Bella Gelateria (Yaletown)

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Bella Gelateria is my all time favourite for gelato, and I was excited when they opened their second location in Yaletown. It’s right by the water, so it’s quite nice on a summer evening. K and I decided to go there on the first day it opened, but ended up going pretty late. We were shocked to see a huge line up, but later realized the line was for gelato only. Phew! So we quickly got seated outside and our server was beyond knowledgeable. She was able to explain the menu thoroughly and gave us her personal favourite suggestions.

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The indoors is brightly lit with white decor. At the back, you can see the pizza chefs making the Neapolitan pizzas – which are one of their main features. Apparently, it only takes 90 seconds to bake the pizzas since the oven is very hot.

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They also have a showcase of desserts. There are ice cream sandwiches that another company sells here, some ice cream macarons, and the famous gelatinis! A very pretty display! There are also baked good in the morning for the brunch menu.

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Margherita – San Marzano (D.O.P.*) tomatoes, fior di latte, parmigiano-reggiano, EVOO, & fresh basil

The menu is quite pricey at Bella Gelateria, with our Margherita pizza being $12. It’s extremely thin, so one person could easily finish it. They use San Marzano Tomatoes (Protected Designation of Origin) which are plum tomatoes. The menu claims they are considered to be the best paste tomatoes in the world. I could definitely taste the acidity and freshness of the tomatoes. The parmigiano is aged for 36 months, rather than the typical 12 months and EVOO stands for Italian extra virgin olive oil. They definitely use the top ingredients. However, we were slightly disappointed that our pizzas didn’t come sizzling hot. When we told our server, she explained that they are made to order, so shouldn’t be. Not sure why ours was sort of cold, but she said she would let management know.

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Matcha Smash Gelatini

We couldn’t come to opening night without giving their gelatini a try. The Gelatini is something owner, James, invented, which is martini + gelato. Our server described it as sort of like an island, with the gelato being the island, and the martini being the ocean. We went for the Matcha Smash, which combined matcha powder with vodka and a tcouh of herbal Chartreuse. It was topped with a bit of lemon juice and a slice of lemon peel. Honestly, I thought it was really boozy! And our server said there was one that was way stronger. The vodka was almost too strong for me. I had to take a scoop of gelato before drinking the liquid to balance it off.

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The Wonka Coppetta

We also wanted to try their other desserts, so we got The Wonka Coppetta. Coppetta really just means a cup in Italian. The Wonka had Tahitan vanilla gelato, and was topped with a blueberry orange compote and a chocolate drizzle. I liked the balance of sweet and sourt from the blueberries. However, it’s quite pricey – coming at a price of $8. Would I get it again? Probably not. It reminded me of a sundae with fruits and chocolate sauce.

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If you go into the restaurant, you can see the kitchen where they make the gelatos. James is  here as well!

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I love how they incorporated the famous gelato truck inside. If you want gelato after your dinner, you can simply skip the line and order your gelato. I like how they’ve made the line begin outside the restaurant, so it doesn’t disturb the diners. Therefore, the line may look longer than it really is. To be honest, the lines at their original location are even longer since they start inside! Overall, I thought the pizza was mediocre. The gelatinis are interesting, but a little too boozy for myself personally. I’d love to give some of their other desserts a try. Still my favourite spot for gelato though! Now I have another location to visit if I want some of Bella’s gelato!

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Bella Gelateria – Hot Chocolate Festival

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Bella Gelateria has always been one of my favourite gelato shops. It’s pricey, but their handmade gelatos are always worth it. For the Hot Chocolate Festival this year, they offered a “Hot ChocolatO.” It essentially meant that the hot chocolate were flavoured by a ‘gBar’, which is a frozen gelato on a popsicle stick. We chose the Black Magic, which comes with a Black Seasame & Matcha Green Tea gBar and a 85% & White Hot Chocolate.

