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Saturday, June 30, 2012

URBAN REDEVELOPMENT VIA SPORTS ARENA -- CASE STUDY -- PART 20


THE ARENA DISTRICT: CONNECTIVITY IS KEY TO 
COLUMBUS’ DOWNTOWN URBAN DEVELOPMENT

Coleman lauded the Arena District for the way it has encouraged people to come in from the suburbs and invest in living, working and spending their leisure time in downtown Columbus.

“I think we’re seeing a resurgence of interest nationwide in the quality and amenities of a neighborhood’s `built’ environment,” the mayor observed. 
“People are making more conscious decisions about where they want to live and work.  People are looking for simpler, safer, more human-scale environments. I foresee developments like the Arena District, which provides such a great urban experience, will be very successful.”
Author Steve Wright is an award-winning journalist who has written about growth, development, architecture, town planning and urban issues for more than a decade. 
He lives and works in a traditional, walkable, sustainable community in a restored historic home in the heart of Miami’s Little Havana.                 


Friday, June 29, 2012

URBAN REDEVELOPMENT VIA SPORTS ARENA -- CASE STUDY -- PART 19


THE ARENA DISTRICT: CONNECTIVITY IS KEY TO 
COLUMBUS’ DOWNTOWN URBAN DEVELOPMENT

North Bank Park, an 11-acre strip of land between the two streets, was created to make a fabulous waterfront greenway.

Traffic on the streets was calmed, so pedestrians
feel safe journeying from McFerson Commons to North Bank Park to the edge of the Scioto River that travels through downtown Columbus.

“North Bank Park is a great urban park with water features and great views of the downtown skyline,” Myers said.

Mayor Coleman observed that “we are taking a big step forward with our riverfront; I see it as another critical component to the success of downtown.”

“Every great downtown has complementary recreational amenities and park space,” he said. “The riverfront is the one natural amenity we have downtown, and we need to capitalize on its uniqueness and truly make it an asset for people to use and enjoy.”

Case Study continues tomorrow -- June 30

Thursday, June 28, 2012

URBAN REDEVELOPMENT VIA SPORTS ARENA -- CASE STUDY -- PART 18


THE ARENA DISTRICT: CONNECTIVITY IS KEY TO 
COLUMBUS’ DOWNTOWN URBAN DEVELOPMENT

Myers, the master planner and New Urbanist, said the last major links in the district’s connectivity plan are taking place with a pedestrian passage to the Greater Columbus Convention Center and a public park that will connect the district to the Scioto River.

The district already has a large, grassy park that fans out from the arena south toward Columbus’ Scioto River front.

The three-acre urban space with views of the downtown skyline is named McFerson Commons to honor now-retired Nationwide Chairman Dimon R. McFerson, who spearheaded the arena development.

McFerson Commons has excellent connectivity into the heart of the Arena District, but when it opened,  it stopped short of the Scioto Riverfront because two major roads cut it off from the water.


Case Study continues tomorrow -- June 29

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

URBAN REDEVELOPMENT VIA SPORTS ARENA -- CASE STUDY -- PART 17


THE ARENA DISTRICT: CONNECTIVITY IS KEY TO 
COLUMBUS’ DOWNTOWN URBAN DEVELOPMENT

Designed in an urban setting, Columbus’ first downtown movie house to open in 70 years rises up rather than extending horizontally, creating a three-level interior. 

The district is home to the LC Pavilion, a year-round concert hall that is an indoor-outdoor facility.

During most of the year, the hip, urban space accommodates 2,500 people in an intimate, two-level setting. 

But when the weather turns nice, huge doors roll open at the rear of the building, the stage is reversed and an amphitheater setting is created. 

When performers play under the stars, the facility operated by PromoWest Productions can accommodate up to 5,000. 

The district’s mix of uses includes a row of restaurants featuring Buca di Beppo, Gordon Biersch, Rodizio Grill, BD's Mongolian Grill, Boston's The Gourmet Pizza, Sunny Street Cafe and Ted’s Montana Grill. 

Ted’s is a creation of media entrepreneur Ted Turner that serves burgers, chicken and a variety of comfort foods in a Western saloon setting.

