The Food, Fun, and Foibles of a First-Time Europe Traveler

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Vienna Day 2: Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt

 

 

What a city.

 

As if Vienna couldn’t get any better, the hotel provided us with probably our best breakfast selection yet…included in the price, of course. After that we headed to the Leopold Museum, which contained many works from Klimt, who Hanna likes, and Egon Schiele, who had become my new favorite artist the night before. I’m pretty sure part of the appeal is that his name reminds me of Ghostbusters, but his art’s pretty good too.

We took lots of pictures and read about the two artists. Schiele was a prodigy, completing some of his best work from age 20-22, but he came to an untimely end when he died of influenza at the age of 28. He died of the flu. What a way to go. During his life he was very tormented, clearly, but there’s something I like about his weird, creepy characters.

The museum also had an exhibition containing the works of Picasso, Warhol, Pollack, Lichtenstein, and Alberto Giacometti (who I had heard of from the book, Provenance, an account of two forgers who faked many of Giacometti’s works). I could see how they could be forged, since the ones they had were basically pencil drawings that were fairly simple.

I was happy to see that they also housed some modern art, so I got to see provocative works like this giant t-shirt covered in red paint (at least I hope it’s red paint) and a giant red box. There was, however, one work that struck a chord with us. It was called “Don’t Trust Anybody,” our motto of the trip.

 

 

Modern Art...gotta love it.

 

After the museum we got some lunch, another solid meal. I got the white sausages with mustard and a pretzel. The pretzel, Hanna and I agreed, was probably the best we’ve ever had. Hanna got the goulash with spicy beef, which was also very good. I also got the pork belly dumplings with sauerkraut, so we got a pretty good sense of Austrian cuisine.

 

Hanna's new, trendy hat from Vienna.

 

After lunch we walked around for a while, looking at old buildings and cathedrals. We finally ended up at St. Stephan’s Cathedral, which was pretty unimpressive, but the square around it was awesome. It was like a clean version of Times Square, with tons of people, stores, and restaurants. Hanna picked up some sort of apple pastry from a tiny patisserie, and she also got a new, trendy hat from one of the three H + M stores in a three-block radius.

We went to an awesome market (kind of like whole foods, but nicer) which had all sorts of international ingredients. We picked up some ham and salami for dinner/lunch the next day, along with some cheese, chips, bread, salad, fruit, and a couple of cheap Austrian beers. Oh yeah, Hanna also got a 6 euro mango! I guess they’re hard to get out there.

On our way home we picked up the CD that we made the night before at Haus Der Musik, which was no problem at all. We returned to the hotel happy and ate our spread of picnic food.

We came to a consensus that we love Vienna and we can’t wait to come back!

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Vienna Day 1: Down with OBB

Eh, I've had better.

We decided to get out of Croatia as early as possible, so we planned to take the 7:25 train to Vienna. If we missed it, we would have to wait until 17:20, so we woke up at about 5:45. There’s no way we were spending another day in Croatia.

On the tram a lady wanted to exit and, rather than saying something or tapping Hanna on the shoulder, she grabbed Hanna’s arm and threw it out of the way. This was the last straw. A combination of four days of dirty looks, horrible weather, and unfriendly people finally caused Hanna, the most polite person in the world, to snap.

Fed up!

We got off the tram and a lady walked by staring at us. Hanna, not to be messed with at this point, looked back at her and gnashed her teeth to scare her off. “I hate this place!” she screamed, and we couldn’t have been happier to board the train.

The train, it turns out, was the nicest one yet. We had our own car with six seats (three on one side, three on the other) that folded down to connect into beds. This came in handy for the first 3 hours of the trip (6 total), where we both slept in relative comfort. They were Austrian trains, not Croatian, called OBB, which brought to mind the famous Naughty By Nature Song. We were definitely down with OBB.

Hanna said that they make the train so nice to reward you for living through any period of time in Croatia. I couldn’t disagree.

We finally got to Vienna, bought our 48 hour pass, good for all transport (trains, subway, tram, bus) in the city…not bad for 10 euro. We are getting pretty good at public transportation, so we got on the right metro (called U-Bahn) and found the Hotel Deutchmeister (greatest hotel name yet) pretty easily.

We checked in, and at this point it was only around 14:30, so we relaxed for about an hour before heading into the city.

