Fuggedaboudit? Not Authentic Italian, Some Poor Execution, But Don’t Fugeddaboudit Just Yet


Morningstar’s New York Pizza
4931 6th Street, Suite 106
Lawrence, KS 66049
Phone: (785) 856-6973
Prices: $$$$
Calzone – $8.00

I was here last Autumn with a friend for a calzone, which was actually pretty well done, so I decided to try it again with my Sicilian-born wife. For a city of nearly 100,000, it is appalling that Lawrence does not have a single decent. authentic Italian restaurant. A Carrabba’s would even be a breath of fresh air, but the tight-knit city “powers that be” seem to be pretty good at discouraging innovation and “chains” in favor of “mom and pop” establishments. Unfortunately, none of the moms and pops seem to have a clue how to run a decent restaurant, Italian or otherwise. Anyway, all that being said, Morningstar’s is not bad.

Garlic Knots – $3
We tried the garlic knots ($3) which came with a side of red sauce. Baked balls of pizza dough infused with garlic apparently, I could barely taste the garlic and the “knots” were not baked long enough, a little too chewy … too bad!
 
Jumbo Combo – $9.75

The prices are decent except for the pizzas which are a bit pricey, so my wife ordered The New Yorker calzone ($7.25) with mozzarella, ricotta & parmigiana cheese, no sauce (she is allergic to tomatoes – some Italian!), with mushrooms added ($.50 extra). She was quite happy with the calzone. The dough was baked to perfection and there were just enough ingredients, so my wife (who has lived in Naples, Italy – the home of the best pizza in the World – most of her life) was actually impressed. Bravo!

 
Meatball

I wanted to try a few different things, so I got the Jumbo Combo ($9.75) which came with chicken parmigiana, eggplant rollatine, stuffed pasta shells, a side of spaghetti, and a meatball. I asked for the baked manicotti instead of the stuffed shells and they were happy to comply. Unfortunately, when my dish arrived I was a bit dismayed to see everything crammed into a casserole dish. The chicken parmigiana was actually cubes of breaded chicken piled on one end of the dish and the manicotti and eggplant rollatine were on the other end, layered one on top of the other. The whole dish was covered with sauce and mozzarella cheese, then baked in the oven. The side of spaghetti was not well drained, so it was a bit too watery. Too bad because the sauce was decent. With no meatball in sight, I asked the server where it was, but she said the dish did not come with one. After informing her that the menu indicated that a meatball did come with the dish, she scurried off and brought me one post haste. In all, the dish was a bit of a mess, but it was actually not that bad. It could have been better presented and would have been much more palatable had the chicken, manicotti, and eggplant been separated on a large plate, but with a name like Morningstar you cannot expect authentic Italian dishes.

Side of Spaghetti
Alas, still no authentic Italian food in Lawrence, but Morningstar’s does a fair job of trying. Their prices are fair and the service is decent, but it looks more like a sports bar than an Italian restaurant. The old world ambience just is not there. As Morningstar’s would say: “fuggedaboudit”, but not just yet. We will likely be back because my wife liked the calzone (as did I on my first visit), so maybe I will try one of their sandwiches next time. I would also offer suggestions for improvement if invited because I will do ANYTHING to help a local business as well as my chances of having a decent Italian restaurant meal without having to drive 4o miles. HOOAH!
 
CombatCritic Gives Morningstar’s New York Pizza 5 Bombs Out Of 10 (2 1/2 Stars) … More Bombs Are Better!

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Title: Fuggedaboudit? Not Authentic Italian, Some Poor Execution, But Don’t Fugeddaboudit Just Yet

Key Words: Morningstar’s New York Pizza, Morningstar, KU, basketball, Lawrence, Kansas, New York, pizza, pasta, calzone, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, TripAdvisor

 
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Wild Goose Chase, Then Premature Closing Left This Weary Traveler Unimpressed


United Club
O’Hare International Airport – Concourse F
Chicago, IL 60666
My experiences with United Airlines are hit-and-miss, occasionally brilliant, but more often than not disappointing.
 
After being told by the agent at the United luggage transfer desk in Terminal 5 that my connecting flight would leave from “Terminal 1, Concourse C”, I made the mistake of believing him, finding out once there that it was actually leaving from Terminal 2, Concourse F, a 30-minute walk away. By the time I finally found my gate, I was not a happy camper, so I decided to waste one of my two United Club passes I get each year on their Chicago O’Hare (Concourse F) facility. 
 
With two hours before my departure just a few gates away, I asked the woman at reception what time they closed and was told “10pm, giving me a little less than two hours before I had to board my plane. Tired after nearly 20 hours of travel and 30 minutes of unnecessary walking, I decided to use my last pass and what a mistake that was!
 
What little food there was available (olives, hummus, pita chips, cheese cubes and Skittles) was mostly depleted at 8:15 when I arrived. An hour after I arrived and 45 minutes before their scheduled closing they started putting food and alcohol away as I was told “last call” by the bartender. Seeing little reason to stick around during the commotion and chaos of employees eagerly preparing to flea work, I decided to leave.
 
I asked the women at the front desk why the employees were shutting everything down well before closing time and with several customers still in the club, but was told “they want to go home”. I said, “yes, but you told me they were open until 10pm and it is only 9:15”. One of the women said, “you can make a complaint on the website if you aren’t happy”.
 
The only reason they get two stars is because of the free booze (well drinks, bottled beer, and wine), the place was clean, and the employees relatively friendly (a rarity in Chicago O’Hare).
 
