Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.

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Mangia in One of Little Italy’s Best Restaurants

Tables at Da Nico Ristorante, New York CityNew York’s Little Italy needs help. Slammed by COVID-19 travel restrictions that clobbered its all-critical tourist trade, as well as by neighboring Chinatown’s typhonic expansionism, Little Italy has been shrinking for decades. Now concentrated along Mulberry, Mott, and Grand streets, Little Italy gets littler by the year. But you can still find the oldest cheese shop in the United States (opened in 1892 and now co-owned by actor Tony Danza), the oldest souvenir and gift store in the neighborhood (since 1910), gelato shops and bakeries, a ravioli and pasta store that’s been around since 1920, and a good number of restaurants. I decided to show some love, and financial support, to Da Nico Ristorante, a family business that owns and operates a kitchen where your nonna would be completely comfortable. Read more about it >

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Big Flavors in Little Italy in Providence, Rhode Island

My plan for an afternoon in Providence, Rhode Island, was to explore Federal Hill, home of the city’s Little Italy, capping it off with dinner in one of the Italian restaurants there. Along the neighborhood’s main strip, Atwells Avenue, my appetite increased every time I passed by a tempting menu or the opportunity to indulge in some gelato, and inhaled the aromas of pastry or cheese emanating from the grocery stores. Perfectly primed for something extraordinary, I took a seat in Ristorante Il Massimo for a meal at Rhode Island’s best restaurant of 2019. Read more >

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Sampling Little Italy’s Best at La Scala in Baltimore, Maryland

I had already sampled the surf in Baltimore, Maryland, at Oceanaire Seafood Room, and now I wanted to try the turf. So I crossed over Eastern Avenue Bridge spanning a narrow inlet of the Inner Harbor and entered the city’s Little Italy, where red, white, and green lights stretch across a few streets and the aromas of Italian cooking waft from the neighborhood’s handful of restaurants and cafés. Of these, La Scala Ristorante, consistently rated one of the city’s best Italian restaurants, grabbed my attention with its promise of a delectable meal and possibly a game of bocce. Read more >

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Two Italian Brothers Shake Things Up in Glasgow, Scotland

The neon lights spelling out “Il meglio di buono” (basically, the best of good) at the entrance of Fratelli Sarti on Renfield Street in Glasgow, Scotland, tempted me every day from the window of my hotel room across the street. The restaurant looked appealing, but I often found myself passing by it, on the hunt for traditional Scottish haggis, shortbread, and whisky elsewhere. After a few days, however, just like Chaophraya and its outstanding Thai food, Sarti lured me in with the aromas and promise of something non-Scottish for a change of pace. Read more >

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Italian Immigrants Keep It Real at Sorge’s in Corning, New York

I devoted most of my only day in Corning, New York, to the outstanding Corning Museum of Glass, where I admired thousands of fantastic glass objects and took a flameworking class and created my own glass pumpkin pendant. By the time I emerged, the sun had shifted to the opposite end of the sky, and I was ready for a large meal. Just a couple doors down from my lodgings, the wonderful Inn at the Gaffer Grille, I found Sorge’s. This was hardly a discovery — everyone in town seemed to be there already — but it was certainly a stroke of good decision-making when I chose it for dinner. Read more >

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Miami’s Nod to Great Tuscan Food

I had already enjoyed an excellent Cuban meal at Havana 1957 and a wonderful Argentinean dinner at PM Buenos Aires just a few blocks away from my hotel in the Brickell area of Miami, Florida. As I scoured the same neighborhood for another restaurant the next night, I found myself in Mary Brickell Village, a little collection of shops and dining options a couple of blocks south of the Miami River. Every restaurant seemed to be playing music, loudly, but pumping house beats were not exactly conducive to the pleasant meal that I was searching for. So I found the quietest of the group, upscale Toscana Divino, and serendipitously stumbled upon the city’s outstanding contribution to Italian cuisine. Read more >

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Feel Like Family Over Dinner at Botticelli in Rapid City, South Dakota

Named for the Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli, this downtown Rapid City eatery received both the Best of the Black Hills Award for Italian restaurants and the Wine Spectator Excellence Award in 2014. Recommended to me by some local cognoscenti, Botticelli has been serving hungry South Dakotans and visitors alike since 1997. And when you’re here, you almost feel like part of la famiglia. Read more >