One of my favorite parts of traveling is trying out the local cuisine. Visits to New York include hot bagels and every single time I’m in Louisiana I have crawfish, fried catfish and gumbo. When family comes to Austin, I take them to restaurants like Fonda San Miguel and Takoba for the tasty cochinita pibil and tortas that are hard to find on the East Coast.
But this time, on my fifth visit to Prague, I rebelled. Don’t misunderstand me – Czech cuisine has its highlights. I’m a big fan of a frosty bottle of Pilsner Urquell and many a good morning has begun with the moist brown bread that seems to be available in every bakery.
That said, woman cannot survive on sausages and dumplings alone. As an Oscar Wilde character said of German, “It isn’t at all a becoming language. I know perfectly well that I look quite plain after my German lesson.” This exactly sums up my feelings towards Czech food.
So we bypassed the typical Czech cuisine, scouting out the most highly praised Italian restaurants in the city. Prague sees swarms of Italian tourists every year and a few have stayed in the city, providing pizza and pasta that I can’t find in Texas.
We went to Vino di Vino for a bite before seeing a show at the Smetana Theatre. The upper floor is sunny and cheery with wood tables but we sat in the more elegant space below, surrounded by endless shelves filled with Italian wines. I found one of my favorite Abruzzese whites (Villa Gemma) and we had a bottle while nibbling on mozzarella salads and chitarra with clams and asparagus. I have a weakness for the rectangular edges of chitarra pasta (which are named for how the noodles are formed on a stringed machine that looks like a guitar).
For an early birthday dinner, we headed to La Finestra in Cucina. Waiters who speak an excellent if archaic English bring the fish and meat cuts (uncooked) to your table so that you can look over the options before committing. If you’ve never had a 6’5″ Slavic man expounding on cuts of raw “flesh” while referring to you as “my dear Madame” let me assure you, it’s a unique experience. My father and I split a massive St. Peter’s fish roasted whole and fettucine tossed with buttery tomatoes, clams and shrimp. One dessert, espresso and amaro later, I was one happy Italophile. A word of caution – make sure to bring your kronen because while La Finestra is delicious, it isn’t cheap.
So if you find yourself in Prague and dreading another meal of vepřo-knedlo-zelo (pork, dumplings and sauerkraut), let me offer up these two options for a bit of variety.
Both Vino di Vino and La Finestra in Cucina are in the city center in Prague 1 – Staré Město
Vino di Vino: Štupartská 769/18, Tel. +420.222.311.791, Email: email@example.com
La Finestra in Cucina: Platnéřská 90/13, Tel. +420.222.325.325., Email: firstname.lastname@example.org