July 14th, 2004

Japanese boxes on wheels.

I find I have a strange weakness for the Japanese "box on wheels" car concept. For example, I actually like the way a Honda Element looks.

One morning back in April, as I was walking from my hotel to the Minowabashi terminus of Tokyo's last streetcar line, the Toden Arakawa Line, I saw one of these stopped at a traffic light:

a Nissan Cube

I stared at the thing for so long that the driver gave me an "and what is your problem?" look back, but I really wanted to know what kind of car it was.

It was a Nissan Cube.

Car and Driver included it in its August 2003 article Ten Japanese Cars You Can't Have. Since the article came out, there's been some talk that the Cube may be available in North America in 2007.

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2007 is a longish time to wait, given that my Corolla has 245k on the clock, so I may have to settle for a Scion xB instead.

bloodstones and I saw one near City Hall in Manhattan recently. It's based on the Toyota bB.

a Scion xB, somewhere in San Francisco, I think

Trattoria Zà Zà

When I went to visit KJ in Florence last June (2003), she decided (and I agreed) that one of our projects would be to visit as many of her favorite restaurants in town as we possibly could. However, the number of places to write up soon overwhelmed my ability to keep up, and I never got to enter the info into LiveJournal.

Recently, while emptying my parents' place of belongings, I found the cache of menus, business cards, and matchbooks which I had carefully put somewhere safe. Unfortunately, I lost the notebook that detailed what I ate at all of these places, so I can only reconstruct from memory. In the case of Trattoria Zà Zà, and some of the other places in Florence, Pisa, and Lucca, KJ and I together may be able to come up with more information than either of us alone. For now, I'll just be posting what I can remember.

Trattoria Zà Zà
Piazza del Mercato Centrale, 26r
(a couple of blocks northwest of the Duomo)
Firenze, Italia
tel: +39.55.215411
fax: +39.55.210756
email: info@trattoriazaza.it
M-Sa: 1100-late (around 2200 or so)
closed Su

Since 1977, Trattoria Zà Zà has been serving Tuscan specialties at moderate prices from its prime location on the Piazza del Mercado Centrale. In summer, the trattoria invades the Piazza itself with dozens of tables to accomodate the throngs of tourists who dine here. This is not an unknown hideaway. Then again, nothing in the city center of Florence could possibly be unknown. Nonetheless, the food is still excellent, and relatively good value for money. € 25 per person should find you quite well fed (i.e., both primi and secondi). The menu is extensive, with many local specialties. Memory fails me exactly--it was over a year ago--but I seem to remember a creamy mushroom pasta and an excellent steak. There is a solid wine list, of course, and this could easily drive up the price of your meal. On the other hand, we had nothing but bottles of fizzy mineral water, which was no problem at all.

Particularly considering the long lines for a table in the evenings, service is efficient and professional. The servers have too many tables for them to stop and chat, but service never degenerates to brusqueness. One does hear a lot of English at neighboring tables, which turns out to be an advantage as the staff are pretty good at dealing with non-Italian speakers. In our case, KJ was pleased to practice her Italian.

We were willing to take a table inside, which reduced our wait considerably. It's dark but atmospheric, with exposed brick and stone. Dining outside can be pleasant but in the evenings I don't remember there being that much to see in the piazza.

There's a 24 hour parking garage directly across the piazza. I'm sure it costs a pretty penny, but why were you driving into central Florence, anyway?