What is the most delicious meal you’ve ever had? Which one was the most memorable? For me, the two are best friends- walking hand in hand. When I look back at our most memorable meals, it is clear to me that the “best meals” are more than just great food.
It was the staff’s warm welcome, the perfect table, the details and atmosphere and sometimes, going in with no expectations but being blown away.
The experience of the meal is important to me, not just the taste. It is a personal preference of course, but we wanted to share our thoughts, tips + formula.
Our Formula for the most Memorable + Delicious meal is this: The People + The Details + The Food = An Unforgettable Experience.
Not only who you are dining with, but the way you are greeted and interacted with at the restaurant. This can and will vary widely depending on where you are, time of day, crowdedness of the place. But the best places to me are open and friendly and make you immediately feel at home. If you are lucky enough to return another time, they recognize you and greet you like long lost family and you can’t wait to go back- again and again.
Coziness is a huge factor to me. Give me a simple room with candlelight or a fire in the fireplace, and I’m a happy, happy gal. Some restaurants are burned into my mind because of the food, some because of the way I felt due to the atmosphere. It doesn’t need to be fancy to be memorable. In fact, if I had to pick my favorites (jeez that is a hard job!)- none of them are “fancy”. That’s what makes them wonderful.
Food of course, is extremely important in your enjoyment of your unforgettable meal. It can make or break a place and decide whether you return or not. I love when restaurants have their own version of something that connects you to the family- like Nonna’s special lasagna, or a house made dessert or dressing you can’t find anywhere else. A seasonal menu is always a great addition, and helps you pick something local and special. The food is key to a memorable meal, but the other things just add to making it an “unforgettable experience” and make you want to immediately tell your best friend to go there.
All of the above things add up to the experience. The great places in my mind pull all of these things together flawlessly without seeming to break a sweat.
They honestly are thrilled you are there and want you to have a wonderful meal.
You feel welcome and happy and cozy and your meal is to die for.
You find yourself being sad to leave, and are already plotting your return before you step out the door.
Is this a myth? Is this possible to find when you are traveling?
Here are some tips for finding your own unforgettable meals:
- Stay Small + Local: By focusing on small family run restaurants, you greatly increase your chances of finding excellent food when you travel. And of course, along with that comes the lovely people and usually a unique and cozy atmosphere.
- Research a bit: Doing your research ahead of time helps uncover those hidden dining gems tremendously.
- Location: Pick your location carefully, more often than not places near big tourist attractions are not going to meet our formula. It’s worth going off the beaten path to find a neighborhood hangout that turns out to be the best meal of your trip!
- Eat Seasonally: Chefs delight in using seasonal produce and when in Italy, some things may only be on the menu for a few weeks of the year. Ask about and order those things! They’ll be thrilled that you care and are interested.
- Plan ahead: Stop by during the day to make a reservation in person and get a feel for the atmosphere, staff + the menu. Reservations are always a good idea, for lunch and dinner- and are very appreciated.
- Order the specialty of the house: If you are at a restaurant that specializes in something- you should definitely order THAT ITEM. Like for instance, if you are at a pizzeria- order the pizza! It’s their specialty. Same with a seafood restaurant. Don’t go there and order a steak or pasta, (not that it will be bad, necessarily) but why not order what they are masters of cooking?
- Insider tip: Look for clues. A good sign is when there is a handwritten menu of the day posted on the door or window, and the place is crammed with locals.
Here are just a few places we have experienced exactly those things, and return to again and again. Keep these ideas for your next memorable meal out!
Trattoria I’raddi | Via D’Ardiglione, 47
Gras di Rost | Via Trento, 35, 20085 Locate di Triulzi MI, Italy (+39 02 9078 0414)
Ristorante Borgo di Vione | Via Cascina Vione, 4, 20080 Basiglio MI, Italy
Osteria Buona Condotta | Via Cavenago, 2, 20060 Ornago MB, Italy
Ristorante Maps | Piazza Europa, 3
Tre Galline | Via Gian Francesco Bellezia, 37
Enoteca Cul de Sac | Piazza di Pasquino, 73
Ristorante Maccheroni | Piazza delle Coppelle, 44
Enoteca L’Alchimista | Piazza del Comune, 14
Osteria dei Sapori Perduti | Corso Umberto I, 228, Modica RG, Italy
Great food, simple + cozy atmosphere, fabulous people.
These are the things that make me happy when dining out- whether I’m in Italy or anywhere in the world.
I can’t wait to hear what makes up your unforgettable dining experience! I hope you’ll share below.