Hanna saw an advertisement for a museum that featured a painting that she owned, and had long admired, but never knew who made it. Turns out it was Gustav Klimt, an Austrian who had his work on display at the Belvedere Museum, so we headed there.

The museum was very cool, and it was nice to see some art different from the tons of Medieval and Renaissance paintings of Paris and Rome. We saw Hanna’s Klimt painting, “The Kiss”, and I found some weird paintings that I liked by a guy named Egon Scheile.

A beautiful introduction to Vienna.

After that we took the tram to the Opera House, which was beautiful, but more importantly it was right next to the Sacher hotel, which is known for it pastries. It is the origin of the Sacher Torte, which Hanna tells me is quite famous. When we arrived at our destination, the tram stopped but the door didn’t open. As we stood there befuddled, a kind Austrian leaned over and pressed the “open door” button for us and smiled. This is so much better than Croatia!

The torte was disappointing, but I likened it to watching Monty Python. When you watch it now, it seems somewhat stupid or outdated, but that’s only because you’ve seen so many movies since that have copied it and built upon it. The Sacher torte was probably a revelation back in its day, but by now desserts have progressed so far that it seems ordinary. We also got an apple strudel and Hanna got some famous Viennese coffee. I got a hot chocolate with rum, that turned out to contain about 6 shots of rum. We stumbled out of the café and headed towards the Haus Der Musik.

As we quickly found out, Vienna is a very musical city. Beethoven and Mozart did most of their work there, along with countless other composers. The Haus Der Musik was a museum, but along with all the information about old composers, they had three different floors full of interactive games intended to teach you about the way that sound and music actually work.

It was actually pretty fascinating, especially the “prenatal listening room,” which simulated the exact sounds that you hear as a baby in the womb. It was pretty cool and creepy, and we took some video. We also found out that Hanna has much better hearing than I do through a game which kept playing a higher and higher frequency into headphones, and you were supposed to hit the button when you could no longer hear anything. I thought she was cheating because she kept hearing things well after I only heard silence. I tried to trick her by raising the frequency when I told her I was lowering it, but she passed with flying colors. Yet another thing Hanna’s better than me at. Fantastic J

We made a CD of several sounds with our voices over it (it was impossible to speak because there was a delay between when we spoke and when we heard it in our headphones, so the result is what sounds like two old drunks bantering back and forth…very amusing), and went to the gift shop to get it, but it was closed. We told the lady downstairs and she said that we could come back the next day to pick it up. Friendly Austrians.

Earlier we had walked by a restaurant and looked at the menu. While looking, an old man walked by and said, “This one is very nice!” So we decided to give it a shot after we left the museum. Much to our surprise, when we walked inside we were greeted by the very same old man who had given the restaurant his endorsement earlier. Tricky bastard!

The restaurant turned out to be great. It was very small and we were the only diners. The old man was the owner, and he took pride in everything that was brought out. We ordered the traditional Austrian dishes, Weiner Schnitzel and boiled prime rib with horseradish and mustard. They were both delicious, and the old man came over to make sure I was using the horseradish sauce (which was kind of a mix between horseradish and apple sauce) on my meat. He also offered us a salt grinder which contained (according to him) 2 ½ million year old salt from the Austrian mountains. It was very good, but the food was so well seasoned that we had little use for it.

We returned to the hotel exhausted and satisfied. Vienna is definitely one of my favorite cities of the trip, and a place I could see myself living one day. I’m sure the fact that it was our next stop after Croatia didn’t hurt either.

 

Zagreb Day 2: Long lines, flowers, and a Croatian from San Pedro

Me, Hanna, and a Metal Croatian Poet

Because we had gone to sleep at 9:30 the night before, we woke up early (about 7:45) and lounged around for a while. We took the tram into the heart of the city (Zagreb has a “free zone” where you can hop on and off trams without paying…very convenient).

Much more crowded than Halloween.

We pulled up to Ban Jelacica Square and immediately saw a huge line of people. Now when I say huge, I mean HUGE. Like extending for blocks and blocks. We were obviously curious, and decided to go to the front and see what the fuss was about.

The line ended at a bus stop. We looked at the people in the line and noticed that most of them had flowers or candles, and we put two and two together. Turns out the bus was going to the town’s biggest cemetery and people were going to pay their respects. It seems as if that while in America and Canada we celebrate Halloween, Croatians celebrate the day after Halloween…I think it’s called All Souls Day or something like that.