Turner and partner George McKerrow Jr., the founder of LongHorn Steakhouse, opened their first restaurant across the street from Nationwide Arena.

Case Study continues tomorrow -- June 28


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

URBAN REDEVELOPMENT VIA SPORTS ARENA -- CASE STUDY -- PART 16


THE ARENA DISTRICT: CONNECTIVITY IS KEY TO 
COLUMBUS’ DOWNTOWN URBAN DEVELOPMENT

To assemble land needed for the arena, NRI worked with the Convention Facilities Authority, which used its power of eminent domain to acquire several small parcels.
NRI leased the 10-acre arena site from the authority. 
It should be noted that the perennial losing Blue Jackets NHL club failed to fill Nationwide Arena.

The Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, bailed out Nationwide by purchasing Nationwide Arena for about $42.5million in bond money backed by the promise of future tax receipts from a casino under construction far from the central city.

In a deal intended to keep the underperforming Blue Jackets hockey team in town, the Convention Authority brokered the deal in March and subsequently leased the arena to the county and the city of Columbus.

While downtown Columbus already is home to major science and art museums, a restored capitol building, a pair of historic theaters and other cultural amenities, the Arena District has certainly boosted the city’s urban entertainment options.

The Arena Grand Theatre -- an eight-screen, 1,700-seat movie house offering stadium seating, love seats, wall-to-wall screens and digital sound – features a club level, balconies and reserved seating.

Case Study continues tomorrow -- June 27

Monday, June 25, 2012

URBAN REDEVELOPMENT VIA SPORTS ARENA -- CASE STUDY -- PART 15


THE ARENA DISTRICT: CONNECTIVITY IS KEY TO 
COLUMBUS’ DOWNTOWN URBAN DEVELOPMENT

NRI has developed 1.5 million square feet of commercial space in the master-planned district.
The city of Columbus spent $16 million within the district and $19 million in areas adjacent to it to improve roads, utilities and infrastructure for tax-generating project.

NRI held much of the land needed for the project, but made a trio of key equations:

§  A13.5-acre city parcel that formerly housed the old Ohio Penitentiary, which had been condemned and was closed for nearly two decades. The land now features a mix of uses.

§  A six-acre tract from AEP, which is now developed in part with an office building where the energy firm now leases 92,000 square feet from NRI.   

§  A six-acre assemblage north of Nationwide Arena purchased from the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, where former railroad land will be developed with mixed use.

Case Study continues tomorrow -- June 26


Sunday, June 24, 2012

URBAN REDEVELOPMENT VIA SPORTS ARENA -- CASE STUDY -- PART 14


THE ARENA DISTRICT: CONNECTIVITY IS KEY TO 
COLUMBUS’ DOWNTOWN URBAN DEVELOPMENT

While the Arena District and its residential corridors are geared for pedestrian use, the area accommodates the automobile.
In keeping with the New Urbanist principal of avoiding seas of parking lots that ruin streetscapes, the Arena District is designed to hide parking in garages tucked behind and beneath buildings.
Along with its pedestrian-friendly design and its connectivity to other vibrant neighborhoods, the Nationwide Arena District meets the standards of New Urbanism because of its mix of uses.
The best cities in the world have workplaces, shops, restaurants, apartments, entertainment venues, civic parks and other land uses all blended together within a compact, walkable area.
Town planning after World War II got away from that, by segregating uses from each other and requiring people to use cars to meet their daily needs.
The Arena District reverses that trend, by providing a balanced mix of uses, while handling thousands of automobiles as well.
All of the various uses in the Arena District are in human-scaled buildings.
There are no skyscrapers in the district. Offices are above ground floor uses that open up to the street. 
Case Study continues tomorrow -- June 25 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

