My family lives in Lucca, a medieval town just outside Florence and only 10 minutes from Pisa. Known for the composer Giacomo Puccini and the olive oil Berio Lucca is quite a charming town to visit when in Tuscany. Over the years my favorite places are still running for business and when I get back to Lucca this is my list for the 10 top places to eat in Lucca. 

1. Panificio A. Giusti: Via Santa Lucia, 18
A traditional bakery Panificio Giusti is famous for its soft and delicious focaccia. The store is always crowded especially since it has been discovered by tourists. They offer a variety of foccaccia. Here the tip: ask for fresh and warm focaccia (calda, apnea uscita dal forno). Try their raisin and onion focaccia. They also just added pane nero (black focaccia/bread) which is amazing. Eat the focaccia right away otherwise it will become hard like a rock.

2. Pasticceria Pinelli: Via beccheria, 28
Near Piazza Grande this small and long bar/pastry shop is a must go for their focaccine farcite with tuna salad and tomato and their panini dolci with prosciutto crudo. This is a quick stop in the morning for your cappuccino before heading down to get some gelato at Gelateria Veneta. An interesting note: in Tuscany morning breakfasts are savory. We eat focaccia with prosciutto, valdostana (a pastry with tomato, prosciutto and cheese). While croissants are still an option, you will see them more frequently in the north regions of Italy.

3. Pizzeria da Felice: Via Buia, 12
The best pizza al taglio in Lucca is made in a tiny pizzeria with a big wood oven, not far from Panificio Giusti. Order one or two slices of pizza margherita or indulge in cecina, a flat bread made with chickpeas flour. Don’t expect any fancy service or a table. This is a quick stop for locals before you head out for a late night. You can also order for carry out.

4. L’Imbuto: Via della Fratta, 36
This Michelin chef will prepare some fine and innovative dishes all made with local ingredients. Ristorante L’ Imbuto is situated inside the Lucca Center of Contemporary Art. Don’t expect a traditional lactose or Italian meal. The restaurant does not even have a menu. Customers select whether they want to indulge in a light or laborious meal and from there it is a surprise. You can have steak served on a branch from the woods of Lucca accompanied with wild strawberries. 
Website: L’Imbuto

5. Pizzeria Sbragia: Via Fillungo 146
It was known as the best pizzeria in town. I am not sure whether that is still the case but it is still a popular place to eat pizza or do a carry out. They even deliver, which is a rare case in Italy. They will deliver your pizza on a bicycle which makes the experience even more special. 

6. Cioccolateria Caniparoli: Via S. Paolino, 96
If you are a lover of chocolate this place will not fail you. From the traditional sacher torte, to home-made chocolate spread and bars Cioccolateria Caniparoli tastes as good as it looks. Their prices are fair. For special custom-order make sure you order one week prior. Take it even further by taking one of their classes.

7. Gelateria Veneta: Via Vittorio Veneto, 74
This is the best gelato in town. The owners still use the same recipes from 1927 when it first opened. Whether you prefer fruit flavors like strawberry and lemon or rich flavors like chocolate and stracciatella this place will change your relationship with gelato forever. My favorite flavor is tiramisu. They opened different locations through out town, so watch out for their kiosks on Via Fillungo. 

8. Ristori, dessert and ice-cream: Via Fillungo 83
Ristori used to be a famous old fashioned profumeria, or perfumery with beautiful wood furniture and ancient floors. Eventually, over the years, with the increase of chain beauty retails such as Sephora the ancient perfumery closed and is now replaced by a gelateria/dessert. Here, you can find small delicious little desserts like tiny ice-cream balls on a stick covered in nuts and chocolate. Or even chocolate fondue.

9. Il Mecenate: Via del Fosso, 94
A traditional Tuscan/Lucchese restaurant Mecenate offers a variety of dishes all made with local ingredients. You can view a list of their food distributors on their site and I can assure you they are all authentic to the area. Here, you can taste crostini with lard, cod, rabbit and fried stuffed zucchini flowers - my favorite.
Photo Credit: Il Mecenate 

10. Port Ellen ClanVia del Fosso, 120
Cute and different restaurant with a sophisticated menu. This is not your typical Tuscan restaurant. They serve duck over mashed potatoes, steak tartare, and octopus. Their selection of wine is wide enough to give you options even on a budget. 

What time is the super Bowl 50, this year? If you clicked here to figure out the answer the Super Bowl this year is February 7, 6:30PM ET, 2016. You can watch the game between the Panthers and Broncos on CBS.

Now that is enough said about a bunch of guys running with a ball. Let's talk about Super Bowl food. I don't want to do the same old chicken wings and since my parents are in town we will go all Italian. My cousin who ironically lives in Singapore passed me this delicious recipes


For the dough
1 Kg of flour // 4 cups
6 eggs
1 KG of spinach // 4 cups
1 KG of other type of leaf like collards // 4 cups

Place the flour on the counter top of your kitchen and create a well in the center. Place the eggs in the center. Slowly with afford whisk the eggs and start dragging the flour in the center working it into the egg mixture. Knead by hand until smooth and roll into a ball.Wrap in plastic paper and set aside for at least 30 minutes. At room temperature and in a dry environment. Start working on your filling.

