We all know that Italian food is delicious and in my opinion, everything in Italy tastes better. While it may be difficult to replicate the experience at home, here are some insights into Italian dining that will bring you closer to the real thing. Buon appetito!
1. Slow Down
I don’t know about you but in the Turney household it seems like we are trying to make dinner an Olympic speed event. Our current record is a 12 minute meal jammed in between a lacrosse practice and a band concert. It’s completely uncivilized, I know, but somehow it seemed the only way to get sustenance into the family at the time. This certainly flies in the face of the Italian way of dining. A meal is a social event, involves multiple courses and no one complains when service is slow. More time between courses means more time to chat with friends and family and enjoy the moment. I know that the pace of most families here in the US allows for a 2 hour dinner every night but try it some weekend. Invite some friends over, take your time and revel in what wonderful conversations unfold.
2. Eat Your Veggies
While Italians are known for fabulous meats (florentine T-bone steaks, prosciutto, osso buco) and pasta, they are actually very fond of vegetables, especially greens. Spinach, chicory, dandelion greens, mustard greens. Meat is actually a very small portion of the Italian plate - a formula that is encouraged by doctors everywhere. If you don’t think you love vegetables, you have not tasted them in Italy. Italians work magic with them - it is amazing what olive oil, garlic and a little crushed red pepper will do!
3. There is Nothing Wrong With Carbs
I’m sorry, but when there is pumpkin ravioli or piping hot pizza bianca available, who could go Paleo? Of course, you can overload on carbs in Italy too, leaving you sluggish as you wander the streets of Rome in a doughy stupor. But in moderation, you must indulge in quality carb-laden dishes. You won’t regret it.
4. Dessert is Overrated - Go Right to the Grappa
Italians are known for many delicious desserts - tiramisù, pastiera, cannoli - but it is rare that Italians partake in dessert after a meal. Instead, they may opt for fruit - a platter of fresh fruit may be brought to the table, or perhaps a bowl of exquisite, wild strawberries. But even more commonly, Italians go straight to the digestifs - grappa, Strega, Cynar, limoncello. The waiter will bring glasses for all and leave the bottles on the table. I know many Americans are hesitant about grappa - I’ve heard it likened to jet fuel - but to me, it is the perfect way to end a fabulous meal.
5. There is Nothing Better Than Homemade
In October I was in Rome, wandering the streets (my favorite pasttime while there). Off a side street by the Campo dei Fiori there was a restaurant with a front window that was open to the street. An older woman was rolling out fresh pasta. I stopped and chatted with her. She told me that the pasta was intended for the dinner service that evening and she was planning on making an amatriciana sauce (a typical Roman preparation made with tomatoes, crushed red pepper and guanciale) to serve with it. Guess where I ate dinner that night?