URBAN REDEVELOPMENT VIA SPORTS ARENA -- CASE STUDY -- PART 13


THE ARENA DISTRICT: CONNECTIVITY IS KEY TO 
COLUMBUS’ DOWNTOWN URBAN DEVELOPMENT

Arena District apartment and condo dwellers are within short walking distance of many of the items they need for day-to-day living.
Some of these services can be found directly within the District.
Other services are just a short walk the North Market, a cosmopolitan farmer’s market that also has gourmet and prepared foods.
The Short North, with its galleries, restaurants, d├ęcor shops and eclectic boutiques, also is adjacent to Arena Crossing.
Ellis said the connectivity is key.
The physical edges of the District blend into the surrounding neighborhoods seamlessly.
As more residents move into the Arena District, the River District to the immediate west and other adjacent areas, more retail will follow, benefiting residents and shopkeepers.
Arena Crossing residents are an integral part of the growth and success of the Arena District.
In the words of Ellis, they are the “locals”, the ones who will transform the district into a 24-hour-a-day neighborhood. 
Case Study continues tomorrow -- June 24

Friday, June 22, 2012

URBAN REDEVELOPMENT VIA SPORTS ARENA -- CASE STUDY -- PART 12


THE ARENA DISTRICT: CONNECTIVITY IS KEY TO 
COLUMBUS’ DOWNTOWN URBAN DEVELOPMENT

Coleman, the multiterm mayor of Ohio's Capital City, said the Arena District is a key part of his city's strategic plan to create 10,000 new downtown housing units in a decade.
“Every new residential project that breaks ground downtown proves that the market exists and that developers have confidence to move forward with new projects,” Coleman added.
The best amenity is being in Columbus’ premier entertainment and dining district.
The residents of nearly 600 total multifamily units in the Arena District can walk to work, then meet friends for dinner, drinks, a movie, show or sporting event – all within footsteps of the urban apartments.
Few dwelling units -- multifamily or single family -- are located in a mixed use area in a city that developed with car culture zoning codes that encourage a wide separation of uses.
Case Study continues tomorrow -- June 23

Thursday, June 21, 2012

URBAN REDEVELOPMENT VIA SPORTS ARENA -- CASE STUDY -- PART 11


THE ARENA DISTRICT: CONNECTIVITY IS KEY TO 
COLUMBUS’ DOWNTOWN URBAN DEVELOPMENT

Jim Davidson, president and C.E.O. of Schottenstein Zox & Dunn, has said residential units were a strong attraction to the large Columbus law firm, which relocated to the Arena District from downtown’s Statehouse Square.
He believes the urban apartments will play an important role in “attracting and retaining talent.”
It’s a sentiment that was shared by American Electric Power (AEP), another tenant in the Arena District.
Joe Hamrock, AEP's Vice President of Corporate Services at the time, saw the ability to live, work and play in the Arena District as a powerful tool for recruiting employees and retaining veterans.
 “We’re excited to see the Arena Crossing apartments... and to know that this area is spurring further development in other parts of the downtown market,” Columbus Mayor Coleman said. 

Case Study continues tomorrow -- June 22

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

URBAN REDEVELOPMENT VIA SPORTS ARENA -- CASE STUDY - PART 10


THE ARENA DISTRICT: CONNECTIVITY IS KEY TO 
COLUMBUS’ DOWNTOWN URBAN DEVELOPMENT

Heinlein Schrock Sterns, the firm that designed Nationwide Arena, the office building attached to it and the apartment buildings going up in the district, worked with the natural landscape and existing buildings to create what Myers calls a “different, varied and familiar feeling area.”
“Everything in the district is given equal weight, which allows the 20,000-seat arena to sit as comfortable and unobtrusive as the smallest office building,” Myers added. “The throughways in the district carry through on this idea. There are wide sidewalks and narrow, singular streets laid out in an easy to navigate grid. This urban village brings together streets, sidewalks, pedestrian plazas and buildings that all work to enhance and blend in with the surroundings.”
Heinlein Schrock Stearns kicked off the Arena District by designing an extroverted arena that features views of the Columbus skyline from within -- and glimpses of the action going on inside the building that can be viewed from the street outside.
The Kansas City-based firm has designed the last crucial element of the district: the Arena Crossing apartment development of 252 units.
Case Study continues tomorrow -- June 21