CombatCritic Gives United Club (O’Hare – Concourse F) 3 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!


Read This Review And More On Yelp!

Title: Wild Goose Chase, Then Premature Closing Left This Weary Traveler Unimpressed

Key Words: United Airlines, United, airlines, airline, fly, airplane, United Club, club, Chicago, O’Hare, airport, terminal, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, food, definitive, review, guide

Flying Swiss? Do Not Forget Your Swiss Army Knife!


Swiss Airlines
P O Box 8302 
Zürich, Switzerland
I have enjoyed flights on Swiss in the past, but this was the first time I have flown with them in several years. The online check-in was easy enough and I received a pdf of my boarding pass, but it was not available for download in Passbook unfortunately. I had to take a screenshot of the email on my crappy iPhone to make sure that it would be available come boarding time.
 
Check-in and boarding were easy enough at the Florence (Italy) Airport, but things went downhill quickly after that. We were delayed by an hour because of winds, so they say, and delays at Zurich Airport. Only having about an hour and a half from my original departure time until my connection departed, I scurried through the unfamiliar airport looking for my gate until I found it just as the plane was about to depart.
 
I had similar problems on the way back from Malaga to Zurich with my aircraft being delayed nearly an hour and a half. Fortunately, I had two and a half hours before my next departure this time. By the time I found the gate, they were announcing that the aircraft had been changed because of a maintenance issue and they needed six people to stay behind because the new plane was smaller than the first.
 
After being bumped from my Swiss Air flight to Florence and put up in a hotel far from everything with terrible food, the €10 olive tapenade I bought in Duty Free in Spain was seized during security screening the next morning. The woman in front of me, however, was allowed to keep her Swiss Army Knife (that exceeded maximum length and had 10 blades) and take it in the plane with her. 9/11 terrorists used box cutters to hijack four aircraft, but Zurich Airport security thinks it is OK to take knives onboard while seizing olive spread. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous as we finally took off knowing that anybody or everybody in the plane could be carrying an actual weapon … scary!
 
The positives of my experiences were the friendly staff, the free quiche, wine and chocolates in-flight, the relatively new aircraft, and the €250 I received for voluntarily interrupting my trip on the way home, upgrading their rating from 1 Bomb to 3 …
 
CombatCritic Gives Swiss Air 3 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better









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Title: Flying Swiss? Do Not Forget Your Swiss Army Knife!

 
Key Words: Swiss, Air, Airlines, airline, Zurich, Switzerland, Malaga, airport, plane, knife, security, delay, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, food, definitive, review, guide

100,000+ Visitors … That’s Our Goal!


With 2,867 blog views last month, and growing exponentially daily, we are on-track to have over 100,000+ views in the next year thanks to you!
 
The phenomenal growth and positive karma since my trip to meet His Holiness is a wonderful reminder of the quality, objective, unbiased products we provide, all free of charge, to our readers.
 
We will be expanding the CombatCritic’s TravelValue eZine in the near future, adding city and country guides with tons of information, maps, and links to reviews of local restaurants, hotels, and attractions. 
 
So SUBSCRIBE NOW if you have not already and do not miss another TravelValue review by CombatCritic!
CombatCritic Gives TravelValue eZine 10 Out of 10 Bombs … More Bombs Are Better!

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Title: 100,000+ Visitors … That’s Our Goal!

Key Words: views, view, visitors, Blogger, blog, subscribe, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, hotel, destination, review, reviews, Yelp, TripAdvisor

Oh-Boy, A Po’Boy … “Oy Vey!”


Terrebonne Po’Boys
805 Vermont St
Lawrence, KS 66044
Phone: (785) 856-3287
Web: terrebonnepoboys.com: 
Prices: $$$$
 


I had been meaning to try Terrebonne for some time, but I try not to eat fast food and sandwiches that often, just never having gotten around to going there. My Yelp friend Scott T and I decided to get together for lunch, trying the relatively new Taco Stand on 8th Street. However, when we arrived the door was locked and the lights off … they are closed on Mondays! So, we headed over to Terrebonne.

The place is quaint with a chalkboard menu on the wall, a few small 1950’s diner-style tables and chairs inside and more tables outside if you are the type that enjoys Lawrence’s steamy summer days. You order from the counter, pay, and they bring your order to your table. The guy at the counter was not particularly friendly, not rude, but he did not go out of his way to make us feel welcome being my first visit.

The reuben and cheesesteak both sounded good, but being my first time and a NOLA/Cajun/Creole-style establishment, I decided to go with their signature po’boy. I ordered the catfish po’boy ($7) with all the trimmings and Scott got the alligator po’boy and an order of red beans and rice.

About 15 minutes later our order arrived. The bread, about eight inches worth, was fresh, lightly toasted on the outside and soft inside. The catfish breading was not as light and flaky or as spicy as I would expect from a Cajun restaurant, but it was “OK”. There were several small pieces of fish rather than one long fillet, making the sandwich difficult to eat and forcing me to have to put the pieces back in the sandwich as they inevitably fell out over and over again. The fish was decent, but a few pieces were uncharacteristically “fishy” tasting, a taste I try to avoid and one of the main reasons I do not order fish in the Midwest. The lettuce and tomato rounded out the po’boy nicely, but I must admit that I was a bit disappointed overall by the sandwich and its price.

A $7 sandwich should impress and fill you, neither of which occurred on this occasion. By the time you order a sandwich, a side, and a drink, you are looking at a $12-$14 tab, a tad high for lunch at a sandwich place in my opinion.

