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It’s hardly breaking news to say that restaurants are a lot of work. Piccino’s bakers are well into their workdays before the sun even rises, and our closing cooks and servers stumble out the door long after it sets. For most of the year, we stay here and do our traveling vicariously, through our guests and friends. Sometimes, though, everyone needs an actual break, and Sher and Margherita both recently returned from travels far from the Bay Area.

Of course, just because we took a break from our restaurant, we didn’t take a break from all restaurants. In fact, quite the opposite is true. And the food and service that we saw on our travels was both inspiring and invigorating, showing us areas that we can improve and also what we feel we do right.

Lucca, Italy

Sometimes all it takes to make a dish perfect is to have the right ingredients. In her hometown of Lucca, Margherita ate preserved anchovies straight from the tin with homemade potato chips and butter that had been churned just hours earlier. No frills, no fancy execution, just the tin packed with top-grade anchovies and a few snacks to cut and complement the salty blue fish. Did we mention that this was at one of Margherita’s favorite restaurants, Bar Tambellini? It’s the sort of dish that you might eat at your best friend’s house over a glass or three of wine and an hour or three of conversation. This is the sort of dish we love.

New York, New York

statue of liberty

In New York, a little closer to home but still a good 3,000 miles from San Francisco, Sher visited a bevy of restaurants, some old favorites and some new. Some of the best were old standbys, proving that you really don’t need to reinvent the wheel to delight the palate: chopped liver at Russ and Daughters and the carta di musica at King on King hit the top of the list. Other highlights included morning visits to Abraço, a coffee shop owned by friends and transplants from the Bay Area Jamie and Liz, oysters at Balthazar, the Sher-sized burger at the NoMad Bar, and a trip to visit Anthony Mangieri’s newest incarnation of Una Pizza Napoletana.

We aren’t restaurant critics, and we certainly couldn’t hold a candle to the intelligent, humble, and discerning prose of Jonathan Gold. But we did want to share some of our thoughts with you on what we loved while we traveled. Grazie mille for reading, and stay tuned for a couple of exciting announcements in our next newsletter!