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

URBAN REDEVELOPMENT VIA SPORTS ARENA -- CASE STUDY -- PART 9


THE ARENA DISTRICT: CONNECTIVITY IS KEY TO 
COLUMBUS’ DOWNTOWN URBAN DEVELOPMENT

Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman praised the Arena District for the way it connects to and enhances surrounding neighborhoods.
“Connectivity between all the neighborhoods downtown is critical to long-term vibrancy and viability for the area,” he said. “The Arena District is connecting neighborhoods and downtown, and bringing thousands of people to enjoy the area. The more we can blend the boundaries between areas and increase pedestrian traffic the more vibrant downtown will become.”
The district master plan uses the arena as an anchor for restaurant, retail, office space, residential, entertainment and a park.
The plan incorporated existing structures, encouraging reuse of historic buildings. 
The red brick in those structures served as the guiding example for the natural materials – brick, stone, steel and glass – used throughout the district’s new construction.
Case Study continues tomorrow -- June 20

Monday, June 18, 2012

URBAN REDEVELOPMENT VIA SPORTS ARENA -- CASE STUDY -- PART 8



THE ARENA DISTRICT: CONNECTIVITY IS KEY TO COLUMBUS’ DOWNTOWN URBAN DEVELOPMENT

The Arena District master plan followed the ideas of New Urbanism.
New Urbanism is a two decade-long movement by planners and architects to develop lasting, livable, traditional communities.
These walkable, mixed use communities contrast the sprawl that has been developed in the past 50 years.
“The initial sketch I did linked the Arena District to the waterfront with a park. The basic grid pattern I drew, with the park and mixed use on it, basically is the master plan for how the Arena District has been developed,’’ Myers said.
“The grid pattern connects the development to other parts of downtown,” he added. “You can drive through the Arena District. It is geared toward the pedestrian, but it isn’t a closed-to-traffic pedestrian mallway. It’s a functioning city neighborhood.”
Case Study continues tomorrow -- June 19

Sunday, June 17, 2012

URBAN REDEVELOPMENT VIA SPORTS ARENA -- CASE STUDY -- PART 7


THE ARENA DISTRICT: CONNECTIVITY IS KEY TO 
COLUMBUS’ DOWNTOWN URBAN DEVELOPMENT


NRI wanted to build an urban village, a neighborhood that blended in with surrounding areas and featured architecture that harkened back to charming, turn of the century materials. Master planning became crucial.
“It became apparent that the arena could become a catalyst for development and growth in the surrounding area,” said NRI President and C.O.O. Brian J. Ellis.
To create a development that would be compact, sustainable and connected to other parts of downtown Columbus, NRI hired Myers Schmalenberger MSI, a Columbus-based planning firm (now known as MKSK) with urban design expertise.
MSI, which has drawn plans for several central Ohio cities as well as resorts and parks around the world, worked with the legendary Sasaki and Associates to develop the Arena District master plan.
MSI (now MKSK) Principal Keith Myers is a huge fan of old-fashioned city neighborhoods where people can work, shop, live and play without getting behind the wheel.
He worked to bring urban density, a grid pattern and a healthy mix of uses to the Arena District. 
Case Study continues tomorrow -- June 18

Saturday, June 16, 2012

URBAN REDEVELOPMENT VIA SPORTS ARENA -- CASE STUDY -- PART 6


THE ARENA DISTRICT: CONNECTIVITY IS KEY TO 
COLUMBUS’ DOWNTOWN URBAN DEVELOPMENT
The expansion Columbus Blue Jackets debuted in 2000, playing to sellout crowds in Nationwide Arena.
Because stadiums and arenas alone are rarely profitable, Nationwide decided it could afford to take on the arena project by making it the center piece of a mixed-use district that would feature offices, retail, restaurants, entertainment, residential and more.
The Arena District, named for the architecturally-acclaimed Nationwide Arena that anchors it, has been developed by Nationwide Realty Investors (NRI), an affiliate of Nationwide.
NRI is active throughout the United States with a diverse portfolio of office, retail, hotels, luxury apartments, properties and development land.
Directly and through joint ventures, it controls more than $1 billion in real estate development. 
From the beginning, NRI wanted to focus on connectivity. It didn’t want an arena isolated within a sea of parking.
It didn’t want to build a place where people raced in by highway, then raced back out to the suburbs. 
Case Study continues tomorrow -- June 17

