In the 3 wonderful years that I have been with Carlo, I have had the opportunity to travel to Italy twice. The first of time was for a summer study abroad for Architecture School, in which we visited many different countries and ended in Greece. At the end of our required classes, Carlo and I made our way back to Italy to spend some time with his family and tour me around.
I have very fond memories of that trip that was over 2 ½ years ago, most of which involve food. Once Carlo and I arrived back in his home town of Bernate, we were bombarded with dinner invitations from every relative in the town. We were certainly glad, especially our wallets we getting a little slim while we were not. So, now it was a matter of figuring out how we were going to manage to eat meals with all of these relatives. Well, let me tell you…we managed just fine.
The first relative we visited was Zio (that’s Uncle in Italian) Ambrogio’s house for dinner. He comes out and greets Carlo with a big hug and a kiss on each cheek. Then he asks the both of us (in Italian, which I do not speak) what would we like on our pizza’s for dinner tonight. Of course Carlo had to translate and I replied, “How about a margarita pizza? I am flexible, but no meat please.”(I am, what I like to call a ‘chic-a-tarian’, the only meat I eat is chicken and turkey). I figured at this point that pizza is for sharing, like it is in the U.S .
So he gives my order to his Zio and we go on our way. Later that night, we come back for dinner and I walk into Ambrogio’s house and I see the dining table set up with a WHOLE pizza in front of every chair! At that point, after I closed my mouth from shock, I turned to Carlo in a bit of confusion and asked, “Why is there a whole pizza in front of me?” He explained that this is the Italian way.
When you order a pizza in Italy, you get A pizza! Not a slice, but the whole thing. Well, I was fairly hungry that evening so I thought ‘ok, no problem…I can do this!’ well, little did I know… the pizza was just the first course. After I finished most of my pizza, maybe with a little help from Carlo, Ambrogio and his wife Pinuccia take our plates away to the kitchen and return with MORE food!
At this point, I was stuffed and then they bring out more food…and expect me to eat it. Well, what they bring out is a whole 1/6 of a wedge of a large watermelon or anguria for us to eat. I just wanted to run and hide, but I sucked it up and somehow managed to fit a bit more in my belly.
So, now I thought ‘ok, good. We are done now.’ Boy was I wrong. We have not had cheese and meats yet. I tapped out after the watermelon, for the good of my stomach, but the food kept on rollin’ out. Next and lastly were the dessert, coffee, and finally liquor.
I think it was about 2-3 hours later that we were allowed to go home and sleep off the food coma that we were in.
This so called “food torture” from the relatives lasted for about a week. Thankfully, Carlo and I went on a little side trip through parts of Italy on our own and could eat at our pace.
But during this week of cibo (food) overload…I remember turning to Carlo and asking him “How do I stop them from feeding me?” he laughs and responds you have to say “basta” which means stop. I wish I had learned this word sooner.
So for all you travelers out there, if you are planning a trip to Italy…learn these two words for your stomachs sake: thank you, grazie (which is pronounced grat-zee-A) and stop, basta.