CombatCritic Gives Terrebonne Po’Boys 5 Out Of 10 Bombs … Bombs Are Good In This Case!


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Yelp – “Elite ’14/’15”

TripAdvisor – “Top Contributor” 

Tabelog – “Official Judge (Bronze)

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Tabelog Reviewer CombatCritic

View my food journey on Zomato!
 
Title: Oh-Boy, A Po’Boy … “Oy Vey”

Key Words: Terrebonne Po’Boys, Terrebonne, po’boys, po’boy, po-boy, po, boy, sandwich, Cajun, New Orleans, Lawrence, Kansas, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, TripAdvisor

Mystified By BurgerFi’s Small-Fry Burger


BURGERFI

Hot Dogs, American (Traditional), Burgers
918 Massachusetts Street
Lawrence, KS 66044

Phone: (785) 856-0824
Web: BurgerFi.com
Prices: $$$$

VegiFi Burger – $6.95

Reviews I had read were mixed, but having been out of the country since they opened, I had to give them a shot. Here is the low-down …

Pros
 
1) Clean, inviting atmosphere
 
2) Prices seemed reasonable at first glance
 
3) Service was friendly and efficient 
 
4) Burgers, fries, and onion rings tasted great
 
5) Beer special, $2 for a cup of IPA, was a bargain
 
6) Bathrooms were clean


Cons
 
1) $27, not including $4 for the beer, is not exactly cheap for two burgers, a small order of fries and small onion rings
 
2) My $10 burger was ridiculously small, somewhere between a White Castle “Slider” and a McDonald’s double cheeseburger


If you pay $10 for a burger, you should expect to need both hands to eat it. Mine was a one-hander and, other than Whitey One-Bites, the smallest hamburger I have ever seen. Unfortunately, the two cons overshadow the six pros in this case and, therefore …

My $10 Burger
CombatCritic Gives BurgerFi A Middle Of The Road 5 Out Of 10 Bombs … More Bombs Are Better!
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Yelp - "Elite '14/'15"
TripAdvisor - "Top Contributor" 
Tabelog - "Official Judge (Bronze)
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MENU
Title: Mystified By BurgerFi’s Small-Fry Burger

Key Words: BURGERFI, burger, fi, hamburger, french, fry, onion, Massachusetts, street, Mass, Lawrence, Kansas, CombatCritic, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, TripAdvisor

Exceptional Northern Italian Cuisine Plus Moderate Prices Equals A "Decent Value"


Lidia’s Italy
101 W 22nd St
Kansas City, MO 64108
Phone number (816) 221-3722
Website: lidias-kc.com
Prices: $$$$

 
We have been going to Lidia’s since we moved to Kansas City in 2008 and have never been disappointed. Whether ordering ala carte from the menu or enjoying their fabulous Sunday brunch, the food is always consistent and delicious although a bit pricey.
 
Antipasti (appetizers) range from $7.50 to $14.00 and include traditional favorites like “frico” (cheese crisp – $12.50), “cozze” (mussels – $12.00), “arancini” (deep fried risotto balls – $12.00), and “pappa al pomodoro” ( a Tuscan tomato and bread soup – $7.50). The frico, for example, is delicious with crispy cheese (usually a higher-fat hard cheeses like Montasio or Asiago) baked in the oven with various decadent ingredients, having originated in the Friuli region of Italy.
 
Insalate (salads) are normally ordered along with the main course (secondo) when dining in Italy and are not “meal size” as you will find in the United States. At Lidia’s they range from $8.00 to $12.50, but I cannot comment on them as I have never ordered one because, other than the Caprese salad – one of my favorites, you should not come to restaurant like Lidia’s unless you plan on focusing on pasta and meat/seafood dishes, which are quite filling.
 
Ranging from $17.00 (canneloni) to $22.00 (pasta trio), the prices for their “primi” (first courses – pastas) are Lidia’s “Best Value”, especially their “pasta trio” which my wife and I have had on numerous occasions. This “all you can eat” medley of three pastas changes daily and includes three different pastas (fettucine, penne, ravioli, etc.), each with its own sauce (butter and sage, amatriciana, and other favorites). Servers come around with a large plate of each, giving you as much or as little as you desire so you can sample all three before deciding on which one (or three) you want more of. You can add a caesar salad and choice of dessert for an additional $13, but I would not waste my money and recommend enjoying as much pasta as you can instead.
 
The meat and seafood (secondi) dishes are not cheap at $21 for the lemon chicken to $49.50 for the bone-in rib eye steak, but if you like a traditional Italian meal with antipasto, primo and secondo, you will not be disappointed … but you will be bursting at the seams! Secondi at Lidia’s, unlike restaurants in Italy, are accompanied by “contorni” (vegetables and potatoes), making a full meal if you prefer meat and potatoes over pasta. My favorite used to be their “involtini di manzo”, rolled beef scallops with pickle, vegetables and mustard (a Northern Italian recipe), accompanied by mashed potatoes, but it has not been on the menu lately.
 
Their wine list is extensive with nothing under $32 for a bottle (the “Value List” has a nice selection of reds and whites) and ranging up to as high as $495 for a bottle of Lange (2005) Gaja if that is your style. We have ordered from the value list every time we have been there and found the wines quite good and somewhat as the name implies, a “decent” value. They also have a full bar with drinks ranging from $9 to $34.
 
We have not been there for Sunday brunch in several years, but it used to be an excellent value at $29.50. Served buffet style, you can help yourself to a nice selection of antipasti and dolci (desserts), ordering a selection from a wide variety on main courses, including the “Pasta Tasting Menu”, frico, porchetta hash, osso buco, and lasagna Bolognese among others.
 