Friday, June 15, 2012

URBAN REDEVELOPMENT VIA SPORTS ARENA -- CASE STUDY -- PART 5



THE ARENA DISTRICT: CONNECTIVITY IS KEY TO 
COLUMBUS’ DOWNTOWN URBAN DEVELOPMENT
City leaders still hoped to energize Columbus’ downtown with sports and entertainment offered by an arena, plus spin-off development generated by a such a facility.
Dimon McFerson, then head of Nationwide, decided his company  would lead the way.
A month after the defeat of the tax issue that would have funded a civic arena, McFerson and city officials announced Nationwide would build a downtown arena on land adjacent to its headquarters.
The announcement was coupled with aggressive plans to develop nearly 100 acres around the arena – more downtown development than city and county officials ever dreamed to create with the publicly-financed arena.
Shortly after Nationwide’s announcement, the NHL awarded a franchise to Columbus.
John H. McConnell, another longtime Columbus leader and founder of Worthington Industries, stepped forward to be the principal investor in the team.
The city held a ticker tape parade in June of 1997 to herald its joining the big leagues. 
 Case Study continues tomorrow -- June 16



Thursday, June 14, 2012

URBAN REDEVELOPMENT VIA SPORTS ARENA -- CASE STUDY -- PART 4


THE ARENA DISTRICT: CONNECTIVITY IS KEY TO 
COLUMBUS’ DOWNTOWN URBAN DEVELOPMENT

In 1997, Columbus was trying for the fifth time since 1978 to get voters to pass a ballot initiative that would fund a civic arena for family shows, concerts and possibly a professional sports franchise.
Nationwide backed the plan by offering private dollars to aid the arena project. 
But the 1997 ballot measure, like those that came before it, was defeated.
This loss hurt more than the others because the National Hockey League was looking to expand and Columbus was on its short list.
Columbus business, civic and political leaders went to work right after the arena issue defeat to see if there was a way to salvage the city’s shot at an NHL team.
Columbus had never had one of the major four pro sports franchises.
The highest level of baseball, football, basketball and hockey were always the domain of neighboring Cleveland to the north, or Cincinnati to the south.
 Case Study continues tomorrow -- June 15

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

URBAN REDEVELOPMENT VIA SPORTS ARENA -- CASE STUDY -- PART 3



THE ARENA DISTRICT: CONNECTIVITY IS KEY TO 
COLUMBUS’ DOWNTOWN URBAN DEVELOPMENT

In its first two years, the Arena District attracted more than a half dozen office buildings, an eight-screen movie theater, an indoor-outdoor performance space, a restaurant row and apartments in mixed use buildings  – all anchored by a 20,000-seat arena.

The entire district came about because of Nationwide’s connections to the Columbus community. 

One of the world’s largest financial and insurance organizations, Nationwide has been based in Columbus from its beginning and has had a long history of supporting the community as a whole.

When many companies were leaving downtown Columbus for offices in the suburbs, Nationwide renewed its commitment to the downtown by building its headquarters tower on the northern end of Ohio’s capital city. 

The complex grew in the central city, even as Columbus’ downtown struggled to compete with outlying areas.

Case Study continues tomorrow -- June 14

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

URBAN REDEVELOPMENT VIA SPORTS ARENA -- CASE STUDY -- PART 2


THE ARENA DISTRICT: CONNECTIVITY IS KEY TO 
COLUMBUS’ DOWNTOWN URBAN DEVELOPMENT


The master-planned Arena District project is all about connections:

§  Its grid pattern of streets connects with the surrounding neighborhoods that have arts, shopping, entertainment and more urban development on the way.

§  Its wide sidewalks and urban architecture connects with human beings, because they enjoy the charm of a traditional neighborhood.

§  Its picturesque urban park connects the grand public spaces with the Scioto Riverfront, a once overlooked asset that now hosts citywide events and festivals.