It was cool to be part of a tradition, but we soon realized that it was actually a national holiday. Because of that, everything we wanted to go to was closed. We peeked our head into the huge cathedral next to the bus stop, but there was a mass going on so we didn’t want to intrude. We spent the rest of the day looking at the outside of several buildings and enjoying the view from atop the old town.

We saw the town theater, which featured this cool statue on the outside. We also got to see St. Mark’s Cathedral, which had this strange tiling on the roof that was very unique and interesting.

Interesting, if not a bit pre-schoolish.

Other than that we kind of walked around, avoiding piercing stares and scowls from Croatians, and we picked up some food for dinner (salami, cheese, the usual).

We went to lunch at a restaurant in the square and were waited on by someone who grew up in San Pedro, California (small world). Then we decided to call it a day. We were back at the hostel by 3 pm, bored out of our minds. We booked our hotel in Vienna, watched some music videos, and goofed around on the internet for a while.

It was pretty clear that we had seen all we wanted to see of Croatia. We told the receptionist that we were heading to Vienna and she said, “oooh, romantic” so we were optimistic about our next destination. The receptionist was actually very nice and outgoing, but Hanna’s convinced she wasn’t Croatian.

 

Opatija Day 2: Die Antwoord and Steven Segal

Mmmmm...dinner.

Day 2 in Opatija was another relax day. We woke up around 9 to make sure we got the breakfast that was included in our rate. It was an American-style breakfast with sausages and eggs, along with the standard cold meats and cheese and croissants. I didn’t realize how much I missed good old-fashioned scrambled eggs until I gobbled down some (with cheese and ham) in about five minutes.

We went back up to the room and lounged around for a while. We were right on the water, so decided to take a stroll down. Oddly enough, there was randomly a free public WiFi spot right on the “beach”, which is actually just concrete steps that lead to the ocean. The only sand was clearly imported by oceanfront restaurants to create the illusion of a beach.

So I took the opportunity to post some articles while Hanna did some exploring. She returned with some roasted chestnuts and popcorn (I should have known) so we snacked on those while I finished up posting.

After that we walked along the water around the city, which seemed to be an area akin to Orange County in California. We got the sense that this is where Croatians and Eastern Italians came for vacation during the summer. During the fall it wasn’t so crowded, so it was pretty nice.

Before lunch, we picked up some stuff for dinner (to be sure we got something before the stores closed), and I was continually amazed at how cheap the beer was. I picked up two half-liter cans (which was not even close to the largest size they had), each of which cost about 6 kuna, less than one euro.

We ate lunch at the same Italian place we had gone for dinner the night before (we didn’t want to press our luck with another Croatian restaurant), where we split a pizza and, of course, I had another “big beer”…6 euro total. Not bad for lunch.

We went back to the hotel, vegged for a while and ate our dinner while we were entertained by one of the strangest music videos we have ever seen.

After that a Steven Segal movie came on so I watched and Hanna went to bed. The next day we were off to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, where we hoped to absorb a little more Croatian culture.

 

Opatija Day 1: Schmeck? Schmeck?

If only the people were as nice as the scenery.

The previous night we had set our alarm to get up at 8:30 so that we could make sure we had time to check out and get some food before catching the 10:00 train from Venice to Trieste (from there we would take a bus to Opatija, Croatia). I woke up to go to the bathroom, which in turn woke Hanna up. When I got back to the bed, Hanna calmly mentioned, “It’s 9:30.”

Suddenly it hit us that our train was leaving in half an hour, so we scrambled to get our stuff together as we wondered how our alarm could have not gone off. Finally we had everything packed and we were trying to figure out when the next train was (just in case we missed the 10 am), when I picked up my watch. I looked at it quickly, then did a double-take. “Um…my watch says it’s 8:45.”

We did some detective work and figured out that when she checked the time, Hanna had somehow hit the “Summertime” button on our alarm clock, which immediately moves the time forward an hour. Therefore the clock thought that the alarm had already gone off and we were left helplessly confused.

So we were on schedule after all, and our errant hustle allowed us to have a leisurely breakfast before heading to the train station.

We arrived in Trieste and found the bus station immediately across the street from the train station. There we bought our tickets to Opatija, Croatia. Hanna was excited, since it would be her first time in the country where her grandfather was born. Our only concern was that, once in Opatija, we would have some difficulty finding the hotel since we had no idea where the bus was going to drop us off.

