Saturday, April 17, 2010

In Search of the Perfect Italian Meal

I assumed that when I arrived in Italy two and a bit weeks ago, that I would be eating plates of delicious pasta, swallowing the best wine, and licking the creamiest gelato. 

Well, I got two out of three, so I guess that’s not bad.

I am shocked, saddened, and disappointed by the amount of mediocre, lackluster meals I have had in Italy.

Aren’t I in the land of food and people named Mario kissing their fingers saying ‘Delizioso!’?


Let’s start with Rome.   Okay, we had our best pizza here.  Which is not surprising.  Margarita is the way to go here, with the taste of sun-ripened tomatoes being a perfect compliment to fresh mozzarella.  The surprising thing was that we had this pizza facing the Coliseum.  According to guidebooks, any restaurant facing a tourist trap will be terrible.

Then we had dinner.  My pasta carbonara was only so-so and my tiramisu abysmal.  And we were fairly certain the waiter did something to our food.

Thanks to my tour guide, we went to an amazing place for lunch where I had homemade linguini. 

Oh homemade pasta.  How I love thee.  The texture, the taste, the freshness.  SO GOOD.

I must sadly report that I didn’t find homemade pasta again until my second-last night in Italy.

Overlooking Manarolo and the sea, the Engineer and I ate on the patio at sunset – totally amazing.  Billy’s Trattoria was a happy surprise.  And one I wish we had discovered on our first day in Cinque Terre.  Not only was the view breathtaking, but also the food was AMAZING!  Not to mention our hilarious, and oh-so-Italian waiter who scared the seagulls away by flapping his arms and making his own seagull noises.  He also would come to each table bearing a live lobster so they could see special #2. 

I asked what ‘Billy’s Linguine’ was.  He proudly told me it was a delicious blend of shrimps, pine nuts and PEPPERONI. This last word was said with gusto.

So we ordered it.  Along with stuffed mussels and a piccolo piece of white grilled fish.

Pepperoni turned out to be peppers.  But he was definitely right about the delicious part.  Again, the pasta was homemade so immediately it was amazing.  Then the sauce was lovely and not-overly-oily.  The shrimps where fresh and scrumptious, and the pepperoni a happy treat of much needed vegetables. 

As we watched the Italian sun set over Manarolo, I happily drank my Cinque Terre white wine and said my farewell to this amazing country. 

But back to the food.  Clearly in Tuscany we also had great food.  Florence was home of the wild boar paparadelle and Chianti beef that I vow to make when I return to Canada.  It was also home of the BEST tiramisu I have ever tasted.

In Chianti, Franca, my new found Italian momma, made us risotto so good I had three helpings and strawberry zignliona (I always forget how to say/spell it) that brought happy tears to my eyes.  Too bad I also got so sick.

I forced myself to eat one last meal in Tuscany that consisted of amazing amazing amazing soup (that I think was white bean and garlic).  But I threw it up on the side of the road.  And in Franca’s bushes.

Our food in Venice makes me shudder, not that it was bad, but I was so sick that now when I think of it still makes me nauseous.  Our meals in Cinque Terre were overly oily and the seafood left me with an odd taste in my mouth that makes me wonder just how fresh it was.

So sad.
 At least I can comfort myself in knowing that we have a huge Italian population in both Vancouver and New York.  Heck , I live in Brooklyn!  So good Italian food is on my doorstep all the time.

The one food that was never ever a disappointment was gelato.

Oh gelato.  How I love thee.  I mean I really really do. God.  It is so good.  We had gelato everyday.  Something that my ass if very well aware of.

I guess I am just sad that not every meal made me weep at its goodness.  But then if it did, I wouldn’t appreciate the good ones right?  I also wouldn’t appreciate just how good I have it in Brooklyn.  Fragole, here I come!

Too bad I won't have the Italian sunset to go with it.

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