Monday, August 15, 2011

Buon Apetito

[caption id="attachment_3207" align="alignleft" width="180" caption="Prosciutto e melone"]
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Italy is synonymous with melt-in-your-mouth culinary experiences. I have tasted my fair share of delicious food here and I thought it was only right to give you a few bites! (You can see more in this album.)

The region I am spending most of my time here is in Emilia Romagna, known for parmesan cheese, tortellini, lasagna, gnoccho fritto, tigelle, porcini mushrooms, prosciutto and balsamic vinegar, just to name a few.

Gnoccho Fritto (nyo-ko free-toh) is a typical meal from the area. It translates to "fried dough", which is a pretty good description of it. It's a type of pasta dough that is rolled out thin and cut into diamond shaped pieces about 4 inches long.

[caption id="attachment_3241" align="alignright" width="230" caption="Gnoccho fritto"][/caption]

These are dropped into hot oil, and they puff up as they boil. You eat them with cheeses, prosciutto, mortadella, lard (sounds disgusting but it is frighteningly delicious because it's seasoned with rosemary and parmesan cheese), or nutella. (If you are local to San Diego, you can get these at Bencotto in Little Italy - an amazing Italian restaurant whose chef is from Emilia Romagna)

The pizza is also to die for - paper thin (just the way I like it) with dozens of selections to choose from. One of my favorite types is topped with mozzarella and shavings of parmesan cheese and then drizzled with balsamic vinegar the consistency of syrup. Yummm...

A trattoria or osteria is more casual than a ristorante, but regardless, you will be presented with a menu offering several courses:

- Antipasti (appetizers)
- Pizze (not all restaurants offer pizza)
- Primi (first courses - pastas, rice dishes)
- Secondi (second courses - meats, fish)
- Contorni (sides - vegetables, potatoes)
- Dolci (desserts)




[caption id="attachment_3205" align="alignleft" width="236" caption="Osteria La Verna"][/caption]

It is very common for one to order something from every grouping, which explains why meals in Italy can go on for hours and hours, especially when shared with a larger group of family and friends. It is also customary to finish a meal with coffee (espresso), at the very least, if not also cheese, liqueurs, or grappa.

Our new favorite spot is the Osteria La Verna located right in the tiny mountain village we stay in. The restaurant has changed ownership and names several times over the years, and was just recently opened by Federico Preti - a young chef from La Verna who was trained in Florence and London. The food is wonderful, each dish is presented as a work of art, and it is literally less than 100 steps from our front door.

Needless to say, I am definitely taking advantage of the divine food here in Italy. I have vowed not to get on the scale for at least 2 weeks after I return...I need time to reverse some of the damage I have done while here!

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