§  Its award-winning arena connects Ohio’s largest city with major league sports and the world’s leading entertainers.

§  Its compact development connects Columbus with its future – where people can live, work and play downtown.

Case Study continues tomorrow -- June 13

Monday, June 11, 2012

URBAN REDEVELOPMENT VIA SPORTS ARENA -- CASE STUDY -- PART 1


THE ARENA DISTRICT: CONNECTIVITY IS KEY TO 
COLUMBUS’ DOWNTOWN URBAN DEVELOPMENT

COLUMBUS, OH -- Everyone from the buyer of a small starter house to the broker of a major development has heard the old saw that the key to real estate is location, location, location.

The Arena District, $750 million, 75-acre development on the northern edge of Columbus’ downtown – has an excellent location.

But its overwhelming success can be summed up another way: connections, connections, connections.

Editor's note: 
This case study will be serialized over the next 20 days.

Case Study continues tomorrow -- June 12

Sunday, June 10, 2012

TRATTORIA PALLOTTINO - PART 4



TRATTORIA PALLOTTINO -- FLORENCE, ITALY

Here comes another tirade.

Though I listened to Popeye and ate plenty of spinach growing up in the Rust Belt, I came to dread all pastas allegedly done Florentine style.

Even in big city restaurants in the Midwest, Manhattan and Miami, the Florentine stuff had an overpowering bitter spinach taste.

Often, it also included unappetizing green pasta -- allegedly infused with spinach, but most likely food dyed in the de-flavorizing machine.

Not so with Pallottino's lasagne fatte in casa alla vecchia maniera (homemade lasagna done the old way.)

Very mild spinach noodles caressed the finest ricotta in these meatless baked dish.

Crispy on top, dense and creamy inside, it was the best lasagna I have ever tasted.

IF YOU GO:
Address: Via Isola delle Stinche 1 r
Tel:  055/289573
http://www.trattoriapallottino.com

Pallatino has outstanding wheelchair access at its outside seating area.

Inside, things are a little tight, but the owner treated us like family -- bringing three different kinds of chairs until Heidi felt comfortable sitting in one to get a break from her manual wheelchair.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

TRATTORIA PALLOTTINO - PART 3


TRATTORIA PALLOTTINO -- FLORENCE, ITALY

Speaking of roast potatoes, what is it about the Tuscan roast spud?

Why is it so superior to the American version?

I can't tell you how many times I've ordered "redskin" or "new" potatoes -- even at a top drawer seafood or steak house -- only to be sorely disappointed in the bland little cubes of flavorless starch sitting next to an otherwise top-drawer entree prepared by a skilled chef?

Is it the source tater itself?

Is it the generous use of olive oil? 

Do they know to toss a little garlic on the spuds to give 'em some life?

I've gotta ask somebody who knows, because Tuscan roast potatoes -- especially those prepared by the owner's wife at the helm in Pallottino's kitchen, are as savory as the best hash brown from a greasy spoon diner.

Somehow, in his limited English, Pallottino's owner convinced me to order lasagna with spinach.

PART 4 POSTS TOMORROW -- JUNE 10 

Friday, June 8, 2012

TRATTORIA PALLOTTINO - PART 2


TRATTORIA PALLOTTINO -- FLORENCE, ITALY

In Florence, local flavor means an Pallottino appetizer of crostini di polenta fritta ai funghi porcini -- ie, little toasts made of lightly fired polenta and topped with porcini mushrooms to die for.

Because lunch is often the biggest meal of the day, next comes ribollita alla contadina, the famed bread and tomato-based Tuscan soup thick as stew.

Starving, we also ordered Pallottino's signature cannellini beans in tomato sauce, though it might have been wiser to go with the more traditional olive oil base since the hearty ribollita also was tomato-based.

No matter how good the primi was, the best -- by far -- was yet to come in the secondi.

My bride of a quarter century Heidi went for the blackboard special of porchetta with outstanding roasted potatoes.

Porchetta is Italian for suckling pig that is heavily salted on the outside, deboned, stuffed with garlic, rosemary, fennel seeds, and other herbs, then rolled up and slowly roasted.