We have never been there for lunch, but looking at the menu it appears to be a decent value with meal selections reduced by $5 or so compared to the dinner menu and with sandwiches in the $12 to $13 range. 
 
Expect to pay a $100 to $125 for dinner for two, including antipasti and either a primo (pasta) or secondo, a bottle of wine from the value list, and a shared dessert (tip and tax included). We cannot afford to spend that kind of money every time we go out to eat, but for special occasions Lidia’s Italy – Kansas City is a decent value with exceptional food, excellent service, and moderate prices.
 

CombatCritic Gives Lidia’s Italy – Kansas City 7 out of 10 Bombs … More Bombs Are Better!

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Title: Exceptional Northern Italian Cuisine Plus Moderate Prices Equals A “Decent Value”

Key Words: Lidia’s Italy, Kansas City, Kansas, city, Lidia’s, Italy, Lidia, Bastianich, crossroads, Missouri, Italian, pasta, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, TripAdvisor

"Fair" Italian Fare in Historic Parkville


Café Italia
160 English Landing Dr
Parkville, MO 64152
Phone: (816) 584-0607
Prices: $$$$
 
With a shortage of non-chain Italian restaurants in the Northland, Cafe Italia in Parkville did not let us down. The atmosphere is sparse, but modern with a touch of elegance as opposed to their old location on North Oak. The menu was missing one of my favorites from the old location, vitello (veal) saltimbocca. We started with wine, Canyon Road Cabernet ($22/bottle) from the limited wine list. Prices by the glass are reasonable, from $6-$7.50/glass.
 
We ordered a stuffed artichoke, while tasty, and hot, was too “cheesy” and drenched in olive oil. It was a bit disappointing, but my standards are very high because I learned an excellent stuffed artichoke recipe form my grandmother who was born in the Irpino region of Italy. We both had the caesar salad which was excellent, the only problem being the very large (but delicious) croutons that had to be eaten by hand because they were too hard to cut into pieces. My wife, a native Italian, had ravioli con funghi, stuffed with chicken, prosciutto, and capocollo in a mushroom sauce. The taste was excellent, but the pasta was too “al dente” (undercooked). Being Italian, my wife is hard to please when it comes to Italian food, but she enjoyed her meal very much. I had the vitello alla parmigiana which was tasty, but a little tough for “milk-fed veal” which was advertised on the menu. The color and texture seemed more like sliced beef to me, but it was tasty and reasonably priced, veal or beef.
 
The size of the portions were overly generous, so we had to pass on dessert. The owners stopped by to talk and one had family from the same area of Sicily where my wife was born, so they were able to speak in Italian about their shared heritage. Overall, we had a nice meal, the service was very good, and we will return soon to see if any of the problems noted above have been taken care of.
 
CombatCritic Gives Cafe Italia 6 out of 10 Bombs … More Bombs Are Better!
 
 
 
 
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Yelp – “Elite ’14/’15”

TripAdvisor – “Top Contributor” 

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Title: “Fair” Italian Fare in Historic Parkville

 
Key Words: Cafe Italia, cafe, café, Italia, pasta, wine, Parkville, Missouri, MO, Kansas, City, restaurant, Italian, Italy, menu, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, food, definitive, review, Yelp, TripAdvisor

Forget Overpriced Florence Hotels, Rent A "Little Florentine Retreat" For Your Best Value And Comfort


Little Florentine Retreat
Via di Pilastri 36, Firenze, Italia
Web: Airbnb
Prices:  €  € € 

Accommodations: Apartment

Via Pilastri and Chiesa Sant’Ambrogio (Far Right)

We spent two months in Florence, one month in July 2012 and the other this past July (2015), staying in apartments both times. The first apartment was small, but nice in the Santa Croce/Sant’Ambrogio area and the cost a very reasonable $1000 a month or a little over $33 per day. It had a small kitchen and bath, living room, loft (open) bedroom, air conditioning, wireless internet, and a clothes washer.

Living Room

We tried to rent the same apartment this year, but the owner was not cooperative, so we found another place in the same area, our favorite, and are we happy we did!

Main Bedroom

This apartment, just around the corner from the Jewish Temple and down the street from Chiesa and Mercato Sant’Ambrogio, is on the top floor of a historic villa. With no elevator, the 54 steps (no elevator) to the apartment became tedious over the month, particularly with heavy bags and 100 degree temperatures practically every day, so we limited are exits and entries as much as possible. After all, who wants to spend most of the day in an apartment when in one of the most beautiful and culturally abundant cities in the world?

Main Bedroom and Wardrobe


Kitchen

The owner greeted us warmly upon arrival, explaining the intricacies of the small, but very functional two-bedroom apartment. One decent size bedroom with queen size bed and wardrobe and one smaller bedroom with a pullout bed, desk, and chair were all we needed for the two of us and the occasional guest. Entering into the small kitchen-living room area, the bedrooms and bath were readily accessible. The small bathroom has a shower and bidet as well as a skylight providing ample natural light. The bedrooms both have air conditioning, but the kitchen, living room, and bath do not. However, with the bedroom AC units on and doors open, which we used sparingly, the main living area’s temperature was tolerable in the 100 degree heat. The apartment has a TV with limited English language broadcasts, fast (cable optic) wireless internet, a dishwasher and clothes washer. The furniture was modern and functional, and everything necessary to live comfortably (pots, pans, dishes, silverware, toaster, microwave, etc.) was provided.