For the filling
5 eggs
200 grams of parmesan cheese // 1 cup
250 grams of ricotta cheese // 1 cup and 1/3
Majorana // teaspoon
nutmeg // teaspoon

In a large bowl place the ricotta cheese, cheese, eggs and the other ingredients and start combining together until you get a nice and smooth dense cream. Taste in salt and add more if desired. You can add spinach (1 KG) to this feeling but be aware that you need to make sure your spinach are drained of any water. 


Now the fun part. Work the dough into the pasta machine. If you have any electric one lucky you otherwise your arms will be sore. Make sure you pass each piece of pasta multiple times in the pasta machine until it is smooth and very very thin. It needs to be super thin to taste good. 

Place the long sheet of pasta on a clean counter top. Use a ravioli mould cut the sheet into circle. We the edge with water and add about 2 teaspoons of filling for each. Cover with another circle and with the fork mark the edge to seal the two sheets together. This is why you need water so they will stick together. Alternatively, you can use egg yolk. You can use a spoon to place the filling in each sheet or you can have one of those fancy pastry bags like in the picture. You can serve them with just sage and butter or whatever you like. They are very versatile especially if you keep your filling just with cheese.

Happy New Year. It is officially 2016, which means we are going to see an increase in gym membership, fast diets and many lettuce recipes. The after Christmas panettone and stuffed turkey left us with unwanted extra weight all in the name of spending time with our loved ones. Studies say that an average person gains 5 pounds (2KG) during Christmas season. To lose the weight this person would need to burn a total of 17,500 calories extra which is approximately over 17 hours of jogging at a 10mph rate.

I have tried many diets through out the years. I was 16 when I tried my first diet which consisted of boiled carrots and potatoes with some type of grilled or broiled meat. In college my friends and I tried the infamous Master Cleanse diet, which included a juice made of cayenne pepper, maple syrup, lemon and water. You were supposed to only drink it for as many days as needed. I lasted half day, my friends were stronger than I was, but everyone was definitely pissed off and easily irritated. That is what lack of food would do to you. At some other point in my life I tried the New York diet, which said to have put Heidi Klum back in her pre-pregnancy shape and ready for a Victoria's Secret show. The diet consisted of as many boiled eggs as you want, no carbs, no grains, no this and that. If you were hungry you had to put a boiled egg in your mouth. Dinners were not bad, some of the recipes provided were actually quite normal, like meatloaf and grilled fish. I lasted 3 days after which I could not eat eggs for few months. Then there was the army diet or the Birmingham diet or also known as the 3 days cardiac fad, which was designed to help those patients undergoing cardiac surgery. The idea is to limit your intake and eat exactly what the diet tells you to (e.g. half grape fruit, half banana, and so on). The diet is said to make you lose up to 10 pounds in 3 days. This is probably the only diet I have finished. It works for a while until you have that special holiday dinner or that long week-end at your parents house. Other diets I have tried through out my life included: the minestrone diet, all you eat is minestrone; the melon diet, as you imagine you eat a lot of melon, the yogurt diet, the full moon diet and so on. All of these diets I quit within the first day or I actually cheated so gained weight. Even when I was eating healthy, following the so called fitness healthy food pyramid (increasing protein and decreasing carbs) I still was not really seeing any differences, quite the opposite my body would react by gaining weight and not muscle weight. My husband makes fun of me because overtime I would state, "Tomorrow diet," he knows I will end up having dinner with pasta, wine and chocolate. I just can't do it.

So what did I learn after this experience? I came to the conclusion that I hate diets - Duh! I knew I hated them when I would quit after one day. The idea of being restricted in what I ate made me wanted to eat more and more junk. When I followed real nutritional plans especially when working out - the idea that you need protein to build muscle - I still saw little difference. Funny enough the moments in my life where I did not give a shit about losing weight but instead relied on pasta for lunch and dinner, and chocolate chip cookies for snack I lost weight (probably muscle here that was saying goodbye). I had this discussion with my friend who is a real doctor. When we followed the same diet, based on a 1500 calories per day, she gained weight and was stuffed, I lost and was starving and proceeded to quit right away.  So,  in 2016 as we all have gathered some more meat on our belly my approach to dieting is quite different: 1. Go back to running and spend more time out; 2. Find recipes that look delicious and that they are actually healthy. So, probably let's ditch that lard, but not the bacon. And let's keep the wine and coffee. My suggestions for anybody trying to lose some extra pounds is to increase physical activity. I love being active and I would rather run the extra mile but keep my vino than feel miserable at night. Everyone is different of course, but listen to the way you feel and make small changes. If you are drinking 12 cokes a day, maybe try 10....

So who is hitting up the gym and doing some diets in 2016?