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The pairing also came with a slice of Banana Bread. You could actually taste the richness of the chocolate in the drink, and apparently you are supposed to stir your gelato in your drink, but I ate it on its own. I loved the sesame in the gbar, although I found that it overpowered the matcha flavour. Again, the gelato was extremely smooth. The banana bread was also a very nice treat to go with the drink. It’s made by a local called Erin Ireland, and it consists of roasted macadamia nuts, Callebaut milk chocolate, olive oil and organic bananas. All this was for $7.50, which is decent considering the amount of hot chocolate you get and the extra treats on the side.

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Il Gabriello and Il Gelato di San Crispino – Rome

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The Spanish Steps is another tourist spot that you should visit when in Rome. Just across the steps, you will find tons of luxury stores but also more affordable brands further down. The Rick Steve’s book had suggested Il Gabriello, but my mom had thought it would be too expensive. Minutes after persuading her, we finally ask for a seat and were told there are none. So apparently, you’re supposed to make reservations here! We ended up making a reservation for the next night, and it was the best idea ever! Atmosphere is lovely, and service was great! The restaurant is underground so it’s pretty cozy. A huge variety of wines here too, but they didn’t even give us any attitude when we just asked for water.

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Complimentary Bread

If I remember correctly, the bread was complimentary, which was a bit surprising, since many places we had gone charged us for extras. Water, however was charged since they don’t give out tap water. The assortment of bread was really good though! The loaf was alright, but the little buns were so soft! The bread sticks were also really nice!

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Smoked Salmon Salad

The Smoked Salmon Salad was so good! The salmon was really fresh and mixed with the greens, it was a nice way to start the meal. Really refreshing and light!

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Octopus Salad

This is a must order for octopus lovers! At first, I was worried the octopus would be tough, but it was so soft, yet still had a nice chew! It came with some potatoes and a nice light dressing. Absolutely delicious!

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Lobster Linguine

K got the Lobster Linguine which was a simple tomato based linguine and came with a large portion of lobster. Very fresh, and the linguine was cooked perfectly to al dente. Keep in mind that we had also ordered the primi sizes, which are supposedly smaller.

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Mushroom Risotto

E got the Mushroom Risotto, which he said was also really good. It looked really creamy!

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Seafood Paccheri

C got what I believe is the Seafood Paccheri. Paccheri are large tubular pasta. Again, it came with a nice tomato sauce, and came with a variety of prawns, shrimps, and a lobster claw.

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Grilled Lamb Chops

For myself, I didn’t go for the pasta but opted for the Grilled Lamb Chops. I sort of wish I had gotten the pasta after trying the others. Still, the lamb chops were pretty good. They were simple, and the sauce wasn’t overwhelming so you could get the true taste of the lamb.

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Seabass

A got the Seabass, and she was surprised to see it come as a whole. I guess we aren’t familiar with seeing fish as a whole in Vancouver, other than in Asian cuisine. No worries though, since A loves her fish and enjoys eating a whole fish. It came with a tomato sauce on the side which also had clams in it I think. She said the fish was very fresh and grilled nicely.

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Pistachio  Hazelnut Crepe

For dessert, we had the Pistachio Hazelnut Crepe, which I found a bit pricey for the portion. It was quite delicious though, with tons of Nutella filling and pistachio nuts on the top.

Overall, I highly recommend going to Il Gabriello. Good quality and authentic Italian food! Remember to make those reservations!

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After, we headed to see the Pantheon, and also stopped by Il Gelato di San Crispino, which is known to be one of the best gelato shops in Rome.

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Pear and Chestnut

They have really unique flavours here. Made from fresh fruits or the actual ingredients. Here, we got the double scoop of Pear and Chestnut. Pear was my favourite as it was sort of like a sorbet. Very strong in pear flavour too! We also had the Chestnut which K really liked, but I thought it was only average. Overall, really cool place to try out some flavours you might not find elsewhere. The quality of the gelato was also really good.