Entry and Kitchen

The apartment has been renovated inside, but still retains some of the charm of a historic building with exposed wood beams and terra cotta tile roof. The floors were also terra cotta tile. There are windows in each room, medium sized in the main bedroom and living room with views of the pallazzo across the street and a small window with no view in the smaller bedroom. The windows have wooden shutters which can be closed to provide darkness for those who may be sensitive to light when sleeping.

There are two supermarkets (Conad and Carrefour) within a five minute walk as well as shops, restaurants, bars, hardware stores or pretty much anything else you could find elsewhere in Italy. Santa Croce is a ten minute walk, and the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, and the train station are just fifteen to 20 minutes away by foot. The best pizzeria in Florence, Il Pizzaiuolo, is close by, serving delicious Neopolitan-style pizza at fairly reasonable prices. Mercato Sant’Ambrogio (open 7:30am – 2:30 pm Monday thru Saturday) is also a short stroll away where you can buy clothing, shoes, housewares, fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, meat, salami, cheese, bread or anything else you might need in the kitchen. They also have a small restaurant where you can get an inexpensive lunch for less than €10 per person. It is much smaller than the touristy Mercato San Lorenzo (a ten minute walk away), but has everything you need, is frequented mostly by locals, and has better prices.

Bathroom


The owner has recently listed the apartment on Airbnb at $106 per night, but if you plan on staying for a length of time, contact the owner to see about getting a reduced rate. As I mentioned earlier, we paid $1100 for the month of July, about 1/3 of the published daily rate, so it is worth a try!

Bedroom 2


At $106 per night, you may find better values in Florence ($75-$80 per night would probably be a more appropriate price), but for the $1100 per month that we paid, this was an exceptional value and I highly recommend it for long-term stays.

 
CombatCritic gives  8 Bombs Out of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!






Read more reviews of Florence restaurants, attractions and day trips as well as ways to save money in CombatCritic’s “Definitive Florence (Italy)” …

Wood Beam and Terra Cotta Celing
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Main Entry


Read Reviews By CombatCritic:
Yelp – “Elite ’14/’15”
TripAdvisor – “Top Contributor” – Tabelog – “Official Judge (Bronze)
Zomato – “Super Foodie”
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Title: Forget Overpriced Florence Hotels, Rent A “Little Florentine Retreat” For Your Best Value And Comfort

Key Words: Florentine, retreat, apartment, hotel, accommodation, Pilastri, Santa Croce, mercato, Sant’Ambrogio, Duomo, restaurant, Airbnb, Italy, Florence, Firenze, travel, value, definitive, review, guide, 

Il Pizzaiuolo: This "Pizza Maker" Does It The Traditional, Neopolitan Way … Delicioso!


Il Pizzaiuolo
Via dei Macci 113R
50122 Florence, Italy
Near Mercato San’Ambrogio
Phone: +39 055 241171
 

I wrote an extensive review in 2012 on Il Pizzaiuolo, so I will not bore you with too many details or flowery prose. Leave it to say that in parts of Italy, Rome and northward, good pizza is hard to come by. Most visitors do not realize that this is authentic pizza napoletana (not “Napolean”, he was the squirt of a French dictator), equaling some of the best pizzerias in Naples (Napoli), the home of pizza and the best in the world.

Just around the corner from the wonderful Mercato Sant’Ambrogio and a five minute walk from Santa Croce, Il Pizzaiuolo has only around 15 tables, so the place is small and hard to find a seat after 8pm. Beside pizza, they have starters, pasta, meat, and fish dishes, but pizza is their specialty. On this visit, one of many in the past, we decided to try their frittura (€8 – fried things), including arancini di riso (rice balls), croquette di patate (potato corquettes), and montanare (fried pizza dough with a little tomato sauce). Their were just two of each (six pieces total) and a disappointment compared to what you would get in a Naples pizzeria for the same price (€8 gets you 25 pieces of the same). They were good, but there should have been more or it should have been much cheaper (€3 to €4).
I had a Neapolitan classic, pizza con salsiccia e friarielli (fior di latte cheese, sausage, and broccoli rabe sauteed in olive oil and garlic – €10) and it was wonderful. My wife’s pizza quattro formaggio (four cheeses – €8) was also excellent with loads of mozzarella, gorgonzola, ricotta, and provola cheese. As is usual in pizza napoletana, the dough was thin and chewy, only crisp enough to hold the toppings without getting soggy and with little splotches of burnt crust from the fiery wood-fired oven. Perfetto!
 

My only complaints, other than the women’s toilet being rather filthy on this visit (my wife told me, I did not see for myself) are the fact that you can only get wine by the glass or bottle, no liters or half-liters and that the prices are a little steep compared to Naples, but those are small discrepancies when you are eating un’oltima pizza napoletana (excellent Neapolitan pizza) in Northern Italy!

CombatCritic Il Pizzaiuolo 8 Out Of 10 Bombs … Bombs Are Good!

 

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Title: Il Pizzaiuolo: This “Pizza Maker” Does It The Traditional, Neopolitan Way … Delicioso!


Key Words: Il Pizzaiuolo, pizzaiuolo, pizza, pizzeria, Naples, napoletana, Neopolitan, Florence, Italy, Firenze, restaurant, ristorante, menu, Sant’Ambrogio, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, review, guide

Reliable, Affordable, Professional Lawrence (Kansas) To Kansas City Airport Shuttle


SDM Transportation 
P.O. Box 3783 
Lawrence,  KS   66046
Email: reservation@sdmtransportationks.com
Web: sdmtransportationks.com
Phone: 785-979-2428
Fax: 785-371-4024

Hours: Hours based on availability, primarily evening, nights, early mornings, weekends, holidays and all day Thursday services.

