I had to wait until I wrapped up my recent trip to Italy this week and confirm a couple of restaurants that I was sure it would make the Top 10.
1. Antica Osteria da Divo (Siena) - my second experience was as great as ever. Beautiful setting. Professional presentation and service along with well-prepared dishes. Had a '96 Bruno Paillard Assemblage for about 100 euros.
2. Passionfish (Pacific Grove) - my third experience was also excellent. Locally caught salmon was the best salmon I've eaten. Reasonably priced wine list and always a delicious meal.
3. The Old Pink House (Savannah) - a great space with different dining rooms. Southern- and low-country inspired dishes that were very tasty.
4. Upstairs at 21 (New York City) - a beautiful art-deco dining room with murals of NYC from the mid-20th Century. It was intimate space that probably can hold 35 people, but they purposely seated diners at different times so that they were only 20 in the room at one time. The menu was straight-forward but well executed on the night we were there.
5. Magnolia's (Charleston) - our best dining experience in the city. All the dishes we tried were delicious especially the fried-green tomatoes with cheese grits!
6. The Garden Court at the Palace (San Francisco) - one of the best dining spaces I've been in. We went for brunch which was typical high-end fare. The attraction was the space.
7. Hostaria dell'Orso (Rome) - had dinner on Xmas Eve. GF said she had the best pasta dish ever. I don't recall the name, but it was a thicker tagliatelle with eggplant and other vegetables. Great service. There were more Americans than locals, but the food was fresh and modern Roman.
8. The Fountain Restaurant (Philadelphia) - straight-forward but delicious menu. Large portions.
9. Gentleman Farmer (New York City) - BYO Sundays. Several offlines including one with MJAlbers and the NYC crew. Delicious menu. Great space.
10. G-man's House -- we had a pot-luck dinner with noiregonian and TPE. G-man's ribs, TPE's vintages of Dom Perignon, noiregonian's take on pulled pork in lettuce cups, lobster risotto were all fabulous. I would have ranked the experience higher had g-man not burned the pork belly in the oven.
11. Trattoria Marione (Florence) - typical Tuscan menu. Just order anything from their specials. It was crowded with a 50-50 mix of Italians and Americans. Service was still excellent.