Santini Gelati – Lisbon

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At night or even afternoon, head over to the Chiado district of Lisbon for some shopping and entertainment from street performers. Also try the roasted chestnuts at the street vendors.

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Walking along the streets, we found a bunch of people around this gelato shop. Some say that Santini Gelati makes the best gelato in the world! It began in 1949 and is one of the oldest gelato shops in Lisbon. We decided to go in and give it a try.

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They have a large menu of flavours, with some being sold out! They also have other desserts too, but most people come here for the gelato. You pay first and are given a receipt to hand over to the person who scoops your ice cream. The gelatos are a bit more expensive, but well worth it. Definitely really good!

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Here we have a Raspberry and Passionfruit, and a cup of just Passionfruit. The fruit flavour ones were basically like sorbet and very refreshing. Made of real fruit too! Delicious. There are seats inside too, but are always filled with people. I love the red and white themed decor. So retro looking!

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At night, if you have the Lisboa card or the one day unlimited transit card, you are able to take the Santa Justa Lift for free. It’s a elevator which is at the end of Rua de Santa Justa near Baixa and the Carmo Square. When you arrive at the top, there is a lookout area to see panoramic views of the city. It was surprising to find that Lisbon is actually quite dark at night. They don’t have as many lights like other cities. Therefore, I didn’t find the views to be amazing. I would make a quick trip here if you have the free entry card and if you have time. Definitely not worth paying just for this view though.

Amorino – Barcelona

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The first time I learned about Amorino was actually on a fashion blogger’s Instagram. They are famous for their ice cream because they shape it into a flower! Super pretty, so it’s a must try when you find an Amorino. We had headed back to BCN, and there are around 4 Amorinos in the city. It’s weird because I think Amorino is from Italy, yet there are around 17 shops all over Spain, but only 3 in Italy… Amorino is also found in various European cities, and even in New York! The one we visited was on La Ramblas, and therefore extremely convenient for tourists.

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Their gelato is known to be fresh and made daily with natural and top quality ingredients. There are no food colourings involved, which is always a plus. They have an assortment of fruit flavours as well as the typical chocolates and creamier flavours. If you want your ice cream shaped into a flower, you must get a cone. They aren’t able to shape flowers in a cup. The gelatos are quite expensive. I believe it was almost 5 euros for a medium cone. I think the best part about Amorino, is that you can choose as many flavours as you want. None of that two or three flavours only policy. This way, you can try a bit of everything!

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And look at this beauty! Mango in the center, Amorino Chocolate around, Amaretto on the outside, and a petal of Raspberry! I love how they shape each petal. Your flower can turn out really nice if you use vibrant colours on the outside. Of course that means you would probably have to choose some fruit flavours! The only downside to this flower shape is that the gelato can get quite messy when it starts melting. Other than that, the gelato is excellent! Really smooth!

Eyescream and Friends – Barcelona

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I realized I hadn’t posted a lot of pictures of Barcelona, so these pictures are slowly going to creep into my posts. I call this city my second home now, because it is seriously one of my top cities in Europe. Who can say no to a city where going to beach in the end of September is totally normal? This is Barcelonetta by the way, which is one of the most popular beaches for tourists. It’s pretty cool since there are clubs, bars, and restaurants just lining up along the beach. Barcelona has other beaches further away from the city center which are more clean and much more quiet. Oh, just looking at these pictures make me sad… At least Vancouver hasn’t been raining the past few days…

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I was in love with the palm trees when I first came. It makes it feel like you’re on vacation all the time. Almost like you’re at a resort in Mexico! However, they were actually imported for the Olympics. Anyways, this is the boardwalk along Barcelonetta. Taking a stroll down here is amazing!

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Anyways, if you get off at the Barcelonetta metro stop, it actually takes around 10 minutes to get the beach itself. It’s quite a far walk, but it’s a pleasant walk because there are lots of restaurants along the way to entertain your eyes. If you keep walking towards the beach, just a little before the actual beach, there is a store called Eyescream and Friends. The graphics are so cute that it lured us in.

