The holiday season is near and I have fond memories of Italian dinners.  Did I forget to mention my Sicilian roots?  How could I?!  The Italian side of my family did big dinners for holidays with all of the works.  You know, the meat and potatoes but with the mid-western Italian twist.  Yes-mid-western Italians!  We had the pasta too, of course.

When I met my husband, the Italian dinners got even bigger.  I lived in South New Jersey where his huge Italian family would gather even more often, with even more food!  I became even more familiar with Italian holiday meals.  They were big and elaborate with an explosion of flavors and delicious aromas.  We have moved to the West Coast, but believe me, they’re still going strong!

It's about to go down!
It’s about to go down!

This, my friends is the closest I’ve gotten to authentic Italian.  It was authentic in every way, cooked with that Italian love, by Italian cooks with authentic Italian traditions.

I have yet to make my way to Italy (somehow I managed to do India, Thailand and Africa first)!  Though, somehow I found more of these tantalizing Italian dishes in…Mexico?  Yup.  You didn’t think I would go there, did you?  I’m totally confessing that I found the most delicious Italian food in Mexico and yet I have not been to Italy.

There’s no way I can keep this to myself.  The food was so divine, I would fly back just for dinner tonight.  My love for holiday gatherings and the meals that accompany, helped me to remember this restaurant in Mexico: Monte Verde Pizzeria Restaurante.

Monte Verde! We found it!
Monte Verde! We found it!

My husband Joe and I really indulged in the tortillas for over a week and were ready for a change.  We had made a trek to the Palenque in the south of Mexico, and were at a total loss when we went on one of our food missions.

Thank goodness our usual strategy totally worked.  We sought out a yoga studio and asked the owner where to eat.  She directed us to Monte Verde and we took her advice with high hopes.

We arrived to a little warm, cozy house and were certainly surprised.  It felt a bit like Chef Vola’s in South Jersey. If you check out their official website, you’ll get an idea of how they roll.  😉

our jungle view
our jungle view

Great first impression for us.  Guests of the restaurant actually have to walk through the kitchen to get to the dining area.  The dining area was charming; there were two options.  Either inside in a very small area next to the kitchen or on a porch overlooking the jungle with live music.  What made the setting even more divine was the weather.  We’d been sweltering in Mexico for much too long, but this day that we arrived to Monte Verde it was cloudy and sprinkling.  The drops of rain were inconsistent, so we opted to sit on the porch. The cool breeze was absolute perfection.

We ordered a pizza and pasta just because.  I added some veggies and a salad to keep myself from feeling too naughty.  The salad was fresh and crunchy and the veggies were grilled to perfection.  But let’s be honest, the pizza and pasta were to die for.

monte verde veggies

It’s not too often that we indulge in such foods, but this was by the far the most opportune moment.  The dough of the pizza was a consistency that I’d never experienced.  We had to inquire before we finished the meal, and found the secret of Monte Verde.

The owner was born and raised in Italy.  She purchased most of her ingredients from Italy and from the one grocery store in Palenque that had products imported from Italy.  She chooses each product very carefully and is dead serious about quality control.  We could tell. We could taste it. We ate the entire meal with all of our senses engaged, ooo-ing and ahh-ing and mmm-ing with our mouths full.  We ate slow and breathed deep to savor every morsel. Gotta love that Mediterranean food!  Joe and I were floating on a big crunchy pizza pie in the sky…

BEST I've ever had...
BEST I’ve ever had…

No, really, it was absolutely orgasmic cuisine.  It was so damn good that I had to tell you about it.  If you’re ever in Palenque-you know, you should be sometime soon, right?

The point is, try something new!  Do you have nostalgia for those traditional holiday meals?  Or do you just long for grandma’s famous recipe?  It’s time to seek out a restaurant to bring those fond memories to life!

Yes, I totally advocate getting in the kitchen.  Though, for tonight-or sometime very very soon, go on a mission with your lover and try something new, you might just be pleasantly surprised.


Have you ever found a delicious gem in the middle of nowhere?  Is your favorite restaurant somewhere totally unsuspecting?  Tell us about it in the comments section below, because Joe and I love to try it all!