Fabio Viviani, the chef-owner of two Italian restaurants in California and the new Siena Tavern in Chicago, makes Amsterdam his layover stop whenever he travels through Europe. The Florence native has outgrown his youthful curiosity about the city’s red-light district and “coffee shops,” and now seeks out off-the-beaten-path eateries that serve no-frills dishes to rooms full of locals. Here are some of Viviani’s favorite places to eat and unwind.

“For beer that has character, head to this microbrewery. It’s located in a former bathhouse with a windmill next to the building, and you can tour the brewery Friday through Sunday for $5.75, including a beer. The brewers look as if they’ve been doing this their entire life, and they will talk you through the brewing process for different beer styles. They make seven beers, plus three seasonal options. I like their Plzeň, which is a hoppy pilsner-inspired ale. Attached to the brewery is a small pub where you can sample the beers and get tasty snacks such as local sausages.” Funenkade 7, 31/(0) 20-622-8325, brouwerijhetij.nl

cheese michael hoeweler
“The cheese shop has been a culinary institution for more than 100 years. You’ll find an enormous selection of Dutch varieties with indecipherable names; luckily, the shop owners let you taste them. In my carry-on bag, I smuggled home a wine-aged French cheese, the famous Boerenkaas Gouda (a caramel-tasting cheese made from unpasteurized cow’s milk), and another farmstead Gouda with notes of cloves and spices.” Rozengracht 32, 31/(0) 20-624-4093, wegewijs.nl

“I had to stop by Vondelpark to stage a rematch of the Netherlands versus Italy Euro Cup game that took place in 2008. The Dutch beat us for the first time in 30 years, and I am still after revenge. Our team of five Italian guys took on four Dutch players, and we beat the crap out of them. Besides soccer fields, the 120-acre park has an open-air theater that shows music, dance, and plays from June through August. In summer, the park is also packed with people picnicking, roller-skating, and, of course, smoking.” Bounded by Overtoom, Van Baerlestraat, De Lairessestraat, and Amstelveenseweg

pickles michael hoeweler“You cannot leave Amsterdam without eating herring. Kromhout is a great spot to try it with pickles. The fish has a long history in Dutch culture. It’s a bit of a funky-tasting fish, but that’s why you top it with pickles and onions. If you’re in Amsterdam between May and July, you are in luck. That’s when the new catch is at herring stands and restaurants. The meat of the fish will taste sweeter because it’s so fresh.” On the corner of Singel and Raadhuisstraat

This appeared in the June/July 2013 issue. Illustrations by Michael Hoeweler.