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I feel like not enough people know about this place! It’s actually a little hidden, perhaps because it doesn’t have the flashiest signs. I still can’t get over how cute and simple their advertising is.

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They claim that they sell gelato, but I find it to taste more like shaved ice. Perhaps shaved ice isn’t a common word for them there. The place is half self-served, which makes everything a bit more fun! First, you decide if you want the complete pack or just the gelato. Of course we wanted to get the whole deal. It’s pretty expensive for gelato as it’s 4.30 euros for the whole package. Well worth it to try though!

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Next, you grab their little trays. The design is seriously so cute. I love how everything is cardboard or wood, so totally environmental friendly! They seriously win for such a cool design concept.

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Then you can choose two toppings. There’s a section of chocolates, chocolate sauces, jams, condensed milk, caramels, graham cookies etc…

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Or you can opt for gummy bears, pistachio sauce, chocolate chips, etc…

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Now that you have popped your two toppings into the right spots in the tray, you hand over the tray to the employee, and he/she will head over to the machine to squeeze out your gelato (or shaved ice). You can choose from 7 flavours: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, yoghurt, cheesecake, wildberry yoghurt, and mango. They also have some daily flavours sometimes. Then they will add two sugar googly eyes to your eyescream!

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And voila! Is this not the cutest dessert ever? I chose Mango, with white chocolate chips and gummy bears. Absolutely tasty and amazing to look at. I almost didn’t want to dig in because it looked so cute! The texture is like ice cream and sorbet. So refreshing on a hot day! I would highly recommend checking eyescream and friends out if you’re near the beach! It’s pricier than a typical gelato, but how often can you have so much fun with gelato?

Bits and Pieces of Venice

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City of water…If you guessed Venice, you’re correct! I don’t normally post pictures of myself, but I took so many pictures while traveling, I might as well share some of the scenery with you all! During our stay in Milan, we actually took a day trip to Venice by train. The train was pretty fast and we were there in less than 2 hours. Maybe even less! We decided on a one day trip, since we found that the hotels in Venice were extremely expensive! We basically had half the day to explore and hoped it would be enough. If you’re planning to go to Venice, I can assure you that a day trip is enough. The city is beautiful, but it’s honestly quite small. If you want to really take it slow, then a maximum of two days will give you enough time to literally explore the whole city. First off, we hadn’t done any research of this place. We were hoping there would be a tourist center where we could get some maps and such. Yea, there was a tourist booth, but all the maps cost money! We ended up wandering without a map and actually hit all the tourist spots! So no need to really buy a map…To be honest, I found Venice one of the most touristy cities I visited. I felt like everyone around me was a tourist, and I couldn’t really figure out if locals even lived here (well, of course they do). Plus, be warned that everything is expensive! They really know how to get the most out of us tourists…

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Spritz Veneziano

So we were warned ahead of time that food would be expensive, so we tried to settle at average looking cafes and restaurants. After exploring the city, we decided we would grab an early dinner since we would be on the train around dinner time. We walked back towards where we arrived by train as we remembered there were a line up of restaurants. At this point, it didn’t even matter if they were tourist traps – honestly the city was catered to tourists. During our exploration, we realized everyone was drinking this orange drink in a glass. They often came in a wine glass, and my sister insisted that we had to try this. According to her, it must be the drink all the locals drink here… Alright, after doing some research on it, I can tell you that it’s so popular here because the Spritz Veneziano is actually originated in Venice! A-ha. Anyways, it is a drink prepared with prosecco wine, which is an Italian white sparkling wine. It is then combined with a dash of a bitter liqueur such as Aperol, Campari, or in Venice, Select. It is then topped off with sparkling mineral water. Sometimes it is also garnished with a slice of orange or olive. Sadly, all three of us hated this drink. I guess it was the bitter liqueur that they used, that really turned us off. Even worse, was this drink cost a lot, and the three of us had each ordered one. Just when we thought it would be a delicious, fruity cocktail…

