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February 03, 2009

Chef Pino Luongo's Italy Picks

The man and his dirty dishes.

New York City chef Pino Luongo kicked off "the era of the emperor chef" (New York Post), as you can read in his new book Dirty Dishes. When traveling around his native Italy, though, Luongo doesn't go for the chichi spots. He prefers an unobstructed view, a nice walk, and some local flavors. Below, his picks that might inspire you, too, to take it down a notch:

* The Hotel Augustus in Forte dei Marmi near Lucca in Tuscany is my favorite place for a truly Italian style summer family vacation--beach bicycling and lunch under the pine trees plus great shopping after dinner (the stores are open late into the night).
* Monte Amiata and the little town of Arcidosso: For snow lovers, it's a simple, rustic spot with great food. And Montalcino, the capital of the Brunello wines, is only an hour away.
* Parco dell'Uccellina, located in the national park of Maremma, goes from the sea to the hills of south Tuscany. It's the land of the butteri (Tuscan cowboys), famous among the locals for their summer rodeos.
* Isola di Lampedusa is an island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea, south of Sicily. The most primitive rock in the middle of the sea.
* Palau, Sardinia, is a fantastic fishermen's village in the north part of Sardinia, facing the Stretto di Bonifacio. This humble village 40 kilometers north of Costa Smeralda is inexpensive compared to Porto Cervo--this is where the "real people" live. Restaurants serve mostly seafood dishes indigenous to the area, and the local wine is a real treat. From this village you can rent small day boats and go around the archipelago--tiny, beautiful islands dispersed all around the sea between Sardinia and Corsica.

Further reading:
* Not Your Grandfather's Sicily: Away from the island's familiar sweet spots, a new generation of Sicilians is reshaping its wine, food, and hotels
* Mark Schatzker kayaks around the Amalfi coast
* Catch of the Day: International noshables


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