Buying the tickets was easy and cheap (14 euro for both), and we boarded a bus full of Croatians apparently heading home. The bus ride was basically through a bunch of windy mountain roads (which made Hanna incredibly excited), and about an hour into our trek we arrived at the Croatian border. Since we entered France from England, we had not had to show our passports once, but we saw all the Croat veterans on the bus taking theirs out so we followed suit. Apparently since Croatia isn’t in the European Union, you have to show passports going in and out.

So we waited at the stop for a while, when suddenly an intimidating officer in a beret, complete with a gun on his hip, hopped aboard. He didn’t look very friendly and we quickly became concerned that he would have some questions about why a couple from Canada and the United States would be visiting Croatia. He looked at us sternly (our introduction to the cold, icy demeanor of the Croats) and said, “Destination.”

I shuddered with fear and spaced on the name, but luckily Hanna was there to save the day. “Opatija and then Zagreb,” she said with a smile. The smile was not returned, but he did give us Croatian stamps on our passports, which is pretty cool.

From there it was about an hour to Opatija, where we were unloaded at a bus stop right near the ocean. We were worried about finding our hotel until we saw a sign saying “Hotel Opatija” with an arrow pointing to the left. We looked over our shoulder and our hotel couldn’t have been more than 200 feet away. Well, that was easy.

We checked in and then got some lunch from an oceanside restaurant. We had been warned through online hotel comments that Opatija was a “tourist trap”, so we were expecting lofty prices. When we looked at the menu we were flabbergasted by a series of 60’s and 80’s. We soon realized that they don’t use the euro but instead use the kuna, which is about 1/7 the value of a euro. So after the conversions the stuff turned out to be pretty cheap after all.

The waitress was incredibly strange and pushy. She didn’t speak much English, but mumbled something about fish right after we sat down and then disappeared. She returned with a plate full of raw, whole seafood. There was a fish, some prawns, and some calamari, which she proceeded to pick up with her bare hands and put onto a separate plate while mumbling, “This good…this very good…this nice.” We mentioned that we weren’t in the mood for seafood and would just like to order some meat off of the menu, to which she responded by looking at an old, Croatian woman who was eating at the table behind us, mumbling something in Croatian and punctuating it with the familiar, “Jesus!”

We were very confused, but we ordered and got the correct food (with some “on the house” additions that mysteriously appeared on our bill at the end), and it was actually decent. I ordered a beer and it came in a gigantic ½ liter mug, which would be a very pleasant trend throughout our stay in Croatia J. Every once in a while, our waitress would return and say hurriedly, “Schmeck? Schmeck? Good? Good?”

Obviously “Schmeck?” became our mantra throughout Croatia. We got our bill for 225 kuna, which was weird but converts to about 30 bucks. Schmeck.

 

Venice: Throw Away Your Maps

Now I see what Venice Beach was after.

After feeling lucky to escape Napoli not only with our lives, but also with the best pizza either of us had ever tasted, we were more than happy to make the journey to Venice. Hanna assured me that it was beautiful and nothing like the cesspool from which we had just returned, so I was excited.

Hostels and hotels in Venice were extremely expensive (400 euro/night at some places), so we stayed in a hostel in Mestre on the mainland (Venice is technically and island…well, 116 islands to be more specific), just a 10-minute bus ride away. We got off the train around 12:30 and found our hostel easily. They told us that we couldn’t check in until 14 o’clock, but we could leave our bags in the “safe room” and come back later.

We walked to the room and it was literally just a common tv room with no locks on the doors, with open access for all customers (or anyone who walked in the hostel doors). We decided that we couldn’t walk around Venice with our huge bags, so we took all the valuables out and left the bags up against the wall. Of course, we attached them securely to one of the cupboards under the tv with our locks. Trust no one!

We took the bus into Venice and were immediately confused. For anyone that hasn’t been there, Venice is probably the most difficult city to navigate in the world. Well, I take that back. It would be, if not for dozens of heavenly yellow signs posted on buildings that lead you in the direction of the Rialto, San Marco Square, the bus station, etc. We came to a couple of crossroads where we couldn’t find a sign and we literally just guessed which way to go. Apparently even the locals get lost.

Not a bad afternoon.

Venice was beautiful. The canals are no joke and, besides smelling a bit off sometimes, are totally worth the trip. We hit up the Rialto, where we purchased our first souvenirs of the trip (on day 22). Hanna got a couple of Christmas ornaments and a wine stopper, and I embraced the local culture and picked up a soccer jersey of one of the only players I knew, Eto’o from Cameroon. I figured I’d pick a player that couldn’t possibly be a rival of an Italian team, but it turns out he plays for AC Milan or something. Great.