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Spaghetti with Clams in a White Wine Sauce

We had settled at this restaurant that had what was called a “tourist menu”. Now most of the restaurants in Venice basically have this. They also have something called a cover charge. Cover charge is essentially a charge per person for just sitting outside. Actually, I’m not sure if you need to pay a charge just for sitting. But we sat outside, and this was added to our bill. Not to mention that service was just terrible. And they expect you to tip here… Service like that really does not deserve any tip. Anyways, K and my sister order the tourist menu. If I remember correctly, it came with a salad, pasta and another dish, which I wish I could remember. This was their pasta dish which was Spaghetti with Clams in a White Wine Sauce. This was actually pretty good! It had a lot of clams and the pasta was cooked to al dente.

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Seafood Risotto

For myself, I ordered the Seafood Risotto, which was off the regular menu. I absolutely loved this. It was a bit pricey, but I think it was still under 20 euros. It was really good though! The rice was cooked to perfection, not too chewy and not too soft. The sauce was amazing. There were bits of clams and shrimps inside and it came with three more mussels. The seafood was surprisingly quite fresh. Not the freshest I’ve had, but quite decent! Loved this dish.

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And now let me show you some of the shops around the city! Venice is basically filled with narrow streets which are really pedestrian walking only. Every once in a while, you would see the canal, and then you would enter just a street with buildings on both sides. It’s almost like a maze. Along these streets, you will find shops from bakeries, to pasta shops to mask shops and etc. It’s extremely popular to see these shops that sell almond cookies and these gigantic meringues. If you’ve been to Macau in Asia, my friends told me that is what Venice really reminds them of.

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There are also tons of pasta shops! Well Italy is famous for pasta, so it’s no surprise. They claim they are handmade, and I was just drawn into their colours and detailed patterns. I love how they are shaped into Venice infrastructure, gondolas, hearts and much more! The colouring is also natural as they are made from vegetables or spices, which is pretty cool.

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More pasta! I thought these were pretty cool since it was curry flavoured. They also had some truffle flavoured ones. Mmm!

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And yea…we ended up getting some gelato again. This was amazing because it was pear flavoured! I love how the Italians use every fruit they can think of. Super refreshing. Underneath is a scoop of pistachio. I can never get enough of that.

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And my sister decided to buy one of those gigantic meringues. It’s literally the size of two fists put together. This one was pistachio flavoured. However, all we could taste was sugar. Well meringues are made of egg whites and sugar… It was so sweet that we both took a few bites and threw the rest out… You need ten people to finish this! It was pretty expensive too…

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And last but not least, I’ll finish this post with a picture of gondolas! I didn’t get a chance to take one since they are quite pricey and wasn’t worth it when we only had three people. Also note that these guys don’t actually sing… Thought it would be all romantic like in those movies…Nope! Oh well, Venice is still a beautiful city to visit! Jealous of anyone who is heading there! Next post: we head back home to Barcelona!

Bits and Pieces of Milan

Blogging while traveling proved to be a huge challenge. It’s even harder to remember what the name of the restaurant was 4 months later. I didn’t do my work as a food blogger to take down the names of the places I ate at, but there’s some worthy meals I had that I think should be recognized! I hope anyone reading this and planning to travel to Milan can hopefully find the places! So here are some of the random meals I had while in Milan:

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Mignon! Yes I believe this is what these cute mini pizzas are called. I call them pizzas since they are really a squished down bun filled with ingredients on the top. This one was ham and cheese, except sometimes they surprise you with an olive right in the middle. This place was near my hotel, which is near the Lambrate metro station. It’s called Pizzeria Mundial and after doing a quick search, I realized that it’s actually quite popular! They are known for their warm and soft dough and they offer a variety of other products, including pizzas. This place is very busy most of the day, especially in the mornings, so you need to be quick before what you see is sold out!

