The Food of Italy
Gelato is a daily occurrence here. Everyone eats it as though it is the last food left on Earth. It could be raining or snowing and I feel certain that people would be huddled inside the tiny shops requesting pinoli (pine nut gelato) or bacio (Italian for kiss, chocolate and nuts). If I had children here, they would probably be saying gelato before mama.
The caffé in Italia is also very important to all that live here. You won't find a coffee over 8 ounces here--they are all tiny and very strong. Another interesting quality of the coffee in Italy is that they don't serve it with milk (unless you specifically order something like a cappuccino which is made with milk). As a result, I've learned to drink my caffé with a single cucchiaino di zucchero.
Cappuccinos in Italy are excellent, creamy and rich. But typically you only order them in the morning. If you order it in the afternoon, you may get the stink eye.
Italians are also very serious about their pasta. My host family typically serves two different types of pasta for dinner (plus antipasto and bread and wine).
I've had pasta morbida (fresh pasta) with creamy pesto sauces and flavorful truffles. I've also had quite a bit of pasta secca (dry pasta). Oh and parmigiana di gobbo (absolute heaven made by my host mom). And ravioli, and lasagne, and gnocchi.
Pizza. Pizza. Pizza. Need I say more?
Okay, I shall. I've had my fare share of pizza here. I've eaten across the spectrum of deliciousness--from thin, crispy crusts to doughy pies overflowing with cheese. By far, one of my favorite pizzas was in Siena, Italy. It was crispy, fresh, and so flavorful.
Of course I can't forget about the wine, but that's truly a post in itself.
The food has been phenomenal, but at the same time, I'm a (tad bit) ready for a break. In the small town of Orvieto, Italy (where I'm staying), the restaurants basically serve delicious variations of the same things: pizza, pasta, sandwiches, meats, etc. All of the food is distinctly Italian. There is one amazing Chinese restaurant here (my Chinese take-out crazy parents would be very happy to know this), but other than that, you'd be hard pressed to find mashed potatoes or a taco.
Honestly, I never realized how much variety we had in the United States until I visited Italy.
When I'm back home in the States, I can drive (a max of) 5 miles and I can find restaurants that serve Italian, Mexican, Ethiopian, Thai, Spanish, German and Afghan food (and many, many more). I won't necessarily comment on whether Italy or the United States is better, because they are honesty so different. I suppose now, though, I am much more aware of the cultural differences between our food.
Another note on cultural differences. When Italians go out to dinner, they go out to dinner. People will often order several courses (or ALL) which include: apertivo (pre-dinner drink), antipasto (appetizer), primo (pasta course: ravioli, gnocchi, etc.), secondo (meat course), contorno (side dish: salad, potatoes, etc.), formaggio e frutta (cheese and fruit), dolce (heaven, aka my favorite course), caffé (usually an espresso), and FINALLY digestivo (after dinner drink). All of these courses are usually smaller than what we would get in America, but it's still a big (a pricy) meal. It's eaten slowly, also, with lots of vino. Food here is eaten with care and love. Meals are taken seriously, as are second servings ;)