Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Thoughts on food in Italy

First things first: Italian food is really good (honestly, who doesn't like Italian food?). Which is why there's another blog post devoted to it. Some random thoughts.
  • It seems like when Italians go out to eat, they want to have Italian food -- preferably home-style food like mamma makes. While we haven't eaten out too often, this has been the cuisine we encountered. It's good food, but every now and then I wish they'd put a more modern spin on the dishes, though maybe we'd have to eat at more expensive places for that.
  • I sometimes miss the variety of modern, innovative restaurants in Charlottesville.
  • Ethnic ingredients can be hard to come by. The nearest big grocery store (comparable to American supermarkets), Esselunga, has a small shelf with some international foods such as soy sauce, tortillas and peanut butter, but for anything more specialized than that, you need to go to an (somewhat expensive) international food store downtown. Some of the things I've searched for in vain at a regular grocery store are: black beans, cilantro, turmeric, naan, chinese noodles, cardamom.
  • The pasta section is about the size of the cereal section in an American supermarket; the cereal section is about the size of the pasta section in the US.
  • Italian pizza rocks -- thin crust, personal pizzas with just the right amount of toppings (usually minimal). Even the frozen pizzas from the store are pretty good (and cheap!).
  • There's a large variety of cured meats, all of which so far have been excellent: more varieties of salami and prosciutto than you could ever eat, as well as mortadella, bresaola (breh-SOW-la), pancetta, speck, and many more.
  • Cheese: it's all about the pecorino.
  • Produce at the market is (mostly) an excellent quality, and I'm always amazed when I get a big bag of vegetables that ends up costing only a few dollars. Produce in the US is terribly expensive in comparison (but if you're in Charlottesville, check out C'ville Market).

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