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For dinner one of the nights, we were tired and strolled around the luxury shopping area to look for food. Of course that’s a bad idea because everything is expensive in that area! We wandered into this mini square which had a few cafes and bars that looked more affordable. We saw the sign saying Free Wi-Fi and we immediately fell for it since we were desperate for some Internet. Not sure what the place is called, but it is a cafe. We sat outside and ordered a few dishes to share. This is the Caprese Salad which is very typical in Italy. However, this one came on bread! It is essentially fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese with tomatoes, basil and olive oil. The cheese isn’t strong and it has a rubbery texture to it which I really like. I’m not a fan of tomatoes, but this whole dish really goes well if you eat everything together!

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We also got a Ravioli with Ham. When in Italy, you eat pasta. But honestly, I don’t think this place was great for pasta. Their pastas are not handmade nor fresh, so it was quite a disappointment. Price-wise, yes – they are definitely cheaper, hence what we get.

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We also shared a Carbonara, which again was just alright. If you have the chance, be sure to try some good carbonara though, as it is famous in Italy, especially in Rome. It is an egg based pasta dish and can be quite filling.

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Pretty much when we have nothing to do and are thirsty, we end up going to a gelato shop. They are everywhere and these were mostly around the Duomo area. On our first day, we literally went to three gelato shops in the day. One time, it was one after another. Literally gelato shop hopping… Anyways, I think the coolest thing about some of the shops I saw in Milan were that their gelato are filled with fruits or the actual product of the flavour itself. For instance, I was addicted to their melon gelato, because you would actually get bits of melon in it and it was a thirst quencher on a hot day. If you really prefer creamier gelatos, then those will also have ingredients in it such as the bueno chocolate wafers.

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I got the Melon and Tiramisu I believe. If the shop has banana, you should also give it a try! It’s pretty good! I became addicted to trying a bunch of fruit gelatos as they are much more light.

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One morning, we wanted to go to Luini again, but it was unfortunately closed. We settled at a cafe where we saw Italians taking espresso shots in their tiny Illy cups! They would literally stand at the bar, take their coffee and head off to work. My sister wanted to try that, so we headed in, but after looking around to figure out how the system really worked, the server told us to just take a seat. I guess we looked too touristy to know what we were doing. I guess standing to take an espresso in Italy remains on her checklist now. Anyways, we tried to figure out the menu, and they had some sort of special about a coffee and croissant for a set price. Keep in mind this is all in Italian and we don’t know any other than “cafe”. So we each got a cafe with a croissant. I chose a cappuccino, and I don’t normally even drink any type of coffee. The closest thing is a Starbucks white chocolate mocha, but that’s about it. But heck, I was in Italy, so why not. Illy is known for their high quality of coffee, and seriously, after this coffee, I have begun to enjoy my cappuccinos. Not sure if that’s a good thing since I’m afraid of being caffeine-addicted, but that was seriously some good cafe! As for the croissant, it was more than a typical plain croissant. They had a sticky jam in the middle which made it ten times better. It was so flaky! Absolutely one of my favourite croissants I’ve had in Europe. Sad news was our Italian had failed on us. Our bill ended up being twice what we had imagined. We didn’t bother questioning since we didn’t want to cause a fuss and we probably wouldn’t have understood what they said. However, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure the deal was for people who stand at the bar only. It’s kind of a weird system in Europe, but most places charge you less if you take your coffee standing at a bar. If you require a seat, then the item becomes double the price. Kind of silly, but I guess Europeans who usually sit down will literally just order a coffee and sit there for half a day. Turnover is then very low and hence they charge you more. I guess it only makes sense in Europe!

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Last but not least, another gelato! This was lemon and mango. Extremely refreshing! We literally ate gelato everyday in Milan! Now off to the next city…”city of water”… can you guess where?