The result is a stunning piece of pork with the perfect amount of buttery fat and crispy skin on the plate to add to the flavor.

Porchetta usually is served room temperature or cold.

Pallottino serves it chilly.

Here's a little hint for those of you who perhaps are children of the Great Lakes who grew up thinking everything out of mom's kitchen should be nice and warm -- put the hot out of the oven taters on top of the porchetta and you've got warmed pork without offending the kitchen.

We certainly didn't stoop to such devices, we're just saying...
PART 3 POSTS TOMORROW -- JUNE 9 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

TRATTORIA PALLOTTINO - 1


TRATTORIA PALLOTTINO -- FLORENCE, ITALY

Thanks to Trattoria Pallottino, the upscale Italian restaurants seem average, the dependable red table cloth joints have become barely mediocre and my homemade pasta just plain lousy.

Maybe it comes off as backhanded, but that's about the highest compliment I could pay to a family-run trattoria in the heart of historic Florence.

Family is key, as the owner cradles a sleeping infant against his shoulder as he hands you the menu.

He returns, little one in stroller this time, to tell you the day's specials and to help steer you toward the menu items that are most representative of Tuscan cuisine.

Tuscans are proud of the olive oil, white beans, wild boar, beef, tomatoes, mushrooms and other items that come from their region.

They want patrons to know that no matter what the 100-plus item Italian restaurant back on Mainstreet USA tells you, there IS NOT ONE ITALY.

The nation has barely been unified for a century and a half and unlike the globalization that kills individuality in the states, Italy takes pride in its unique regional flavors.

PART 2 POSTS TOMORROW -- JUNE 8

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

CIBREO -- PART 5

CIBREO -- FLORENCE'S BEST FINE DINING


Before dessert, a gourmet cheese plate arrived and we washed it down with a lovely dessert wine with an apricot bouquet.

Speaking of dessert, I opted for another renown Cibreo item -- the flourless chocolate cake. 

We also grazed on a dessert selection of cheese cake, chocolate flan and something that -- at least to our hillbilly-rooted tongues -- tasted like gourmet ice cream cake. Flawless espresso capped off dessert.

The prices, per person are roughly:  first course, 20 euro, second course 36 euro, cheeses 10 euro and dessert 15 euro.

Obviously, when you add a large bottle of sparkling water, a bottle of fine wine, dessert wine and espresso, you can add another nearly 80-100-plus euro to the bill.

We can only afford such extravagance once a year, but in our opinion, Cibreo is worth every penny.

IF YOU GO:

Cibreo is at Via del Verrocchio, 8r Firenze
Tel. : 055 234 11 00
e-mail : info@cibreo.com

www.cibreo.com


Get reservations or arrive at 7 p.m. and start pleading for a cherished table.


The restaurant is very near the famed Mercato di Sant'Ambrogio farmer's market.

Cibreo also has a casual trattoria, cafe and live theater nearby.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

CIBREO -- PART 4

CIBREO -- FLORENCE'S BEST FINE DINING


Somewhere along the way, Team Picchi shows a little levity by bringing each table a giant bread stick shaped like a bone.

Despite being a fine dining joint, at least half the diners, (aka all the American tourists in the house) couldn't resist mugging for camera phone shots with the bone gritted in their teeth, Fido the hound style.

For the record, the breadstick tastes great and no, we did not mug for any cameras.

Now onto the fab the secondi patti. Heidi's was an ethereal deconstructed veal stew served on a plate, not a bowl, with edges defined by small homemade bread sticks. 

The super tender veal  was enhanced with carrot coins and pureed roasted potatoes.

Yours truly adopted for Cibreo's somewhat famous chicken and ricotta meat balls in tomato sauce with a side of asparagus. 

Yes, as some American over eaters whine, the meat balls are not huge by second course standards.

But no, you don't have the right to complain (you did get more than a half dozen samples of Tuscan treats, multiple kinds of bread, an appetizer and you'll have dessert...so no, you do not need a Fred Flintstone-sized portion for the main course.

