I think one of the first things that people think of when they think about Italy is FOOD! The pastas, the pesto, the bread, the wine, the cheese, pizza, the decadent desserts, gelato! Because there are so many amazing things to say about the food in Italy I decided to dedicate an entire blog post on the food that I ate while I was there.
Let me start off talking about the massive amount of pizza that I ate in Italy; I work in a pizza place here in the US, so I eat a lot of pizza, and I’m not really a huge pizza fan, but Oh. My. Goodness. The pizza in Italy was heavenly!
The first meal I had there was pizza from Mr. Pizza. We had a margherita pizza and it was delicious. It’s a pizza that is native to Naples: it has tomato sauce, but not like American red sauce, it’s really thin, and it has big pieces of tomatoes on it, cheese and fresh basil! It was really good!
As delicious as that pizza was, it was nothing compared to Gusta’s Pizza. Gusta’s is across the river, and it’s right down the road from St. Marks English Church. I ate here three times while I was over there. They make the dough fresh in front of you, roll it out, top it and bake it in the brick oven! I had the pesto pizza there twice, and it was by far my favorite pizza I had over there. It was pesto sauce with dollops of buffalo mozzarella cheese on it, can you say delicious? Because it was! The guys that work there and own it are insanely nice, and very accommodating. They even make your pizza in the shape of a heart sometimes; it’s really cute. It is a favorite of both local Florentines and American study abroad students. I also had their margherita pizza and it was even better than Mr. Pizza. Their crust is thicker and has a really great cornmeal flavor. (Both are really affordable as well; Mr. Pizza was 6 Euros and Gusta’s Pizza was 7 Euros.
I had a goal to have gelato everyday while I was there, and I was one day off from achieving that goal. It was insanely delicious. When I was in Italy in 2007 I had gelato about twice a day, so I already knew I was in love with it. I had about a million different flavors: strawberry, chocolate, espresso, tiramisu, lemon, mandarin orange, chocolate chip, some thing with raspberry and mascarpone cheese, and a few other I’m sure I’m missing.
I’m not going to write about every single gelato shop that I went to, but I want to write about one in particular that I went to in Bologna. There was a gelato shop featured in Let’s go Italy that one of the girls with us had read about, so we gave it a shot. I cannot for the life of me remember what it was called, but they have over 100 flavors that they change out every few days. They have about 20 flavors each day, and each one is named after movies! It’s a really fun little shop and they have a wall of the movies that they’re named after. They were very welcoming and the gelato was so good!
Gelato shops are everywhere in Italy. We went to dozens of them, and never paid more than 2 Euros for at least two scoops. So, if you go into a shop and see that they’re asking for 4 Euros or more, don’t get it there… There’s another shop a couple blocks down that’s just as delicious for half the price.
When we were in Bologna I had my favorite thing of pasta! We also found this restaurant in Let’s go Italy and it was called Trattoria Del Rosso. It was macaroni pasta with a really light sauce, and it had arugula, zucchini, and ham in it. It was sooooo good! Bologna is apparently notorious for its squash products so I had to get a pasta with zucchini in it. It was very, very good! Other people had some pretty amazing things as well. The chef recommended this potato dish that none of us could quite translate what it was, but it ended up not being a pasta, but it was this completely decadent potato soup with garlic bread crumbs! Stacey got some sort of past with mushrooms and a thicker cream sauce, it was really good too.
So, Stacey had been posting on her facebook about “Secret Bakeries” for weeks before I came to visit, and I didn’t exactly know what that meant, but to my delight I got to experience it! They are tiny bakeries that don’t have signs and are only open after 2 a.m. You feel like you’re conducting some sort of drug deal because this baker cracks the door open, you tell him what you want, and then he prepares it and you pay him! We went to one by Santa Croche and I got a fruity pastry, and then we went to one by the Uffizi and I got a chocolate croissant! The croissant was my favorite, it was glazed and when I took a bite of it it was filled with warm, smooth chocolate. It. Was. Perfect.
One of the things I loved about being there was not only eating the food, but the fact that Italians celebrate, and I mean genuinely celebrate, their food! While I was over there I happened upon two festivals! An oil and cheese festival in Florence and a chocolate festival in Bologna.
The oil and cheese festival was in the Piazza del Republica and we sampled about fifteen different kinds of olive oil and just as many cheeses! It was so delicious! We caught the end of it at about 9 p.m. so we didn’t spend too much time there.
The chocolate festival was insanely amazing! We had hot chocolates, which over there is pretty much a melted chocolate bar, but richer. We tried it normal, with cream and with a sprinkle of cayenne pepper (which reminded us of Chocolat), and was really quite good. It made the sweetness of the chocolate stand out more, and it made the hot chocolate seem even warmer.
They had so many different chocolates to choose from, and very few handed out samples so we each just found a couple, but my favorite kind was Pompelmo Rosa in Dolce Moscata. It was a citrus flavor- kind-of like grapefruit, but a bit sweeter.
I got a couple of tarts at a little shop in Bologna that had a pastry cup, filled with a lemon custard and then fresh fruit on top. I had a strawberry tart and a blackberry tart, and I wish I could eat one of those every day, because I totally would, and they were only 1 Euro! Bargain!
THE OIL SHOPPE:
The oil shop is a little deli owned by an Irish lady, and they serve sandwiches, soups, salads and other small things. I had a chicken sandwich with pesto sauce, spinach, olives, and zucchini Delicious! Stacey said that she eats there on a regular basis, and while we were there we saw a page from Lonely Planet where they recommended this restaurant. It was also affordable, and I would highly recommend this place!
I went to Stacey’s cooking class with her one day and we made Fondue and Tiramisu. I had never had Fondue made from scratch, and it completely blew my mind. I could have sat with that pot of cheese and a spoon and gone to town, but the class had to share, so I refrained. We made the tiramisu a couple different ways: one with rum and dark chocolate shavings, and one without milk and with cocoa powder instead. I really enjoyed cooking and while we sampled cheeses at the end we got to hear a little about the history of the cheeses we were eating. It was such a great experience and I’m really grateful to Stacey’s teacher for allowing me to set in on this class.
Well, I’m now craving Italian food, so I’m going to fix me a giant bowl of pasta, close my eyes and pretend that I’m in Italy again. What is the greatest thing you guys have ever eaten on a vacation?