new city, still hungry

New URL: chowbellanyc.wordpress.com

It has been a while. Last time I was here, I was lamenting about leaving Rome and never seeing the Pantheon again and missing out on all that delicious pizza. Well, it’s about 4 months later and nothing has changed. Except that I just moved to New York City!!! I’m here to get my Masters degree so that I can get a job so that I can be a real person so that I can fund my pizza/pasta/cannoli addiction.

Speaking of cannoli…

What better place to bridge the gap between Rome and NYC than Little Italy? Now really just a few blocks on Mulberry St., Little Italy is packed with restaurants, bakeries, gelaterias, and knockoff handbag stores. All of this is located dangerously close to where I live, perfect for when I get hit with a big wave of Romesickness. I haven’t really started to try out the restaurants yet, but dessert is really more important anyways, right?

I first came to Ferrara years ago with my family, and we haven’t stopped talking about it since. My mom remembers the soft pignoli cookies, my dad remembers the long line, and I remember the cannoli. A crispy, flaky outer shell that is just dying to crumble itself all over your clothing, filled with a sweet ricotta filling studded with mini chocolate chips. Yes, please.

Lest you think Ferrara’s is a one-trick pony, the display case is filled with all kinds of treats. A girl can get overwhelmed when confronted with these kinds of choices! Who can possibly choose??

Not me. Luckily, almost every dessert is available in a mini size, allowing for the creation of a small sampler box, in the event you should find yourself as flustered and torn as I was. The sales ladies are very nice, and extremely patient when you are trying to decided between a regular or chocolate-dipped mini cannolo (get both, obviously). In addition to those, I ordered a mini Napoleon (redundant?), a strawberry tart, and a mini eclair.

I came home, took one bite of each, stuck the box in the fridge, and repeated the sequence each day until they were all gone.

The cannoli were excellent, and I think I’m partial to the chocolate-dipped one because…well…it was dipped in chocolate. The eclair and strawberry tart were both filled with delicious pastry cream, and I would order either again.

For me though, the most delicious was the Napoleon. The flaky layers of pastry are such a perfect contrast to the creamy filling, and the sweet glaze on top complements the whole thing perfectly, and I’d like another, please.

If you’re ever in Little Italy, be sure to stop by and try something! If you do it now, you’ll sweat off any consumed calories just by walking 3-4 blocks. Fa caldo, friends.

Ferrara Bakery and Café
195 Grand St.
New York, NY 10013
(212) 226-6150

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happy thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I’m sad to be away from home today, especially since I’m in a country that, in general, could not care less about Thanksgiving. I figured today would be a day of work and eating mashed potatoes (the true star of any Thanksgiving table) on my own while watching Thanksgiving episodes from favorite TV shows.

A little depressing.

So I decided to turn it around. I left work at noon, and met my friend Allyson at an American bakery called Sweety Rome, with the sole intent of finding and consuming some pumpkin pie.

They did have pumpkin pie, but it was half the size of a normal pie, covered in crushed pistachios (not OK), and cost €30. Not happening.

To console ourselves, we turned to the case of pastries and, in addition to some questionable cupcakes, I spied a cheesecake brownie. I deemed it a satisfactory substitution (for the moment), and Allyson settled for a coconut brownie, and we sat and ate, while listening to a bizarre cover of Bohemian Rhapsody that was blaring through the sound system.

After putting away the brownies, we still had a little time to kill, and we hadn’t given up hope on the pumpkin pie. So we headed for The Perfect Bun, crossing our fingers that they would come through.

Well, they knocked it out of the park. Not only did they have full-sized pumpkin pies, they had miniature pumpkin, pecan, and apple pies! The Thanksgiving Trifecta. Allyson bought one of each to take home to her host family, but, ever in need of instant gratification, we decided to split a mini pie right there.

Since no one can make better pecan pie than my mom, and I wanted to buy a pumpkin pie to take home and eat later in the evening, we chose the mini apple.

It was so good! The crust was flaky and not too sweet, and the filling was cinnamon-y and not at all soggy. We got our much-needed dose of Thanksgiving and I headed back to work.