 
I found SDM Transportation on a University of Kansas (KU) Questions and Answers page when my friend bailed on a promised ride home from the airport a week before my arrival. They had several options available, but arriving late at night (midnight) left me few options except for a dedicated vehicle. The few I contacted wanted $100 to $125 for a midnight ride from Kansas City International Airport to Lawrence, Kansas. Shannon, SDM’s owner and sole driver, came back with a very fair quote of $65. Sold!
 
Shannon was very professional and responsive from the start, quickly confirming availability and pricing, then sending me a reservation confirmation in an email. On the day of my arrival, he even sent me a photo of the vehicle and information about where we would meet, leaving nothing to chance.
 
When I arrived, he was outside the arrivals baggage claim doors as promised, helping me to put my bags in the car even though he is disabled with Cerebral Palsy (his disability does not effect his driving, he is an excellent and very safe driver). Shannon gave me a brief overview of his business to put me at ease and we spent the next 50 minutes chatting as we made our way to Lawrence. He helped me with my bags when we arrived and he even waited until I found my keys and opened the front door before leaving.
 
If you want reliable, friendly, professional, and cost-effective transportation to and from Kansas City Airport and surrounds, then Shannon should be your first choice. The only drawbacks being his schedule and the size of the vehicle. He works full-time at another job and has no other employees, so his availability is limited to Thursdays and nights only. The vehicle, a Hyundai hybrid, is large, new, and comfortable, but it has a rather small trunk and seats four comfortably, making it a challenge to fit more than two riders and a bag or two each in the car. I also recommend that you contact him as early as possible if you want to ensure that he is available.
 
CombatCritic Gives SDM Transportation 9 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!
 
 



Title: Reliable, Affordable, Professional Lawrence (Kansas) To Kansas City Airport Shuttle

Key Words: SDM Transportation, SDM, transportation, Lawrence, Kansas, airport, MCI, Kansas City, international, shuttle, Shannon, McCoy, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, food, definitive, review

* Photos courtesy of SDMTransportationKS.com

Super Value, Nice Variety In A Beach Town With Few Dining Options


Da Franco
Restaurant and Pizzeria
Via Elea 213
84046 Marina, Italy
Phone: +39 0974 972979
Prices: $$$$
 
For a tourist/beach town, Ascea is noticeably lacking in a selection of decent restaurants, particularly on “the Corso” or main street. We went to Pizzeria and Ristorante Da Franco with a friend who lives in Ascea. The restaurant is at the far end of Corso from the town center and they have a reasonable €15 menu del giorno (tourist menu; primo, secondo, contorno, coperto, servizio) for dinner. It is quite big inside, but being a nice evening we sat on the small terrace in front on the street. The service was very attentive and good. 
 
I went with the menu del giorno and a primo of penne boscaiola (meat, mushrooms, and peas) with scallopina ai funghi (meat scallops in mushroom sauce) as my secondo and patatine (french fries) for a contorno. The boscaiola was creamy, earthy and robust, the scallopine light and savory, and the fries crispy and hot. An excellent meal at just €15.
 
My wife and her friend had pizza which was as good as expected in Southern Italy, particularly anywhere within 100 miles of Naples. The crusts thin, yet sturdy enough to hold the toppings without getting soggy with just the right amount of tomato and other ingredients, not too many and not too few.
 
Da Franco was quite a good value in a beach town with remarkably few options, particularly for those on a budget and is recommended when visiting Ascea.
 
CombatCritic Gives Da Franco 8 Bombs Out Of 10 … Bombs Are Good!
 
 
 
 
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Title: Super Value, Nice Variety In A Beach Town With Few Dining Options

 
Key Words: Da Franco, franco, Ascea, restaurant, ristorante, pizzeria, pizza, menu del giorno, menu, giorno, review, travel, value, Campania, Italy, Italian, pasta, CombatCritic, TravelValue
 

The “Value” Leader In Travel … Follow Me To TravelValue!


C.T. Sorrentino, aka CombatCritic, is a world traveler, having visited 41 countries and counting. An amateur chef, he studied for 3 years in Pozzuoli, Italy and is a published author of reviews, editorials, articles, a popular blog, and is the producer of a successful YouTube channel. 

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CombatCritic is Yelp ELITE ’14 and ’15, TripAdvisor “TOP CONTRIBUTOR”, Booking.com “GENIUS” and Foursquare “INSIDER”

Title: The “Value” Leader In Travel … Follow Me To TravelValue!

Key Words: YouTube, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, follow, me, world, destination, restaurant, hotel, review, reviews, menu, food, critic, Italy, India, Europe, Asia, 

A Wonderful Pasta Factory Tour In A Historic Villa Seized By The Nazis During WWII


Pastificio Chelucci
Food Tours, Pasta Factory
Via di Valente, 7
51100 Pistoia, Italy
Phone: +39 0573 42011
Prices: € € € € 
 
 
Hand-crafted pasta since 1912, the owner Giuseppe has been in the family business since 1950, is extremely friendly and informative, and made us feel welcome for our free, private tour.
 
