The thing that makes me sad about travel is that, once I return home, I can’t have those same experiences. I’ll never find a French baguette in the US that rivals that which I found at even the most out-of-the-way bakeries in France. My pesto, though pretty darn good, will never be as magical as the one I made in Genoa. The light will never be as golden in the evening as it is in Provence. And yet I constantly seek pockets of place and experience that give me at least a taste of those memories.

A Little Dolce Vita

Whenever I go to Italy, I promise myself I’ll bring back a little of that dolce far niente — that pleasant idleness when you have nothing more important to do than savor a mug of macchiato. It’s challenging simply because the pace of life moves faster here at home. Of course, I also have responsibilities I didn’t have while spending hours in coffee shops in Lucca and Venezia!

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But I’m happy to report that I’ve found a close substitute to that memory I have of laughing over a tiny cup of coffee, maybe with a crumbly cornetto mandorla: Pappalecco. This family-run chain of coffee shops and pizzerias in San Diego calls itself “Your Tuscan Home,” and having just gotten back from Tuscany, I’d say it’s the closest thing you can get without the plane ticket.

Despite the fact that I have a Starbucks mere feet from my house, as well as a few other options for coffee in my Kensington neighborhood, Pappalecco offers something more. For one, the staff is amazing. They always belt out a “Ciao, bella!” when I enter (which has cause severe confusion for a language lover like me. Immediately I start speaking Italian, only to discover that most of the staff is Mexican or Brazilian, and, in fact, knows very little Italian.). It’s become my local, where I meet Jen each week while her daughter is in dance class, or where Debbie, my friend who hiked with me in the Dolomites, will meet me to reminisce over our trip.

Pizza + Wine = Better Than Pizza + Beer?

Recently, my Pappalecco location hosted its first ever wine and pizza tasting event. It sold out quickly. Forty of us, most from the neighborhood, flocked around tables to hear Piergiorgio from Famiglia Castellani in Tuscany talk about his wines, and Chef Bucci explained why wine (especially Italian!) was a better accompaniment to pizza than the traditional beer. Having recently switched allegiance from wine to beer, I was curious. He said it was like eating bread with your pizza: just more yeast on top of yeast! Good point, and one I cheered with a sip of the delicious chianti.

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It’s places like this that make me less wistful when I’m not traveling. They keep me in the spirit of another culture (and the authentic food doesn’t hurt, either!), and get me planning my next trip.