With apologies to the writer whose name I forget but whose quote has stayed with me, one of the best things about traveling and then staying put for at least a little while in a new place is getting to know the neighbourhood.
Let me periodically invite you to small slices of my neighbourhood here in the Oud-Zuid area of Amsterdam. In this case, for slices of sublime pizza and bowls of perfecto pasta at Vino di Pino.
About 50 steps from my door, in a bustling square called Hoofddorpplein (no, I haven't already been into the wine when typing that name), this Italian wine store serves up food to go, along with specialty wines and oils. And for 5 Euros for pasta and less than 10 Euros for pizza (the real Italian kind), I happily make those 50 steps a few times a week.
The main charm of the place is Pino himself, a forty-something Italian who makes you feel as though you've entered his house. He speaks (at last count) five languages, perfect for this cosmopolitan city. He knows details of each person's life, whether he's inquiring about a sick pet or helping someone network in his old stomping grounds of southern Spain. Everybody who walks in there starts smiling right away and leaves the same way.
Pino on the barrel
More often than not while you wait, you find yourself with a slice or a glass in your hand, totalmente gratuito. I even hosted a few friends for a birthday party recently, and when we went to pick up the food, the cork hit the ceiling and the prosecco was in our hands in seconds.
In a very real sense and without knowing it fully when I made the decision to embark on a life-changing trip, this is a big reason why I came to Europe - for people and places that are authentic, charming, and warm, for that neighbourhood feeling so absent in many other parts of the world.