Delectable, Tantalizing Italian Foods Not to Miss

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Italian dining!Dining very al fresco

Epicure, connoisseur, gourmet or foodie…whatever title you assign yourself, Italy is the place you want to be for succulent dining. The food is closely tied to the various regions, which explains the rise of Eataly restaurants throughout the country (and elsewhere!). It was an encompassing experience to eat at Milan’s San Babila in 2015 and I’d try another one some day. But the small, family-owned restaurants win my heart every time.

In Liguria, we discovered treats like:

Drinks

Although an online search shows that the Aperol Spritz is a Northern Italian specialty, it was new for us. The citrusy and slightly bitter taste is perfect on a hot day…and maybe that explains stumbling on it. This was first time we visited at the end of May and ran into some unseasonably hot weather. Thank goodness to needing to cool off because between the Aperol and the comparable Campari Spritz, we were in heaven. Easy to mix: three parts Prosecco, two parts of your favorite alcohol and one part soda or, our preference, San Pellegrino.

Another treat was a traditional Bellini—this time made with freshly pureed peaches. Give it a blend and see what you think of this use of Prosecco. Another new thing for us were the sides delivered with our Happy Hour drinks. They ranged from potato chips, olives, peanuts and focaccia bread with multiple toppings. Pop sprigs of Rosemary or chunks of olives into the risen dough and you’ll discover something infinitely repeatable.

Coffee

With the spritz drinks covering our late afternoon, early evening chilling, the mornings were spent enjoying espresso and their buddies. If you’re accustomed to ordering a latte stateside, that abbreviated request doesn’t work here. I wound up with a creamer container full of frothed milk=latte. Realizing my mistake, I ordered an espresso to go with it and that became my signature drink at our hotel. At the top of a hill above Rapallo near The Sanctuary of Montallegro, an overflowing cappuccino was scrumptious enough to match the view.

Our friends Silena and Lorenzo introduced me to an authentic macchiato—a shot of espresso topped with a small dollop of steamed milk. Perfect for a post-lunch boost.

Pasta

Ravioli is my go-to pasta in all its variations. The tenderness of it disappearing on your taste buds is enough to make this human swoon. Sauces are diverse and although Pomodoro is prevalent, try opting for things like butter and sage or go for the pesto. Each restaurant has a twist on this tangy basil dressing that will spark your dining enjoyment.

A regional pasta is Trofie and becomes more intriguing when you combine it with pesto, green beans and small bites of potatoes. Who would think of adding those vegetables? The Ligurians, of course. Try it at home, but make sure to buy quality pasta.

Produce

If you’re thinking of creating your own dishes, here’s what your ingredients ought to look like as you get started. The street markets were expansive and popped up when you rounded a corner. The zucchini grabbed our attention. Where we live you can get the zucchini or you can get the flowers, but you can’t get them at the same time. We’ll be including some zucchini plants in our garden and harvesting both parts.

 

Bits & Pieces

Being from Pittsburgh, we always laugh at the Heinz sightings that catch our eye through shop windows or on tables or even at the hotel we stayed at—the superb Sheraton Milan Malpensa Airport. For treats, I’m a limoncello fan and this combination with chocolate…I had to be pulled away from the store.

Dessert

One of the best inventions of the land has to be Tiramisu (translates to Pick-me-up) and this time we discovered it in wrapped in pistachios. Oh my! A light hand mixed the mascarpone and eggs, tiny bits of cookies and chocolate, sprinkled the pistachios on top and whipped together the sauce. With happy taste buds clamoring for a repeat, we’ll have to figure out how that was done.

Pistachio tiramisu with pistachio sauce
Pistachio tiramisu with pistachio sauce

 

The most delicious meal of all was the one created by Silena. She and Lorenzo opened their home to us for our last evening. Ah, the food! A tart filled with strips of red beet, slivers of zucchini and slices of potato. I could have eaten the entire dish. Next up was traditional risotto, topped with whole and containing bits of fresh strawberries. If you haven’t had this blend, I highly suggest putting it together. And don’t forget, risotto is best made using white wine. As if this wasn’t perfection enough, our gourmet chef topped off the evening with an Amaretto-crusted torte stuffed with chocolate and nuts.

 

Eating well in Italy is a national pastime. As the manager at the Parma Stendhal Hotel, we stayed at in 2015 replied after a moment’s consideration of our question, where is a good place to eat, “There are no bad meals in Parma.” Indeed, we have yet to experience anything but exceptional food throughout our Italian travels.

PS. The signs are fun—read through from top to bottom. The Italians have good humor, so don’t let it pass you by.

 

Next: Awed by the Elaborate San Lorenzo Cathedral!

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10 Responses

  1. Emily
    | Reply

    I had pasta last night at a local restaurant; it was pretty disappointing. Wish I was able to eat pasta in Italy instead! The risotto and strawberries looks soooo good! What a combination! I really want to try it.
    Emily recently posted..The Positive Side of Negative ThinkingMy Profile

    • Rose Mary Griffith
      | Reply

      With Pittsburgh’s mishmash of immigrants from way back when, we have a lot of Italian food to choose from and one place, in particular, Girasole in Shadyside. They come closest to the light pasta we experience in Italy. Other places make good pizza, but that’s where we head for pasta. I hope you get to Italy, too!

  2. Ken Dowell
    | Reply

    I never get tired of Italian food. But after being in Italy I usually lay off a little bit when I come back. You’re so right about the ingredients. There is a pretty good Italian market in New York where you can get a lot of imported Italian ingredients and I always end up making a trip there after being in Italy. But it’s just not the same.

    • Rose Mary Griffith
      | Reply

      You said it, Ken! We’re lucky to have The Pennsylvania Macaroni Company in The Strip District, where we can get homemade pappardelle noodles and many other Italian specialties. It’s still not the same. For me, a lot of it has to do with the atmosphere of dining in Italy–in Europe. You sit, you visit, you nibble, you visit, you eat, you visit…we just don’t do that here.
      Rose Mary Griffith recently posted..Delectable, Tantalizing Italian Foods Not to MissMy Profile

  3. Erica
    | Reply

    Back when I was in school, I used to work as a barista. (Actually, i was a barista in Trump Towers, of all crazy trivia about me!) And so I used to make quite a few macchiattos. I was young at the time so it really didn’t appeal to me. But the way you just described it makes it sound delightful. Now I want to give one a try.

    Oh, and that pasta looks so good. It is only 10am where I am and I could totally eat those dishes right now! Mmmmmm.
    Erica recently posted..3 Nutritional Supplements You Need To TakeMy Profile

    • Rose Mary Griffith
      | Reply

      Did you indulge, Erica? Who cares what time it is!

      One of the things I like so much about the BHB people are the arbitrary things we learn about each other through our posts and our comments. So a barista a the towers, eh? I’ve only tried a macchiato at home once and it wasn’t good. But I’ll keep trying!
      Rose Mary Griffith recently posted..Delectable, Tantalizing Italian Foods Not to MissMy Profile

  4. Jackie
    | Reply

    Scrumptious looking everything!!

  5. Doreen Pendgracs
    | Reply

    I LOVE Italy, Rose. For al the reasons you have mentioned. The food is fantastic. The sweets and the wine! And the beautiful vistas everywhere you turn. I SO love the Mediterranean region. Looking forward to future posts.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted..exploring Shediac, New BrunswickMy Profile

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