After seeing San Marco Square and looking around the Cathedral, we took a long walk along the water, stopped at a bench, sat down, and watched the sun set over the Adriatic. Now this is what I call vacation!

 

Napoli: Get in, Get Pizza, Get Out

This made it all worth it.

Every couple has things that they love. For some couples it may be the beach. Others may stop at nothing to enjoy the theater or go to the symphony. For my fiancée Hanna and I, that love is food. Wherever we go we try to get the best, most unique food possible. We always say that we will stop at nothing to get the best food. In Naples, that theory was truly put to the test.

The plan was easy enough: take a day trip from Rome to Napoli, eat lunch and dinner there in order to sample the best pizza in the world. Our first red flag came when we mentioned to Hanna’s cousin Pauline that we wanted to go to Napoli. “No! Don’t go to Napoli!” she screamed. She and her husband Olivier continued to attempt to dissuade us over dinner, saying that Napoli was dirty, dangerous, and ugly. However, when we pressed them, they had to admit that the food was tremendous.

That was enough for us, and we decided to go through with our plan.

The trip started off on the wrong foot. We got a train from Rome to Napoli and we arrived just outside Napoli Centrale station on schedule. Suddenly, we came to a screeching halt. There we waited for several minutes…and then several minutes more…and then several minutes more. There were a couple of announcements, but they were in Italian and my Italian from freshman and sophomore year of college wasn’t helping much. We heard a couple of old men talking back and forth and I managed to pick out “Napoli…sempre Napoli…” which made me think that this wasn’t the first time trains were delayed going into Naples. Finally they came on and said that “no trains are leaving Napoli Centrale due to a manifestation.” Again, they need to work on their translations.

Not quite sure what a “manifestation” was, we assumed it was a strike and prepared to wait for a while. After about an hour wait, they finally said we would proceed to Aversa. So we figured it was a sign that we weren’t supposed to go to Naples (frankly it was a relief). So we prepared to get out there, spend the day in a new and interesting city, and come home.

Much to our surprise, the train rolled right past the Aversa station and 10 minutes later we were pulling into Napoli Centrale. At this point we had seen the dirty buildings covered in graffiti that led into the Napoli station. We saw this kind welcome and we were almost convinced to simply get off the train and onto the next one back to Rome. But no, we came here for pizza and we weren’t going to be intimidated out of it.

We stepped off the train at about noon to two men in a shouting match. We have no idea why they were upset, but they sounded like they were going to kill each other. We avoided them as much as possible and continued walking (quickly) to the end of the platform. There we got our next surprise, a team of 6 or 7 policemen, complete with riot gear! Full plastic shields, batons, facemasks…everything intended to welcome tourists to their great city. It was then that we imagined that “manifestation” might mean “protest” and that the squad was there to break up a rally.

According to our book, there was supposed to be a tourism center in the train station, but when we walked to where we figured it should be, we saw nothing but an empty room with cinder blocks and dust everywhere. We were on our own.

We walked out of the side of the train station and looked in our book for which pizza place we wanted to try to get to. We picked one and looked at the map. Nope…too far. We decided to just go with the closest one, L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, so we could just get in, get pizza, and get home.

We figured out where to go, and we walked away from the station through mobs of seedy-looking characters who had goods but looked like they had no interest in selling us anything. We walked across the intersection (an interesting experience in itself) to find a police car with several cops around it ushering 20-30 members of a shanty town out of the area. The area outside the train station reminded me of Skid Row in Downtown Los Angeles, where we had accidentally driven through one night. It was scary, and we walked as fast as we could, hoping to find the pizza place without getting robbed…or worse.

Striking resemblance.

We got to where we thought the place should be and turned right to pull off the main street and check the map. Fortune was truly on our side, since that happened to be the exact street the pizza place was on. We saw the long line outside and knew we were in the right place. We walked up to the door and looked in the window only to see a photo of, of all people, Julia Roberts. Apparently this is the pizza restaurant she goes to in the “Eat” portion of Eat, Pray, Love.

