Some of my favorite vacation memories are centered around food. Especially food in Italy. Italy is a gastronomic delight. I think even the “bad” food is good. But, you do need a little bit of advice before diving into those good eats.
First, don’t expect to find “Italian” food as it is served here in N. America. Dipping bread into olive oil/balsamic vinegar? Nope, not done. Fettuccine Alfredo? They will ask you what it is. Drinking a cappuccino after lunch or in the evening – gasp! That is bad for your stomach.
So what is a traveler to do? Here is a bit of Food 101.
Let’s start with antipasto (appetizer). Lots of times they will bring a plate to share. Often you can certainly eat an antipasto as your meal, just round it out with a salad or a “contorno” (side dish).
Moving on to the “primo”. This is your pasta dish, or soup or risotto.
Note, their portions are not large. I’ve never felt really stuffed. Just perfectly satiated. Next you may or may not move on to the “secondo”. This would be the main course. Something to keep in mind, the “secondo” comes completely on its’ own. If you want veggies or a salad you would order that separately, usually to be shared with your dinner companion. Salad comes with the “secondo” not before. Also, when they bring the salad they will bring a tray with vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper. You are expected to dress it yourself.
Finally we come to “il dolce” (dessert).
Never overly sweet, never super heavy. Usually light and so flavorful. In fact, you can say that about the food in general. Never super rich, nor heavily sauced. Italian food (and the fact that there is no such think as Italian food, their food is very regional. Every region has its’ own cuisine, but that’s a discussion for another day), is fresh food that is in season. Not processed. Cooked to perfection, where the flavor of the food shines through the way it’s supposed to.
Finish your meal off with a rich shot of espresso! Well in this case “un caffe macchiato”
Anyone hungry yet?
Let me know if you want to learn more about the different foods throughout Italy.