Now I’m home and I’ve got a solid line-up of episodes to watch, a glass full of Diet Coke, and a mini pumpkin pie just waiting to be devoured.

I did ask my family and some of my friends to send me pictures of their Thanksgiving dinners, and provided they don’t all forget, I’ll share those tomorrow!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

p.s. My friends and I are planning our own little Thanksgiving meal for this Sunday! I will share the disastrous/delicious results early next week!

rainy day assisi


Rome is beautiful and exciting, but sometimes a little too chaotic for this small-town girl to handle. In situations like this, a day-trip to Assisi with a few friends is just what the doctor ordered. So this past Saturday, Becca, Allyson, Jordan and I headed out to explore this beautiful town.

Assisi is a 2-hour train ride out of Rome, and is known for being the birthplace (and final resting place) of San Francesco (St. Francis), the patron saint of Italy. In addition, Santa Chiara (a contemporary and friend of San Francesco) lived and died here as well. Each of these saints has their own basilica in the hillside town of Assisi, and in fact, the basilicas were built in such a way that they face each other, as a tribute to the friendship they shared in life.

Because Assisi is built on a hill, once you arrive at the train station, you have to catch a bus (or a taxi) to get to the actual town. Our first stop was the basilica di San Francesco.

The basilica was built in 1228, and is divided into two parts; the upper basilica and lower basilica. The upper basilica contains a series of frescos depicting the life of St. Francis. The lower basilica contains chapels, as well as a series of frescos depicting the life of St. Catherine of Siena (the other patron saint of Italy). Below the lower basilica is the crypt, where St. Francis is buried. Visitors are able to walk around the crypt, but photography is not allowed, so if you want to see it, you’ll have to go there yourself!

Once we had had our fill of St. Francis, we turned our attention way up to the fortress at the top of the hill, called the Rocca Maggiore. I should mention at this point that it was foggy and rainy, and for that reason I have no photos to show for our beautiful (and painful) hike up to the top.

From the top of the Rocca Maggiore, you can see everything (or you can take a few obligatory photos and then squeeze your eyes shut and pretend you are not up so high). The above picture is a view of the basilica of St. Francis, as seen from the top of the Rocca Maggiore.

This is one of the remaining outer walls of the fortress. You can actually walk inside this wall to get to that far tower. While you’re doing that, you can take advantage of the fact that the weather has driven every sane person indoors, thus leaving you and your friends all alone in a giant castle. Now is a good time to start pretending you are Indiana Jones.

Our next stop was the basilica di Santa Chiara. When we got there, the whole piazza was completely obscured by fog, as were all the breathtaking views of the countryside. Luckily for us (or probably because of us), the sun came out within 2 minutes, and the views were amazing. Inside the Santa Chiara, you can see the tomb of the saint herself. More interesting than that, however, were the display cases that contained the actual clothes that Santa Chiara and San Francesco wore! They even had a pair of San Francesco’s stockings that had a few drops of his blood on them (according to legend, St. Francis was the first Christian in history who received the stigmata), and a few locks of Santa Chiara’s hair – she was a curly-haired blonde, if you’re curious.

San Francesco, Rocca Maggiore, Santa Chiara. These are basically all of the main things to see in Assisi. But what did we eat in Assisi?

On our way down from the Rocca Maggiore to the Santa Chiara, we were soaking wet, shivering, and starving. We wanted food and shelter, and our standards and expectations were low. We stumbled into the first restaurant we found (I never actually caught the name of it, sorry!), and we were so excited to see pizza margherita for the low, low price of €4.90. Once again, we were all reminded of just how expensive Rome really is. In Rome, you won’t find a pizza margherita (always the cheapest, most basic pizza on any menu) for less than €8. And even then, there’s no guarantee it will be good. This pizza was GOOD. The crust was impossibly thin, and the cheese:sauce ratio was perfect. Well done, Assisi.

