If you like Naples, you will definitely like Palermo too. Both cities are exciting, loud, chaotic and damn tasty. Palermo’s trademark dish is simple, but irresistible: pasta, wild fennel, fresh sardines, raisins and toasted pine nuts. The range of street food is impressive, even for hard-core foodies. I mean, have you ever tried a pane con la milza, a bread roll with, eh, rundermilt (beef spleen)? I dare you to do so, with or without cheese. If that’s too hot to handle for you, you can easily switch to something sweet. Palermo has lots of that too. Think cassata (ice-cream cake with candied fruit), a brioche with ice cream and the queen of all Sicilian sweets: cannoli, deep-fried pastry stuffed with ricotta cheese and candied peel. Ai, ai, cannoli. Mama mia. Soft as satin, sweet as candy and so addictive. In Amsterdam I score my ‘dope’ at Basilico. This Italian deli – founded in 1995 – was one of the first shops in Amsterdam to sell cannoli. You’ll find miniature versions filled with a cream of lemon, chocolate, coffee or vanilla and the huge, original version – my absolute favourite.
Truffles and me? Love at first sight! The refined, earthy taste adds panache to rice, pasta, pizza and potatoes. One piece of evidence: the potato-truffle pie I discovered recently. Cream, cheese, onion, potato parts and black truffle. Not an overwhelming dose of truffle, but it sure is there. Suitable as a side dish or as a pre-dinner bite, together with red wine (Barolo). To confiscate the pie I am raving about, you have to visit Frederique, a deli with mouth-watering salads, meals and desserts on display. Fresh food based on family recipes, modest prices. Like, like, like. If you need it right then and right now, no problem. Just sit in the back, on one of the chairs or swings (!) and let there be food. Gorgeous Frederique is a family member of butcher’s shop Van der Zalm. This first class company already had two branches in the village of Oegstgeest, untill fourth generation member Coen proposed to expand into Amsterdam. He created a trendy concept, launched it and named it after his father Frits (Frederikus) van der Zalm; hello Frederique!
The moment Michèle spoke those magic words, I knew we could be friends. She was my colleague at my first job ever (Andersen Legal). We had gone for a walk to a bakery and ordered two sausage rolls. The shop-assistant wanted to put them in the oven, but Michèle stopped her: ‘No. I like my roll cold.’ I looked at her and almost jumped: ‘Me too, me too.’ Most people find it kind of strange to eat such rolls cold. But not Michèle, my friend. From that moment on we talked for hours about the advantages of cold stuff: more intense taste, heat spoils it all, et cetera. Apart from the love for cold sausage rolls, we share our passion for cold chicken. This week I bought some real nice chicken drumsticks at the Italian deli Pasta Panini. They were so ‘Michèle-worthy’: succulent meat, bits of garlic and the sweet (anise) taste of basil. A nice kick-off for an everlasting Italian dinner. To complete this dinner I advise you to buy one of the superb home-made pasta’s. Ravioli with white truffle, anyone? The tiramisu becomes highly recommended too.
Chicken drumsticks with basil, one, €1.45
Rozengracht 82, City Centre (Jordaan)
+31 (0) 20 622 94 66
Opening hours: Monday 11.30am-7pm, Tuesday-Friday 10.30am-7pm, Saturday 9.30am-6pm
So stressed-out that you can hardly breathe? Get some oxygen at Café-Restaurant Amsterdam, an enormous restaurant in an industrial setting. My do-relax recipe: red wine, steak frites and a warm gemberbolus. This Jewish bun with ginger is made according to the secret recipe of Theeboom, a noted bakery that stopped its activities in 2008. The old Mr Theeboom decided to reveal his recipe to Bakery van Schaik, the current bolus supplier of Café-Restaurant Amsterdam. At this place the bolus is served with three bonuses: home-made whipped cream, ice cream with Tahitian bourbon vanilla made by Otelli and smiles of the super friendly employees. I took my Dutch-Indonesian mother (85) here once. I pushed her wheelchair into the restaurant and within no time she was surrounded by helping hands. Milène Hoving, the owner of this restaurant and many others, came in and had a chat with her. It turned out that she had known the late Lilian Ducelle very well, the former editor in chief of the Dutch-Indonesian magazine Moesson. My mother was impressed by Milène – ‘sweet boss’ – and her connection to Mrs Ducelle – ‘strong woman, sharp tongue’. After Milène had left, she said: ‘Get me to Jatopa. I have to tell my room mates about what happened.’
Café-Restaurant Amsterdam Gemberbolus with ice cream and whipped cream, one portion, €7.50
Watertorenplein 6, West (Westerpark)
+31 (0) 20 682 26 66
Opening hours: Monday-Thursday and Sunday 10.30am-midnight (kitchen 10.30am-22.30pm), Friday-Saturday 10.30am-1am (kitchen 10.30am-23.30pm)