During World War II, the Nazis took over the building, a villa, making it their headquarters in 1942. The family had to walk for two days to Florence while the Germans occupied their home. Once the Nazis fled from Allied Forces in December 1942, they returned home to Pistoia and were the first pastificio (pasta factory) of 36 in the area to resume operations after the war. They are the only remaining pastificio of the original 36 in Pistoia.
 
 
The factory has been automated since 1950, but the pastas are still dried the old fashion way and hand packed. In fact, Giuseppe’s sweet 94-year-old mother Dina still processes and packs the maccheroni by hand from time to time. The same machine from 1950 is still being used today. They have numerous varieties of pasta, including their signature pastas like “Quasimodi”, made with only Tuscan flour from the Pisa area and their secret ingredient, pure local spring water. They recently unveiled a pasta in the shape of Pinocchio characters called “Le Bugie” (“the lies”), the result of a scholarship competition in the local schools.
 
 
The factory employs only six people, but they produce a wide variety of pastas using old family recipes and processes. The small river behind the factory once spun the turbines beneath the building which allowed them to resume operations so quickly after the war. Special drying units maintain constant temperatures between 32 and 35 degrees Celsius (90-95 Fahrenheit), ensuring that the pasta does not break, reducing waste, and resulting in quality products. Pastas take from 24 hours to six days to dry depending on the shape (versus two hours for mass produced brands).
 
 
The bronze pasta forms used to give the pastas their various shapes result in a special consistency not found in mass produced brands (De Cecco, Barilla). Their pastas take much less time to cook (5 minutes versus 12-15 minutes for comparable mass produced pasta) because the pasta from the brass forms allow the boiling water to saturate the pasta instead of cooking it from the outside. The water they are boiled in also has much more starch then that of the mass produced brands, allowing the water to be used to better thicken sauces before serving.
 
The valley in which the villa sits is quiet, green, lush, and much cooler than smoldering Florence, so it was a breath of fresh air, literally, after a month in 100 degree Florence and its wall-to-wall tourists. The temperature and humidity in the protected valley setting creates the perfect environment for making top-quality pastas. Giuseppe is working on adding a small gift shop and cafe, culinary demonstrations, and possibly pasta making and cooking classes in the near future, but in the meantime a tour of their operation is a must if visiting Tuscany (I have also included it in my article: Top 19 FREE THINGS TO DO In And Around Florence) and tell him CombatCritic sent you!
 
CombatCritic Gives Pastaficio Chelucci Tour The Coveted 10 Bombs Out Of 10 … IT’S THE BOMB … More Bombs Are Better!
 
 
 
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Title: A Wonderful Pasta Factory Tour In A Historic Villa Seized By The Nazis During WWII
 
Key Words: Pastificio Chelucci, pastificio, Giuseppe, Chelucci, Pistoia, Florence, Firenze, Italy, Toscana, Tuscany, pasta, factory, tour, travel, value, review, guide, Yelp, TripAdvisor

Caffetteria delle Oblate: It’s The Bomb!


You will not find an air conditioned bar with better prices and a better view in Florence!

Located on the top floor of the Bilblioteca Oblate (Library), kitty-corner from the entrance, you will find this small caffetteria with cheap drinks and snacks. Catering to the many students hanging around outside, you pay a little more to sit inside, but it is well worth it.

We had a caffé macchiato, bottle of water, and a peach iced tea, coming to just €4.50, the price of a tea at most places with a view like this.

The inside is simple with Formica-topped tables, colorful 80s-style chairs, and a wooden plank floor, but the view of the Duomo’s dome is imposing and spectacular.

A great place to rest and have an inexpensive snack after a day of walking around Florence …

CombatCritic Gives Caffetteria delle Oblate 9 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!  

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MENU

Title: Caffetteria delle Oblate: It’s The Bomb!

Key Words: caffetteria delle Oblate, caffetteria, Oblate, caffé, coffee, snacks, Duomo, view, cheap, value, travel, menu, water, library, Biblioteca 

Garbage … I Will Never Waste My Money On Apple Products Again


Review: Apple 60W MagSafe Power Adapter (for MacBook and 13‐inch MacBook Pro)

If you like to travel as much as I do, a computer is a necessity in your home away from home and I take mine wherever in the world I go. Having heard wonderful things, propaganda, about Apple products, I took the leap less than two years ago by purchasing a Macbook Pro, then an iPhone 5C. What a mistake!

Just shy of warranty expiration, my Mac’s OS went TANGO UNIFORM (military speak for hard‐broke), causing me to spend countless hours on the phone with support, wiping my hard drive clean, reinstalling the OS, and recovering everything from backup … several times. Then my 6 month old iPhone died while on vacation in Puerto Rico, stranding us in an unfamiliar area while using Google Maps to navigate the island, losing my ability to take vacation photos/video and unable to contact relatives back home over the holidays.

Most recently, my MagSafe power adapter’s (plastic) “L” connector head broke off. After removing it with a pair of pliers, I super‐glued it back on, allowing me to charge my computer for a couple weeks, but now it will not charge at all. Having paid close to $3500 for three Apple products (including my wife’s computer), I would expect better quality, but what should I expect from overpriced products Made in China? I was shocked to see that Apple wants $79 for a replacement MagSafe adapter. Where else would you pay $80 for a power cord other than Apple? Nowhere! Based on the reviews this product has garnered, it is a piece of $80 junk just like the rest of Apple’s products, I can see that my problem is fairly common. I will buy a new adapter from another supplier for just $30 and I will never buy another Apple product again.

CombatCritic Gives Apple, Inc. and their MagSafe 60W Power Adapter A Dismal 1 Bomb Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!

