresso liquor that helps digest all that mess you just ate up. Lunch was a great way to bond with our new food-friends from RR Italy.

We parted ways for the time being, and then Paolo and I headed to the Duomo church for some sight seeing (I love me an old European church) and the modern art gallery. Outside of food and drink - seeing the historical sites and museums are always on my list; another passion is symphony halls (but that one is impossible to drag my band mates to (the aforementioned are difficult enough)). 

After a full day of wandering about, our plan was to meet Anna once again for dinner - at an Apertivo spot. Apertivo, from what I only recently learned from Anna is basically a bar where as long as you order a drink… you eat for free. Thanks freakin' killer considering the spots that would be giving free food, would be giving really good food. Apertivo is what the young kids do as a warm up before the club. They get their pre-party cocktails in with a snack and then rage till all hours of the night. Me? I had only just flown in… so it was an old-man pre-bedtime cocktail and snack - but I was overly excited to see this style restaurant I hadn't heard of before in Italy. 

We hit Bar Straf for their Apertivo and drinks. I started with a Spritz and then moved to the Negroni Sbagliato. I wish I could recall the components - but I just remember being happy - happy on having all these new things that even after all these years of eating and drinking… I could still have new flavors and experiences. The cocktails in Italy are totally different than ours - the bar snacks were different than even I'd ever guess to see in Italy. We called it a night early… but thanks to good food and drink, we had made new friends.

I can't wait to get back.

Pompano Beach/ Ft. Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale

D'Angelo with Gregoletto 

It was the Pompano Beach show on the Dream Theater support tour (Paolo and Nick's hometown), Paolo had his truck like usual at a hometown show… so I said to him "let's get some good food duuuuude." 

Paolo knows some killer spots in So-Flo - he swears by Michael's Genuine (a spot I haven't been able to get in to yet - but I have recently even seen on Bourdain's The Layover(!)), has taken me to Johnny V's and a couple nice Greek diners. Today's plan was to hit D'Angelo, a new Italian restaurant by Paolo's house.

Yes, sometimes I nitpick a restaurants aesthetics - hell, I am married to an Art Director - so yeah. Mandated valet parking in non-downtown-Miami Florida? Unnecessary. I have a problem with valet overall unless it's impossible to park your car. It sucks to see "free valet service" when you know you gotta pay… and you watch the valet guy simply drive your far 5-7 feet from where you were just standing just because you have to. It sends an odd-message. 

Anywho. The restaurant is very new according to P, sort of your normal lounge-ier/ new Italian bistro-style place. We decide to share everything, we get: Roasted Sweet Italian Sausage over Escarole and Beans; Veal and Pecorino Cheese Meatballs, Tomato-Braised; and Prosciutto, Mozzarella, Basil, Pecorino Pizza. 

All of it was simple and well-made. It was quite impressive to see an Italian place doing dishes like these versus the standard red-sauce drenched pasta dishes you see claiming the "Italian" name all about the States. This place did nice rustic tapas-serving-sized dishes. I was certainly impressed to see this in Pompano Beach of all places. 

Just as I am an insider of the flourishing food-world of Orlando, Paolo has South Florida's layout down as far as food and drink go. We grabbed coffees elsewhere and headed back to the gig. D'Angelos was definitely decent. 


I Love New York City… Oh Yeah… New York City (part I)


I've mentioned before how my memory is pretty bad. It's odd - at times I can't remember bits of my life; on any given day - I usually don't know what time/date/month/year it is. I forget my age, I forget things I've said, I forget who I've met (this one usually bums people out and creates an awkward Curb Your Enthusiasm-theme-song-queued moment). 

We played.. somewhere… before the NYC show on the Dream Theater tour. It was either in Jersey or Pennsylvania. In a neighborhood-esque town in an all seated Theater-hall. The show was alright - the crowd took a ton of effort to get em into it. Me and Paolo were to be picked up by car immediately after the set to drive into Manhattan, grab a bite with Monte (our A and R at Roadrunner and serious-foodie friend of mine) and Darren (our co-manager at 5B management who is also a serious foodie-buddy of mine).

We did the show, piled into a car, got into the city - and checked into the Ace hotel. 

The Ace hotel is the definition of cool. When one merely walks into the lobby - that person will be immediately swept with a sense of: "Oh shit. I am underdressed and far less-cool than everyone in here." At any given time of day or night at Ace, it's the trendiest of trendy kids - dressed in the most current of cool trend-style, either drinking cocktails or working on something on their Macs. I am not exaggerating or criticizing - I wish I looked that cool all the time. Those kids are hip.

