This is another post wholly dedicated to something we all know and love: food.
Eating is somewhat of a ritual here. I’ve never been in a place where food is so… respected. Mealtimes are generally adhered to, the family gathers around the table together, and the food is savored. Meals aren’t rushed and all courses are taken in stride: first, the pasta, then the meat, then salad and fruit, and sweets to finish it off. The TV is usually on in the background, turned to the cooking channel (or once, we even watched an Italian-dubbed episode of “Cake Boss” that was showing). Conversation flows as hands reach across the table, snatching another piece of bread or grabbing the bottle of olive oil. At the end of it all, you can’t help but feel satisfied. And I don’t just mean your stomach.
Disclaimer: I should note that this has been my personal experience, so I can’t guarantee it’s like this across the board. But I hope it is. Because that would make the world a happier place.
Now it’s time for Round 2 of the pictures (Round 1 was back in Life of the Party). Brace yourself—there are quite a few.
A slice of zuppa inglese
Zuppa inglese, an English dessert
Zucchine con carne al forno, zucchine filled with meat
Mixed chicken and beef with salad
Spiedini di carne con verdure, meat kebabs with veggies
Raviolo di pasta frolla con cioccolato, a light pastry with chocolate filling
Sardine al forno con calamari, baked sardines and calamari on bread
Scampi con arancia su crostini, shrimp cooked in an orange sauce on toast
Saltimbocca, a Roman dish of veal topped with ham and sage
Spaghetti al pomodoro, your classic Italian spaghetti
Ravioli di pesce, ravioli with fish
Prosciutto cotto con formaggio al forno, baked ham with cheese
Polpette con verdure, meatballs with veggies
Pollo inpanato al forno, baked chicken
Pasta bianca, pasta with parmesan
Pasta con pesce, pasta with fish
Pasta con ricotta salata, pasta with ricotta and veggies
Pasta fredda, cold pasta with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil
Pasta al sugo con ricotta salata, pasta with ricotta
Penne al pomodoro e basilico, pasta with tomatoes and basil
Omelette con zucchine arrosto, classic omelette with roasted zucchine
Merluzzo, a type of fish
Melone prosciutto, cantaloupe with ham wrapped around it
Mele caramellate su pasa sfoglia, a light pastry baked with apple slices
Insalata di seppia con parmigiano e sedano, seafood salad
Lasagne di verdure, veggie lasagna
Mantovana, tea cake
Melanzana di parmigiano, eggplant with parmesan
Insalata di farro, barley salad
Crostini con tonno, toast with tuna spread
Making the creme brulee
Gnocchi con pancetta e burro, a potato pasta with bacon and butter
Un fico, the inside of a fig
Fagottino di tacchino con prosciutto e formaggio, chicken with turkey and cheese inside
Cozze gratinate, stuffed mussels
Couscous al pesce, couscous with fish
Couscous con funghi e fagottino, couscous with mushrooms and meat
Crostino con mozzarella, capperi, e alici, toast with mozzarella and sardines
Calamari e scampi su crostini, calamari and shrimp on toast
Bocconcini di coda di rospo con pancetta, monkfish with cheese and bacon
Closeup of bocconcini di coda di rospo con pancetta
No, I’m not talking about me. I’m talking about food.
Think about it, and be honest with yourself. When you arrive at a party, one of the first things on your to-do list is to locate the food table. Are there chips, maybe some salsa and queso? How about birthday cake? And don’t underestimate the popularity of the veggie tray (although I feel like every time I see one of those, everything is gone except for the cauliflower. What do people have against cauliflower??).
So let’s talk about food. Specifically, Italian food. Because it’s the most magical stuff on earth.
The first time I eat a home-cooked meal in Italy, I sit at the table and a heaping pile of pasta is placed before me. I drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over the noodles (olive oil goes on pretty much everything here), followed by freshly grated parmesan cheese. I bring a spoonful up to my lips and breathe in before taking a bite.
Ahh. So this is what perfection tastes like.
As soon as the pasta has vanished from my plate, Arianna takes my dish from me and asks if I’m ready for the carne, or meat. Oh. I guess they do courses here. Note to self: don’t fill up on the pasta.
Here are a few examples of the food I’ve come across so far on my trip. For a slideshow with descriptions, click on one of the pictures. Buon appetito.
Torta del compleanno. Bianca’s birthday cake. It has layers of wafers, cream, and chocolate. I’m never buying traditional birthday cake again.
Torta ananas e mantovana. Pineapple cake and tea cake.
Uova strapazzate. Scrambled eggs. This one made me smile.
Zucchine al forno. Baked zucchini.
Zuppa di calamari. Calamari soup.
Tiramisù, a popular Italian dessert with biscotti, creme, and coffee.
Spigola all’acqua pazza. Fish (all’acqua pazza actually translates to “crazy water”).
Rana pescatrice arrosto con patate e olive. Baked fish with potatoes and olives. After eating this one, I came home and told my fiance that my dinner was 3-dimensional. I know, not the brightest thing I’ve ever said. But seriously! Those arms were trying to grab my fork the whole time!
La porchetta. The pork for Bianca’s birthday. The meat is kept int he pork rind. WARNING: this photo may not be appropriate for vegetarians.
Panna cotta ai mirtilli. Panna cotta with blueberries.
Panna cotta con fragole. Panna cotta with strawberries.
Pollo grigliato con pane e insalata mista. Grilled chicken with bread and tossed salad (the salad has mozzarella in it).
Pasta con zucchine. Pasta with zucchini. And, of course, parmesan.
Pomodorini al forno. Stuffed cherry tomatoes that are baked in the oven.
I dolci. The dessert plate for Bianca’s party (but the cake came later).
Insalata di tonno con carciofi, olive, e pomodorino. Tuna salad with artichoke hearts, olives, and tomatoes.
Merluzzo al forno con patate. Baked fish with potatoes.
Mezze maniche con calamari e zucchine. Pasta with calamari and zucchini.
Galantina. This is a meat that they make here. I’ve never seen anything like it, so I thought I’d share.
Spaghetti alle vongole. Spaghetti with mussels. Basically, my favorite food so far.
Silvana cutting the pork for Bianca’s birthday party.
Gnocchi al salmone. Homemade potato pasta with salmon.
A typical breakfast: cereal and biscotti.
I remember my Italian professor at school telling me that I should have a fund just for gelato if I ever go to Italy. He was serious.