It’s almost cliche to say that Italy changed my food life. Even though I was raised in an Italian foodie family that cooked the healthiest, seasonal whole food, before that became “the thing,” Italy changed my food life, because Italy changed my husband. He returned to the states with an Italian palate and a love of red wine and cappuccino. Before Italy, I had to order wine by the glass and make my own coffee. To my great surprise, DC fell in love with the coffee bars. We came back from Italy, and he gave the coffee pot away to make room for cappuccino maker and a burr grinder. One day soon, I’ll have to devote an entire post to our coffee bean experience.
These are our favorite and most memorable meals as we traveled throughout Italy. Some of the photos are a little grim, overexposed and harsh, so please bear with me.
Avocado Shrimp Salad in Rome
Tiramisu in Florence
Homemade Buffalo Mozzarella, Tomato, make a memorable Caprese Sandwich. This only
works when the bread is crusty, tomatoes are firm fresh, cheese is room temperature.
Insalata Caprese: Buffalo Mozzarella, Cherry Tomatoes, Olive, and the fruitiest olive oil, seasoned perfectly. Notice, there is no balsamic vinegar, a mistake many restaurants make in my culinary humble opinion is to forget that extra virgin olive oil may be all you need.
A Breakfast Buffet in Tuscany made waking up a splendid thing. Truthfully, Italians do not eat a large breakfast. The Italians are genius at putting out a meal they typically don’t eat, by just being who they are. Every morning I ate ham, cheese, and Italian bread.
And still more breakfast all in same hotel in Radda Chianti. The apricot torte on the left was my very favorite. Not very sweet, and perfect with my dark roast coffee that was served with a pot of steamed, frothy milk. This hotel got everything right.
Cheese for Breakfast in Chianti
Fish, potatoes, tomatoes, roasted in pizza oven. I could eat like this every night.
After the seafood, I enjoyed this gorgeous dessert. This is the kind of artwork/food that a “casual” trattoria serves. There is a small amount of custard under the fruit that is “just enough.”
Mr. ST’s favorite food is pizza. We sat at the bar in Florence and watched them make this one with brasaola and arugula. Notice the knife and fork. No picking it up with your hands. This was a healthy sized individual pizza, but we saw a lot of skinny Italians eat them to the last bite. The crust is just as we love it, thing and crisp. We now have several pizza stones and have learned to duplicate this. (future post)
Lemon Chocolate Gelato found ONLY in Venice. Favorite flavor of all time. (front left) Lemon and chocolate belong together. After this flavor, we looked everywhere up and down Italy and were sad that no one else offered it. But, we still found hundreds of others flavors we loved. We ate gelato at least once a day. Sometimes twice. Did I mention that we lost weight on this trip?
Sorry for the bad picture, but I had to show this stuffed chicken neck, served in Florence, as it is considered a very special dish. When the waiter realized I was a Italian and an adventurous eater, he campaigned for me to try this, saying that most diners wouldn’t appreciate it. The neck was stuffed with a meat and bread stuffing. I am always impressed at the artistry of the Tuscan country food and the ways they can turn everything into beautiful food.
Ribollita which I managed to duplicate in my own kitchen here. Eaten at Bar-Ucci, a cafe in Volpaia, not far from Radda Chianti.
Venice. The best carpaccio I ever had.
The best lunch and cooking class at a farmhouse in Tuscany.
Giant Pizza for Two. That is what the menu said. This is not typical, as most pizza are individually sized. This was the very very best pizza of our life. This is a little restaurant in the village of Radda Chianti.
What impressed us was that you didn’t get to choose what kind of pizza you wanted. The menu only had “giant pizza.” When it came, it had several toppings, but not layered on top of each other. Each bite delivered something different. One bite was ham, one bite was yellow squash, one bite was olive, etc.
The owner didn’t speak to us much, until we told him how much we loved his pizza. Then out came the complimentary lemoncello.
Rome: Spaghetti alla carbonara. How this was light even though it was made with cream, eggs and pancetta is the secret of skilled Italian chefs.
Palermo. No menu. This was the special for two. After our meal, the owner became the entertainment, singing and dancing at the keyboards. Formalities changed in Sicily.
The most comforting and memorable meal was prepared for us in Sicily by my second cousin Lina. Her father and my grandfather are brothers.
It’s not everyone who gets to visit a wonderful family, and eat a real home-cooked Italian meal. Everything I ever knew about my grandfather, Biaggio, who I loved with all my heart, made sense after visiting his beautiful town, nearly untouched since he left, except for the cell phones and satellite television. They are eating many of the same foods and certainly portray what Sicily is known for, the Italians with the the biggest hearts and warmest hospitality. These eggplant dishes were prepared for us by my cousin in the village of Isnello. We also had veal and amazing rustic Italian bread.
The view from our family’s country home. They also have a four-story home inside the little village.
A few meals worth mentioning, but we had no pictures:
• Chicken Liver Crostini at Bar-Ucci, served as a spread over a lit candle. So good, I ordered it again in Rome.
• Cannoli in Sicily
• Bucatini all’livepage.apple.comAmatriciana in Rome: Bucatini is a thick spaghetti with a hole running through the middle of it. Amatriciana is prepared with tomatoes, pancetta, and a hot pepper.
• Semolina bread in Sicily: Italy has great bread. Sicily has the BEST.
• Pizza squares in Rome: For a walking lunch or snack, go into any bakery and look for the giant rectangle of pizza bread. Order two pieces. You’ll want them.
• Homemade pasta with Porcini Mushrooms at the
• The best savory pork roasted in the same pan with Italian sausage, at the Toscana Mia Cooking School
And our favorite sign:
I hope you enjoyed this memory of our favorite foods in Italy. It might be hard to believe that we both came home thinner. Maybe it’s the walking, but maybe it’s also the healthy, whole minimally processed food that is the way of Italy.