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Title: Garbage … I Will Never Waste My Money On Apple Products Again

Key Words: Apple, macbook, pro, MagSafe, power, adapter, 60W, MacIntosh, computer, iPhone, 5C, Mac, phone, product, broken, review, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, tech

Do You Have Tons Of Photos? DO NOT BUY The WD My Cloud 6TB Personal Cloud


Do youwdMyCloud need cloud storage for all of your travel photos? I do! Do you not want to pay the ridiculous monthly or annual fees for years on end for Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, or Amazon Cloud?  I know I do not! The best and most cost-effective alternative is a “personal cloud”, a wireless external hard drive (or drives) connected to your home wireless network with tons of storage space (up to several terabytes – TB – 1TB = 1,000 megabytes) that you can access either at home with your computer (or mobile device) or remotely anywhere in the world. 

After my old personal cloud failed, a 4 TB Western Digital (WD) MyBookLiveDuo, I had to find a replacement, so I decided to give WD one more chance only because of the decent price and good reviews on their new My Cloud products. I purchased a WD My Cloud 6TB Personal Cloud Storage device on Amazon for $269.99 plus tax, hoping that it would “connect effortlessly” to my network as advertised.

The WD MyCloud would not connect to my network when it arrived and after spending an additional 3 hours on the phone with tech support, 5 total, they could not help me and told me to return it to Amazon.  The only reason I chose Western Digital again after having two other products that failed, a 1TB MyPassport and a 4TB MyBookLive Duo, was because of the dearth of available products out there and the poor reviews on Seagate products. Never again WD!

CombatCritic Gives WD My Cloud 6TB Personal Cloud Storage 0 Bombs Out Of 10 … Can’t Get Any Lower Than That … And A Spot On CombatCritic’s Wall Of Shame 

Less Than …. 

 

WallOfShame

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Title:  Do You Have Tons Of Photos? DO NOT BUY  The WD My Cloud 6TB Personal Cloud Storage Device

Key Words: WD My Cloud 6TB Personal Cloud Storage, WD, My Cloud, 6TB, Personal, Cloud, Storage, NAS, WDBCTL0060HWT-NESN, review, Western Digital, western, digital, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, tech, technology, photo

Cottage … Maybe, Swiss … Not, But A Fair Hotel Value


Hill Top Swiss Cottage
Swiss Cottage Complex
Rishikesh, India
Prices: $$$$$
 
View of Ganges River Valley From Room
Hilltop Swiss Cottage sits in its own small self-contained village atop the hills of the High Bank of Rishikesh’s Tapovan area and a little over 1 kilometer from Laxman (Lacksman) Jhula (bridge), the northern most bridge over the Ganges (Ganga) River in town. The “Swiss Cottage” area has seven or eight hotels and guest houses, an equal number of restaurants (Raasta and Nirvana Cafés, Swiss Garden, and Oasis to name a few), a couple of small markets, a laundry, travel agancies, yoga studios, and massage parlors, so you never even have to leave the hill if you desire. It is a relatively quiet area compared to town, but is an easy walk to restaurants, the river, or numerous ashrams and other attractions.
There are cheaper options even within the Swiss Cottage compound (200 rupees/$3.20 per night and up), but I had a nice, large room with a view of the river valley below, flat screen TV with cable (no CNN or BBC), relatively fast Wi-Fi, and a bath with Western toilet, tub, and a great shower with plenty of hot water for 800 rupees ($13) per night.
The staff are not overly friendly and I got the “evil eye” from numerous locals during my stay, but otherwise I would say westerners are well “tolerated”, unless you are an attractive female in which case you are given a great deal of (unwanted) attention.
Their restaurant, The Oasis, was empty every time I walked by and other than a pot of coffee and an omelet my first morning I steared clear because the place was absolutely freezing. There were also a couple of characters there, one Dutch (I believe) and the other appeared to be from the Middle East, that were odd to say the least. The Dutch guy tried to whistle tunes with no melody and went off on a couple of Indian men for no apparent reason and the other guy kept whispering something to me I could not undertsand while looking at me like he wanted to slit my throat. Unnerving, so I ate breakfast at Raasta Café from that point forward.
They have their own yoga studio and meditation hall, but when I stopped by at the appointed times on my first morning, I had apparently awoken the instructor who appeared at the door disheveled from sleep and not ready for a class as advertized. Nothing opens before 8am in the compound, so if you are an early riser be prepared to keep yourself occupied until then. The room did have a small fridge and a boiler (kettle) for hot water, so you can buy some coffee, tea, milk, or soft drinks to have in the room (no alcohol because Rishikesh is a “dry” town).
Being December and in the foothills, Rishikesh is chilly when the sun goes down and the room (and everywhere else for that matter, because India apprently has not figured out central heat yet) was freezing. When I booked the room on Booking.com I clearly saw “heater” advertized in the room, but when I arrived there was none to be found. I asked the manager and he told me that I had reserved the “standard” room without  heat, but when I checked my reservation again I was in-fact correct and he quickly brought me a heater, a small space heater that barely kept the room warm.
CombatCritic Gives Hill Top Swiss Cottage 6 Bombs Out Of 10 … Bombs Are Good!
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Title: Cottage Maybe, Swiss It Is Not, But A Decent Hotel Value

Key Words: Hill Top Swiss Cottage, hilltop, Swiss, cottage, Tapovan, Laxman Jhula, laxman, lacksman, jhula, jhula, Rishikesh, India, hotel, review, Raasta, Nirvana, CombatCritic, TravelValue, YouTube, Facebook