HOW ONE ITALIAN MAN CHANGED HOW I EAT FOREVER

So it may be getting a little redundant to say, but I love to eat. I believe that eating is the gateway to the culture of a city/country/geographical area. When I heard about a newer website called EatWith, I was quite intrigued.

The Grand Canal in Venice

The Grand Canal in Venice

First, I’ll tell you a bit about how it works (in case this is as new to you as it was to me). Think about this like an Uber or Airbnb for meals. You can search by city and date to find what dinner parties are being hosted during a specific time. Then you pick a local to join in their home as they cook an authentic meal for you, and sometimes even involve you in the cooking process.

What I love more than the food (yeesh…that hurt to say) is the company. The groups range in size from around five people to over twenty. You can see who is attending in advance so that you know who is coming from where, and so that you know that you aren’t the only one booked for what you expected to be a large group dinner.

To really paint a picture of how incredible this site is, I will share a bit about my experience with EatWith.

I was planning my stay in Venice, which also happened to be my first solo leg of my trip. I hadn’t traveled abroad alone before and I wasn’t exactly sure how confident I would be dining alone. I thought that by booking a group dinner, I could create the feeling that I was eating among friends (spoiler alert: I was right).

I have to admit, I checked out the list of who was attending and decided that I was comfortable knowing that folks from L.A., Atlanta, and Nashville would be among the group that was dining together. Perfect!

Piazza San Marco during the day

Piazza San Marco during the day

I arrived to the meeting spot early…maybe just because I was nervous. Truth be told, I kind of felt like I was going on a date with a group. Would it be awkward? Would the food be bad? Would the house be clean? After I gulped down a glass of wine at a nearby café, I headed towards a group that appeared to be looking at their phones. I skeptically watched to see if they were confirming the location. Oh…nope…they left. Okay…onto the next group. They were muttering the name hosts name (Massimo) and speaking in English. I had found my group! When I approached, they jovially welcomed me into the huddle that was waiting for Massimo.

Then Massimo appeared. What a character! This guy was made for hosting and made us feel at ease following him over a bridge (of course) and into the dark side alleys of Venice. We arrived at his home and he stepped back from the door as to wait for a curtain to unveil a masterpiece. The doors opened to the courtyard, and WOW...okay…so I teared up a little. There were two long tables covered in different pieces of ornate china, a garland draped through the oleander trees that created the feeling of a party, and candelabras that illuminated the space just enough to create an intimate world that felt miles away from the city that we just walked through.

The courtyard of Massimo's home

The courtyard of Massimo's home

The prosecco was popped and we all joined in conversation and compliments over Massimo’s beautiful setting. His assistant (and neighbor), Max, was on hand to help all the logistics go smoothly. It was truly a recipe for a perfect evening.

Then the food was served. We started with fried blue fish (don’t get spooked if you don’t like seafood, because you can always ask the host if dietary preferences can be honored), sardines, and a salad of home-grown tomatoes and arugula. Next was seafood risotto, and then finally a full place of mussels with fresh bread to soak up the sauce. No one left hungry (or underwhelmed).

Some of the group ended up heading home, but the rest of us enjoyed local wine and conversation late into the evening. It was when the candle wicks almost disappeared that a few of us decided to go for a walk and one last drink. We shared stories of our travels, talked about life and work, and relished over the meal that we had just had.

This description may seem “flowery” or romanticized, but I can assure you that it was every bit as spectacular as I’ve written. Not only have I already reviewed the host and reached out to the other guests, but I have also already booked my next meal with EatWith. I can’t wait to see (and taste) what the next meal has in store!