Eat, Sightsee, and Eat Again – Cuisine in Italy

Italy may be for lovers. But Italy for sure is for food lovers. Thinking that pizza and pasta mean Italian cuisine is the same as thinking that American foods equals McDonalds. Still, that’s what is the most popular abroad.

It’s America where we get things big, but it’s in Italy where Nutella in a very big jar is more common. In Italy, Nutella tastes better (no hydrogenated oil). In Italy, they spread Parmegiano Regiano over pasta and many other meals too. In Italy they use olive oil. They eat and even more they indulge in cheeses and wine. They eat pasta. They eat it every day. They eat it twice a day. And that’s only the first plate.

They eat salads and fruit. They spread oregano and basil on their plates. They don’t obsess over sugar free and fat free products, and still their body fat percentage on average is way lower than American, where we count each calorie.

They say that Mediterranean diet is healthy. The key is diversity.

Coffee Made Just Right

latte coffee in a glass on old wooden table

Italian bars won’t offer you various types of coffee beans. Still, you can have your cup of coffee in various combinations. If you say just coffee, or Caffè, you will get espresso. The stronger version with the same amount of coffee but less water is called Caffè ristretto. The opposite, with more water than normal Caffè is Caffè lungo. And if you add even more water you get Caffè americano. It’s as large as they get in Italy, buy still far less than what we’d get in the States.

If you add a dash of milk in any of the above combinations, it is called macchiato. But if you want coffee drinks with milk, then your choice is famous frothy Cappuccino (they serve it also with no froth, senza schiuma but what’s the point, I wonder), Caffè latte and Latte macchiato.

Espresso is normally consumed after a meal. Limoncello, A liquor made of alcohol, lemon peels, and sugar, and grappa, made by distilling grape skins after the juice has been squeezed from them for winemaking, are also usually served after a meal as an aid to digestion.

You can put together coffee and alcohol. Just ask for a caffè corretto.

There’s not much to say about wine in Italy. It’s world renown. And its vineyards are more often than not in the middle of some beautiful scenery, so taking a tour while in Italy is not a bad idea.

Pasta Al Dente

Like the language and culture, food in Italy differs region by region. Almost every city and region has its own specialties. Still, in all parts of Italy, breakfast is very light. Often just some kind of coffee with a pastry usually filled with jam, cream or chocolate. In fact, no salty food is eaten for breakfast.

Italians have one hour reserved for eating their lunch. Dinner is generally taken late. Some restaurants don’t serve dinner before 8pm.

Italian bars in the center of major cities charge more if you drink or eat seated at a table and even more if the table is outside.

When you order a drink you first go to the cashier and pay for what you want. Then you give the receipt to the barman and get served.

Large tip is never expected in Italian restaurants but you should also not expect the service you find in America. In Italy people prefer to be left alone when consuming their meal.

Italian pasta is available with a myriad of sauces but it’s served with much less sauce than in America. This is, in part, because pasta in a restaurant is usually regarded as the first course, not a meal in itself. But also, as my Italian friend says, they want pasta. They don’t want too much of dressing to make it look like a soup, minestrone, goulash.

What would you like today? Spaghetti, fettuccine, rigatoni, penne, farfalle? Italians may go from one shape to another but it’s always pasta. Every day. Twice a day. Pasta is used as primo piato, As the rest of the world, they still can have antipasto, main dish (second piato) and dessert. The most famous dessert outside Italy is tiramisu (tira-mi-su means pick-me-up), Italian cake made with coffee, mascarpone, and ladyfingers (sometimes rum) with cocoa powder on the top.

The most authentic, original pizza is found in Naples. It has a thick, soft crust (but not as deep dish Chicago style pizza) while the Roman one is much thinner and crustier.

You can get a slice of pizza at every corner in the Italian capital. You choose the piece of pizza you want, they put it on the scale and tell you the price. Spinach and gorgonzola is my number one choice.

In Italy you can find nearly 800 kinds of cheese, including the famous Parmigiano Reggiano, In American supermarkets you can find Italian sausages which means they have some specific spice. In Italy you can try over 400 types of sausages. OK, you would have to stay quite some time there, in order to try them all.

Gelato More Gelato

ice cream parlors

If you’ve ever visited Italy, you’ve probably experienced creamy, delicious gelato. Gelato is just the Italian word for ice cream, right? Wrong. Gelato is ice cream but it’s not just a regular ice cream. The intensely flavored Italian creation is made with a greater proportion of milk to cream, and it contains less fat. It is whipped more slowly than ice cream, resulting in a denser texture. Finally, while ice cream is served frozen, gelato is typically served at a slightly warmer temperature. That explains why it melts so fast and more than once I had it on my shirt.

It would be easy to spend life on Italian cuisine. Especially when someone else is cooking for me. And spicing it up with love.

Eat, love, then eat some more. One more scoop of gelato?

For me, more Nutella, please.

Or maybe gelato. Nutella gelato.

About the author


Writer, talker, walker, joker. Contradictory, capricious, postmodern fragmented, direct, too direct sometimes, playful, holding no grudges and regrets. If you can't find her, she's somewhere chasing summer around the world.

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