I’m sure this is pretty much common knowledge, but the food in Italy was amazing. It was very interesting, too, to see how good things could be without a lot of fuss or numerous ingredients. Even the food on the European-run airlines was fantastic. Why can’t American-run airlines serve delicious chicken, garlic-rich mashed potatoes, and dense chewy bread?
Some of our favorite meals in Italy:
Pasta with several kinds of mushrooms, a smattering of diced tomato and black olives, parsley, and olive oil.
Trofie with mussels. Trofie is a type of pasta that’s about three times as thick as a spaghetti noodle, but only a couple inches long, and twisted. The result is a noodle that’s extremely chewy, almost like gnocchi. Of course we had to run across the street and buy 2 bags to bring home.
A serving of chicken, merely a thigh and a leg, that apparently had been cooked in lemon juice for a day and a half until the meat was saturated with flavor and falling off the bone and the lemon had been reduced into a thick, rich, sauce.
Pizza on a cracker-thin crust (does anybody know how to do that? it’s one of my life goals) with a smear of reduced tomato, a few bits of basil and buffalo mozzarella.
For our hiking day in the Cinque Terre we bought salame, provolone, mixed olives, two bread rolls and a quart of locally-grown cherries, all for under 10 Euros, and ate a fantastic picnic under a tree a thousand feet above the Ligurian Sea.
Fantastic coffee — black and thick and strong without being bitter, and pretty reasonably priced. I had one of the best cups of coffee of my life in the car-rental building at the Pisa airport.
And of course, gelato. It seems to be a universal recipe, as all of the gelato stands claim their gelato is “fatto in casa,” but it’s all rich and flavorful without being too sweet. My favorite: frutti di bosco (berries); but the strawberry, coffee, and chocolate flavors were close seconds.
We also enjoyed many “local” wines — Tuscan red in Florence, Chianti in Pisa, a fruity aromatic white in Cinque Terre. If you ask for water you can have either “naturale,” or “frizzante,” which is lightly bubbly, and served chilled but without ice. We just hope they’re recycling all of those water bottles, because they’re everywhere.
What was most interesting to us is that no one will rush you out of a restaurant. They take really good care of you until you’re done eating; after they’ve brought your limoncino or coffee or dessert they leave you alone – you invariably have to get your server’s attention to ask for the bill. We enjoyed the opportunity to linger, a relaxed mind-set which seems to permeate the country.
Next: public transportation.