With the weather showing no signs of improving, we wanted to linger in the restaurant a little longer. In order to avoid dirty stares from the waitress, we decided we’d better order something else. Enter cioccolato caldo (hot chocolate). I think we were all expecting something similar to the milky, drinkable concoctions we get back home, but what we were brought was completely different. The best way to describe it would be piping hot chocolate pudding, only better. I suppose if you really wanted to, you could pick up a cup of this and drink it, but a spoon is really a better approach. It was rich and chocolatey and amazing – the perfect cure for a rainy day.

After we were done seeing the Santa Chiara, the rain had let up, but it was still a little chilly and gray, and we had a couple of hours to kill before our train. Pastries and cappuccino just seemed like the obvious solution, you know?

We walked a little ways up the Corso Mazzini (which seems to be one of the main streets in Assisi) before we found the Gran Caffè. They had a decent selection of gelati (but that’s not what we came for, people), and a seriously impressive pastry selection. They also had an adorable seating area in the back, and we each picked our beverage and pastry of choice, and took a seat in the cozy back room. I chose a cannoli and a cappuccino, and while the cannoli turned out to have lots of weird neon chunks of candied fruit inside, the cappuccino was perfect.

On our way from the pastry shop to the bus stop, we stumbled upon a free olive oil tasting. Right in the middle of one of the piazzas, a friendly old man was toasting pieces of bread, rubbing them with garlic, sprinkling them with salt, dousing them in olive oil, and handing them out to anyone with enough elbowing skill to manage to get to the front of the crowd. The Italians are good at elbowing. We were better.

Once we had each consumed a disgusting delicious amount of olive oil, we finally caught our bus, only to discover that we had missed our train by a few minutes. Luckily, there was another train in a couple of hours, and we finally made it home exhausted, sore, stuffed, and shivering – all in all, a great day!

The Perfect Bun

On the site of what used to be Josephine’s Bakery sits The Perfect Bun, promising to satisfy ex-pats in Rome who are fed up with cannolis and sflogiatelle (like that could ever happen) and want a true American cupcake.  I found out about it because I was sick of cannolis and sflogiatelle and wanted a true American cupcake.

The website promised cupcakes, sticky buns, scones and…BAGELS. All of a sudden beautiful images of pizza bagels started swimming through my mind and I decided to check it out. In addition, the site said that the bakery has its own grocery section, containing American products that are next-to-impossible to find in the eternal city. My mind switched from pizza bagels to thoughts of light brown sugar and Kraft mac&cheese (I’ve got the blue box blues, you see), and I was totally sold. As if that weren’t enough, it is two blocks away from my apartment. I love it when I have to burn so few calories to consume so many!

Once I entered the shop (after accidentally walking past the non-descript, unmarked door twice), I was greeted with a cute little display of special-occasion cakes, made-to-order. So pretty, but I came for the cupcakes and bagels, folks. Moving right along.

The cupcake display case didn’t disappoint. There were 5-6 different varieties, including lime, vanilla, something with apples (the names were in Italian and I don’t remember the exact translation) and, of course, cioccolato. Unfortunately, the bagel rumor proved to be false, and I bought two cupcakes to console myself – the apple-something and the chocolate. I then turned my attention to the grocery section.

No light brown sugar, only dark brown sugar. That’s two dreams dashed. They do carry potato chips, Ziploc bags, canned chili, ketchup, mustard, maple syrup, and peanut butter, among other things. They also, unbelievably, carry Indian products. No Kraft mac&cheese for me, but I can buy all the curry vindaloo I want. Blasphemy.  Nevertheless, its good to know they have some of the essentials from back home. Let’s talk about the cupcakes.

I’m very picky about cupcakes, especially with regards to the frosting. I found the frosting on the apple cupcake to be a little too heavy, not the fluffy, light stuff I was hoping for. The cake itself was delicious though, and if they removed the icing, they’d have a seriously yummy muffin on their hands (and in my belly).

The chocolate frosting was also a little heavier than I was expecting, but I tend to be more forgiving of chocolate frostings, and thus will allow it. The cake was yummy and moist, and satisfied any and all cupcake cravings that I had been having. I didn’t get to try the sticky buns this time, but once the pain of the bagel/Kraft disappointment wears off, I’ll go back and check them out.

The Perfect Bun
Piazza del Paradiso 56
Rome, Italy, 00186