The Ace has quickly become a favorite hotel of mine - The hotel itself has multiple things on location that are mind-blowing: The Breslin restaurant, Stump-town (or was it Blue Bottle) coffee, a gourmet sub-shop, clothes stores, accessory stores… everything there is amazing. There's even a killer bar that serves some righteous cocktails and micro-brews. The interior lobby is somewhere along the lines of a cross-between restored-industrial, modern, dorm, rock and roll, and huntsman-lounge (just a dash). It's all sleekly lit, very nicely designed, and welcoming (aside from the fact if you're feeling underdressed and all that by the hanger-outers in the lobby). 

The room has a dorm/rock and roll/renovated loft feel. Iron door, dorm-esque bed, simple, clean design. There is a road-case for a mini-bar, all gourmet snacks and waters and booze here - nothing standard; the bathroom has a European-flare to it - the room I had this time had a killer tub, nice fixtures; friendly little bits and design-charm can be found on the hairdryer bag, the laundry board, and even the take-able polaroid camera. A highly informative survival guide again has that school-feel to it - but in a really familiar, heart-warming sort of way. Free internet to boot. 

I am instantly reminded of school and touring combined in this room - but all in a good way. 

I dressed up a bit, took a deep breath - and headed down to get out with Paolo, Darren, and Monte. 

The whole reason for our trip up to NYC was to get over to a studio and attempt a "clean vocal" pass of the song "In Waves." I know it seems like an odd idea… singing over the chorus of "In Waves," but it was an idea worth not passing up. This would be our pre-party and strategy-dinner on ideas of how to try it out (or at least that's what we'd say to pass our feast off as a "business dinner").

Darren picked our dinner spot for the night, The Meatball Shop. A place that does just that - meatballs. But gourmet and amazing. We ordered the Cesani Chianti to share and began our ordering. Meatball shop is a tiny, newer restaurant with some serious wait-times. People flood the inside and outside. In the nicely lit, very-well designed restaurant, you can see the kitchen in back, chalkboards displaying the menu, specials, and drinks.

My plan of action:

- Chile Relleno Meatballs: pork, jalapeno, poblano, queso fresco, cilantro tomatillo salsa verde and a mother-frickin' fried egg.

- Risotto: porcini mushroom

- Mashed Potatoes (that Monte swears is some of the best damn mashed potatoes he knows of)

- Fennel with walnuts, raisins and parsley

- Garlic collard greens

- Bibb lettuce salad with radish portobella, tarragon croutons, with sherry vinaigrette

The mashed potatoes were creamy, buttery, milky and reminded me of Southern-style mashed potatoes. Those chile meatballs were a super-fun take on the meatball. It pretty much contained most of my favorite ingredients all in one dish. I am an avid-pork advocate, a huge fan of Mexican food (you can certainly detect a heavy Mexican-cuisine influence in this dish with the use of quasi and cilantro tomatillo salsa verde), and that fried egg! Such a great idea. Texturally, just right of what you want from a meatball - still a trip to get the green salsa verde on a meatball - but hell… it's always fun to see a new spin. 

The risotto had more of a thickness than the classic risotto-prep, regardless - I still really dug it. It had a creaminess paired with the cheese and porcini. Thick, fantastic mushroom-flavor. Garlic collards were as good as ever - another hint at some Southern-influence at Meatball Shop; The fennel with walnuts, raisins and parsley was a really interested grilled vegetable dish. 

Obviously, in my normal fashion - I had ordered far far too much food. The bibb salad was just as good as the rest. The vinaigrette covered everything nice and evenly - crunchy, hard, perfect tarragon croutons. 

We all caught up about other amazing meals we've had recently, chatted on the state of the music industry, shared our dishes with each other - and had a great night. 

Of course I had desert: Oatmeal cherry cookie with cinnamon ice cream sandwich. This thing was the size of a baseball. The chewiness of the cherries inside of the oatmeal cookie were beautiful. I love oatmeal cookies, my grandma on my dad's side makes a fantastic one - so I always long to be reminded of family cooking - this one was nice and chewy (no crumbling) and the cherries really added something special. Couple all that with some seriously friggon delicious cinnamon ice cream - and you have one of the best childhood-reminiscent ice cream sandwiches of my recent years. Insane.

