“L’Appetito Vien Mangiando”

One of my favorite travel destinations, one also extremely popular with our clients, is Italy! If you are a buona forchetta (one who loves food), then Italy is your destination, where it’s just as important to be passionate about food as it is to actually eat well.

The good cooks and great chefs in Italy are obsessed with materia prima or “basic ingredients”, a key that makes Italian food so good.  In all Italian towns and villages, you still find traditional food markets, and many Italians who take the time to go to their favorite stalls to select the freshest artichokes, zucchini and tomatoes. Additional testament to the Italian love of materia prima are weekend pursuits of hunting for mushrooms, chestnuts or truffles, depending on the time of the year.

WHERE TO EAT

“A tavola non si invecchia” literally means, “At the table one does not age.” Dining out in Italy should above all be a source of pleasure and a happy, sociable event.

A trattoria is generally a notch below a ristorante in price; they’re known for casual atmospheres, and usually offer local dishes with great local ingredients.

An osteria or locanda often represents dining that’s a good value. Traditionally an osteria was a place you could get something simple to eat to go with your wine, and patrons often sat at communal tables. Today, it’s harder to find traditional osterias; the enoteca has somewhat replaced them, as a wine bar offering light snacks (spuntini) and possibly bottles of wine to go.

Tavola Calda (literally, “hot table”) is often displayed outside cafès where you can select from a variety of pre-prepared sandwiches or pastas which will be heated up for you. There is usually no waiter service at the table. They are good for a quick lunch.

A Paninoteca is a sandwich shop where you can point to the ready-made sandwich you want and head on your way.

The Rosticceria is a great choice for anyone renting an apartment or villa. You can buy a selection of delicious roast vegetables and, as the name suggests, roast meats. Imagine a very upmarket take-away; it’s an excellent solution for a hassle-free dinner at home.

“L’Appetito Vien Mangiando” means “appetite comes with eating”, and relects the love of food.

Many Italians enjoy breakfast at their local bar, often ordering a cappuccino and freshly baked brioche (croissant); in Sicily, it’s called a cornetto. Locals also order freshly squeezed orange juice, spremuta d’arancia, often made from the freshest Sicilian oranges.

It’s common to have an aperitivo, a drink before lunch or dinner, either alcoholic such as Campari and soda or light sparkling wine called Prosecco, or non-alcoholic such as a fruit juice succo di frutta. The aperitivo is usually accompanied with olives, chips, cheese samplers, nuts and other savory snacks.

Lunch time is typically 12:30-1:00pm, with dinner around 8:00pm. Traditional meals include an antipasto (appetizer), primo (first course, usually pasta, soup, or gnocchi), secondo (second course, usually meat or fish) accompanied by a contorno (side salad, potatoes or vegetables), followed by un dolce (dessert).

If you’re still not ready to go home, not to worry: it’s now coffeetime!  Note: In Italy one usually drinks cappuccino before 11am; Italians don’t prefer drinking milky beverages later. After lunch or dinner they’re more likely to order a caffè corretto, a coffee “corrected” with a shot of strong alcohol that aids digestion. Try asking for a “Caffè corretto grappa, per favore”.

Mangia!

Sue Shimkus is president of Lake Zurich Travel; she and her team send many happy clients to Italy and beyond. Contact her at LZtravel.com  or 847.438.5551.