PART 5 POSTS TOMORROW -- JUNE 6

Monday, June 4, 2012

CIBREO -- PART 3

CIBREO -- FLORENCE'S BEST FINE DINING


Out comes Giulio Picchi, Fabio's son, to tell you about the heavenly items spread out in tiny tasting portions for you.

Our grazing included:  white beans in fabulous olive oil, ricotta unlike any you've ever savored, smoked cold muscles good enough to seduce a non bi-valve eater, the best zucchini you've ever tasted, warm potato rolls, chicken liver pate spread on crostini, herbed goat cheese, tomato aspic (cold gelatin) and cold veal tripe salad.

Full disclosure time.  We really tried hard not to be stomach-squeamish, but could not rise above our Midwestern roots. Alas, we did not finish even the tiny taste o' trippa.

Trusting the sommelier , we went with a fine Super Tuscan Sangiovese-Cabernet Sauvignon blend that, well, blended perfectly with the wide range of delicacies brought to our table. Light on the tongue, it must of packed a bit of a punch, for we confess we forgot to note the label (sorry).

Spouse Heidi's primi patti was polenta with light ricotta cheese -- light as a cloud.  I opened with a brown fish stew that tasted like an upscale New Orleans gumbo.

PART 4 POSTS TOMORROW -- JUNE 5

Sunday, June 3, 2012

CIBREO -- PART 2

CIBREO -- FLORENCE'S BEST FINE DINING


Cibreo has no printed menu. Waiters -- versed in several languages -- sit down with you and go over the fresh items the purveyors have delivered that day and how they might make an excellent primi and secondi for your palette.

Though Cibreo is for foodies -- not the Cracker Barrel crowd -- our server was very conscious of not allowing us to embarrass ourselves with an order we would be unhappy with.

She very subtly pointed out that a game meat would be served cold to room temperature (when an American might expect it warm and be disappointed if it didn't come out red hot.) She also subtly stressed that the roast pigeon does have lots of small bones and is to be eaten with fingers.

The attention to detail is staggering -- and not just with the memorized menu with dozens of dazzling preparations.

Our server noticed a wobbly-legged chair at the table next to ours. She shot a glance at an underling (apparently responsible for such things) that basically said "the next time you let this happen, that  faulty piece of furniture will be smashed over your head."

Again -- if you want endless soup, salad and bread sticks, this ain't your place.

If you love starting off your meal with a perfectly-crafted array of Tuscan tidbits -- created by Chef Picchi, he of the mad man genius  in the kitchen self-cultivated persona -- you have come to the right place.

PART 3 POSTS TOMORROW -- JUNE 4

Saturday, June 2, 2012

CIBREO 1


CIBREO -- FLORENCE'S BEST FINE DINING


Cibreo is the most misunderstood restaurant in Florence.

A foodie paradise, Cibreo doesn't even crack the top 400 of more than 1,000 Florence restaurants ranked by the esteemed members of one of the world's most popular on-line rating sites.

Perhaps the fine dining establishment of star chef Fabio Picchi isn't for everyone -- the Olive Garden, it ain't.

But for anyone who appreciates slow food, outstanding service, premium ingredients and local sourcing, Cibreo easily deserves to be ranked among top dozen dining spots in fabled Florence.

It seems like the philistines who rail against Cibreo have a quartet of common complaints:

  • Long waits for food (do you want fast service from a microwave or proper service from a kitchen that cares?)
  • Small portions (they aren't small -- they are just appropriate size. Notice how Europeans aren't as obese as Americans?  There's a reason -- normal-sized portions.)
  • They don't serve pasta (Tuscan cuisine involves a wide area of cheeses, game meat, beans, farm to table vegetables and other items that are not based on the noodle and slathered in red sauce.
  • High prices (Florence is an expensive city and for the record, you could easily spend more than half of what it costs to eat at Cibreo drinking horrible wine, eating crappy food and being upsold on lousy appetizers and desserts at any number of tourist traps with pretty piazza views but cruddy kitchens. In other words, you get what you pay for.)                          
PART 2 POSTS TOMORROW -- JUNE 3