We said our goodbyes to Monte and headed back to Ace for a final drink. I had the Voodoo Child: Kentucky bourbon with agave nectar, lemon juice, whisky barrel-aged bitters, ginger beer. When at the right place in NYC - you cannot go wrong. This cocktail was an embodiment of my experience at the Ace: familiarity with a spin of something new - done right, unpretentiously. 

I slept incredibly. 




The day before the Boston show, we met up with Paolo's cousin Jordan and his wife to get into the city for some food and drinks. I don't recall the last time I was in Boston (if ever even) so I was excited to get into the city and tear it up (food and drink-wise and Trivium-wise). 

We went to one of the "oldest taverns" in the city for some decent seasonal local-brew, then off to one of the "oldest restaurants" in town. I don't recall the names of either, nor are they in my notes - but I hate to say - bum out on the food. I would list it with a warning if possible, but I can't recall - but it was one of those nostalgic places that's more of a tourist-refueling station of food-product than somewhere to get good food. I know there is good food in Boston - but this wasn't it. I should have known - anytime a restaurant has a "thing" like: "oldest" or "banquet rooms available" or "live music" - they're not paying attention to food quality.

The next day was the show day - I was picking the place. I read up on a place called Sam Lagrassa's. Rumanian Pastrami with chipotle honey mustard, swiss cheese and coleslaw grilled on an Italian sesame seed bun. Holy pastrami batman! Without a doubt in my mind - best damn pastrami I have ever had, and I have been to many of the famous, best delis in NYC. This was something special - the chipotle mustard had a sweetness and kick. A perfect balance of yin and yang was the flavor of the mustard. The use of coleslaw was something I've seen in the Pittsburgian-style sandwiches it added a mild-crunch and exciting flavor-play-off when combined with the sweet/spicy mustard. That pastrami… remember that Seinfeld episode where George started eating salted-cured meats in bed and got eating and doin' it all confused? This pastrami will do that to you. 

Carved off of a massive hunk, this crumbly, soft, meaty, salty, delicious meat could have been eaten by itself. The toasted Italian bread was the cherry on top - every single thing had it's place, it all just went

We decided to walk/train to the Boston Fine Arts Museum, which apparently has one of the largest collections of Japanese triptych and diptych pieces in North America (those are the things that basically inspired all Japanese tattoos) and once arriving - we all were totally blown away.

I am saving most of my photos of the exhibits for my photography - so the bits I used are more documentation-style iPhone photos and such. The museum has a really intensive collection of some of the most unique Japanese pieces, ranging from statues to paintings to woodblock. Their world-pieces range from Asia to Egypt; armor and weapons to fine art. They even had a few pieces by one of my favorite painters from Britain: JMW Turner. 

If you have the opportunity - get out to that museum.

After the show, we decided to try to hit some of the other great food spots in Boston - unfortunately, most were closed due to the hour and day we were attempting. We stopped at one place, Lucca. 

Lucca. It was hot. Summer time. I think they had about 2 tables at the time. We walked in in tank tops - the restaurant said shirts are required, but they'd be happy to lend us some. Puzzled - but hungry - we said sure… we'll take a look at the attire they'd be bestowing. The over-dressed manager or owner or whoever was running this classy joint brought me an XL blue dress shirt… Paolo - a large purple-thing with a mardi-gras cuff design. He looked like a 12 year old wearing his overly effeminate father's party-attire. I looked like a goon. 

We piled their shirts on the manager booth and ran as quickly as we could.

Good job Lucca. Little did you know that that tattooed hooligan you tried to dress up to impress your other 3 patrons writes about food.

We stopped into another random place in Little Italy for an alright dinner. Just alright. We walked to Bova's afterwards for a really awesome cannoli - the size of my forearm basically. 

So - I hate to say it Boston - but you owe me. 

We headed back to Jordan's to watch Troll 2. Troll 2 has quickly become one of my all-time favorites - it has been hailed, charmingly, as the "best worst movie of all time." It's a heart-warming effort (by an Italian madman) to make sort of a deep-messaged horror-sort of movie… using all people hoping to be extras as main actors… utilizing broken English - directed by a husband and wife duo who spoke little to no english. There isn't a single troll in the movie and Troll 2 has nothing to do with Troll 1. I promise you'll fall in love with this film. Check out the documentary "Best Worst Movie" while you're at it to truly witness what kind of cult-phenomenon this epic film has become. 

Lucca maybe was a foreshadowing of Troll 2… hmmm… 

Yeah. Boston. You owe me. Your art rules, but I know you can do better for food.