For many people, Italian cuisine is associated with such comfort food as pizza and spaghetti. Nonetheless, the worst pizza we ever had in our life was in Venice.
The crust was painted with something red that tasted like tomato paste (not the tomato sauce). Instead of mozzarella, there was some sparingly sprinkled unidentifiable cheese product. None of us could finish this disgusting food.
We bought that pizza on the street filled with crowds of visitors from all over the world. It was summer, the busy tourist season.
Next day, we followed the recommendation from the guidebook and went to a small café frequented by locals. There, we had the best mushroom risotto we ever tried. We didn’t see any tourists in that establishment.
This two-day experience taught us to do more research before deciding where to eat abroad.
Even if the Italians make the best pasta, their cuisine has lots of recipes that don’t include any pasta at all. Each region in Italy proudly serves its own traditional dishes.
Take the gnocchi, for example. This dish does include wheat flour, but the main ingredients are potatoes and cheese.
Italians have many varieties of antipasti. Some of them are as simple as a slice of tomato topped with mozzarella and basil.
Italian cuisine includes lots of soups. My favorite is Zuppa Toscana. Many people love minestrone, a classic Italian soup.
Italians eat a lot of seafood, and no wonder: Italy is a peninsula surrounded by the sea. In a restaurant, you can order fish, shrimp, mussels, calamari cooked any way you wish – fried, grilled, sauteed, or baked.
Osso buco is a famous dish made with tender veal shanks, braised in white wine – a real treat.
Most popular desserts are, of course, gelato and tiramisu. Another one is Panna cotta, a cold custard made with milk, cream, and gelatin. It is not too sweet, and the flavor is very delicate.
Reading the names of all the cheeses made in Italy will make anyone’s head spin.
Fresh fruits and vegetables
Italians also love their delicious fresh fruits and vegetables. During our month-long stay in Rome, we became friends with the famous Italian journalist. He took us to the best restaurants.
We just immigrated from the USSR and were dirt-poor. We knew that on our own we wouldn’t be able to afford such expensive restaurants for many years.
I still remember vividly how at the end of the meal, the waiter brought each one of us the desert – a ripe peach. Skillfully, the server removed the skin from the peach with his knife right at the table.
The flesh of the fruit was incredibly fragrant and delicious. We, who used to eat peaches holding them in hand, were surprised by the “royal” treatment these delicious fruits got from the waiter. Following the example of our Italian friend, we used the knife and fork to eat our peaches.
So, should you eat pizza in Italy? We traveled to that country many times and had very good pizza here and there. But it is funny, that the worst and the best pizza we ate was in Italy too.
Last February, we spent a night at the hotel close to Malpensa airport near Milan. It was Sunday evening, the streets were deserted, all shops and even bars were closed. We decided to return to our hotel to eat dinner in its restaurant.
As a rule, the food in hotel restaurants is quite expensive and the choices are limited. Luckily, this restaurant had pizza on the menu. We asked ourselves: how bad can it be?
Our choice was a very simple mushroom pizza. This was the best pizza ever! Even the crust was delicious. Next morning we flew to Barcelona, still thinking about this incredibly tasty pie.
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Best time to visit Italy
The best time to visit Italy is in the spring (April to June) or fall (September and October) when there are fewer tourists, lower prices, and moderate temperatures. The summer months can be hot, crowded, and expensive.