The next task was figuring out how to order. Once we got inside there was an old man in the front at a cash register. He was wearing a full suit, so we figured he was the guy to see. We were ready to make our order (some places in Italy you order first, then take your receipt to the counter where they give you your food), when we saw the person in front of us signal a “three” on his hand. The guy wrote down a “3” on a piece of paper and gave the guy a green piece of paper with a number on it. When it was our turn I signaled “2” and received my green piece of paper with the magical number 51 on it. We went and stood outside with everyone else, assuming that the guy would come out and yell when our number was up. Sure enough, he came out and yelled “36”…it was going to be a while.

The line moved surprisingly fast and we were sitting down in less than an hour. The tables, like many in Italy, are basically long family-style tables. We were seated next to two young Italian men who looked like they had been there before. The waiter came by and asked for their order first, then ours.

The menu at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele is not complicated. They have two types of pizza, Margherita and Marinara, the difference being that Margherita has mozzarella cheese on it while the Marinara does not. You can get either pizza in a small or medium, and you have the choice of getting the Margherita “normale” or “doppia”.

The two young men next to us each ordered a “doppia,” which meant a Margherita pizza with double mozzarella cheese. He then came to us and Hanna said we wanted Margheritas. He asked “normale o doppia?” and, thinking of how much cheese we had eaten in the past few weeks, I answered “normale.”

As he walked away, the two guys next to us shook their heads. We looked at them and they said “doppia!” as if we had just made a mistake. Luckily the waiter double-checked our order before he gave it to the kitchen, and we were able to change the order to two doppias.

Their pizza arrived before ours and they dug in as if it was the first food they had seen in weeks. They tore the pizza apart, literally (Italian pizza does not come sliced; you have to cut it yourself with a knife and fork), and they were each done with half by the time ours came about five minutes later.

Wanting to prove that I had learned my lesson, I followed their example and started eating right away. I was somewhat apprehensive because I had watched the pizza come out of the oven (about five feet from where we were sitting) a few minutes ago, and I hate burning my mouth on food, especially hot cheese that sticks to the roof of your mouth. The pizza wasn’t too hot; in fact it was absolutely perfect…which gave me a chance to appreciate the taste.

After our first bite, Hanna and I each looked at each other with “that look.” It was the same look we gave each other when we tasted the foie gras ravioli at L’Atelier in Las Vegas, the same look we gave each other when we tasted the tacos from Loteria at the Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles, the same look we gave each other when we tasted the fried rice at House of Nanking in San Francisco. Suddenly we didn’t care that we had been delayed two hours on the train or that we had walked through dirty, smelly, trash-ridden streets hoping not to get mugged. There, in one glorious instant, we knew that this was the best pizza we had ever eaten. And that made it all worth it.

It all started with the crust, a perfect char on the outside with a moist, salty sweet dough on the inside. Next came the sauce…easily the best pizza sauce I have ever tasted. It wasn’t thick like the sauce we have Stateside, but rather a liquidy, almost watery texture that made a delicious “pizza soup” in the center of the plate. On top of that were tiny balls of mozzarella and a few leaves of basil in the middle of the pizza. This came as a surprise because in American Margherita pizzas, the basil is much more prominent.

We looked over and saw the guys next to us finishing up their pizzas, folding it New York style and eating it like slices. I found it easier to just cut out little pieces and eat them with the fork. I didn’t seem to draw any critical looks for my method, so I continued.

I don’t know if I’ve ever eaten so fast in my life. I was halfway through the pizza before I came up for air. At that point, the two guys next to us were trying to get the waiter’s attention to order one more “doppia.” Oh to be young.

Towards the end of our pizzas, I looked over at Hanna and saw the combination of too much mozzarella cheese and eating much too quickly start to get to her. She took a little breather as I finished mine up, but of course she powered through it and finished hers as well. She never would have forgiven herself had she left something on the plate. Of course, with me sitting across from her, nothing would have gone to waste.

Pure joy.

We looked at pictures later that night and it brought on the typical Pavlovian response of salivation and hunger. Two things stand out from the pizza at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele: the sauce and the crust. I asked Hanna, “How can such a simple concoction be so much better in one place than in another?” She explained that there are thousands of different types of flour, so that plays an important part. The water (as New Yorkers claim) also plays a huge part in the dough. As for the sauce, well, just chalk that up to Michele who either created or inspired one of the best tomato sauces of all time.

It was definitely worth going into the warzone that is Napoli in order to get this pizza. It is something I will never forget and hopefully, when we’re old enough to afford bodyguards, we will return to L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele and experience that pleasure once again.