The second trip to Italy was more recent. We left September 8th and returned the 22nd of 2011. The trip was a graduation gift from Carlo’s parents to me. I am very lucky to have such wonderful people in my life. Thank you Mamma and Papa Mantovani!
Ok, enough mushy stuff. Let’s get down to the important stuff…FOOD!
Before this trip began, I had already decided what my primary focus was going to be: the 3 P’s. Pizza, pasta, and pastry, and by golly, when I set my mind to something…I accomplish it. The first meal of the trip was pizza. Now that I know I am going to get a whole pizza this time, I am more prepared for the challenge.
My pizza was delicious. Oh, and those are mushrooms on mine and if you look at the top of the picture, you will see Carlo’s pizza. He got his favorite topping, anchovies! Not my thing, but he seems to enjoy it.
Our first real trip around the area was to a large grocery store called Iper. It is kind of like those mega ware houses, but no over sized foods just mega quantity. I took a photo tour around the store, until the cheese guy yelled at me “No photo. No photo!” and that put a damper on my photo journal. I wanted to poke his mozzarella and run…but I thought better of it, I mean I didn’t want to get deported for cheese poking. And, let me tell you, the Italians take their cheese very seriously!
Here are a few photos I got before ‘Mr. Fromaggio’ stopped me.
Cafe. This is an important part of becoming Italian. What I am talking about is not what most people think of when they hear this word. Cafe, to the Italians is espresso, cappuccino, or a wide range of other drinks that involve a shot of very strong espresso in them. There seems, from what I can figure out, to be some kind of logic to when you drink these different versions of espresso.
In the morning, you wake up and go to the local bar (and no, they are not drinking at 8 o’clock in the morning that comes later). When you enter, you stand at the granite counter topped bar and ask for your Cappuccino and brioche (an amazing pastry) that is, if you can find room enough to wedge yourself in to get a space. Once you do this, you get the barista’s attention and say ‘cappuccino e brioche’. A brioche is a warm croissant style pastry usually with, chocolate, apricot, or cream filling. I mean, what is better than that for breakfast.
Afternoon. It’s time for your second type of espresso. This time, it is something called a Marocchino. Pronounced mare-o-KEY noh. This is a layered type of espresso. It has cream, chocolate, foam and of course a shot of espresso. There are quite a few different versions of this concoction though. This type of drink would be something that you would drink after lunch.
Evening. Now that you have finished dinner and dessert it is time for a little shot of energy to pick you up and lend finish to your pallet. This time around they go traditional with just a regular espresso. It is quite a funny thing to see these grown men sipping their espresso from cups that look like they should be at a little girl’s tea party. I must say though, a well made espresso is a beautiful thing. As you can see there is a foamy topping to it. This is called crema. In my opinion, this is what makes a good espresso, a great espresso but you will have to judge that for yourself.
So, we have discussed our caffeine intake through breakfast, lunch and dinner, but there is an important part in-between lunch and dinner that we have to address. Aperitivo!Now, an aperitif (French) or aperitivo (Italian), per Merriam-Webster dictionary definition is; an alcoholic drink taken before a meal as an appetizer. Of course, since we are talking Italians here…they do it with style. We now return to the bar but this time there is alcohol involved, but it is not 8 o’clock in the morning. The bartender now makes this pre dinner drink from usually one of the two liquors; Campari (which is red in color) or Aperol (which is orange). They are quiet bitter! So, this is how they are made. Fill a glass with a bit of ice and pour a shot (about an ounce) of the bitter liquor into the glass. Now pour in prosecco and add a splash of lemon lime soda and garnish with a slice of orange.
As an American, most of us are not accustomed to bitter tastes. My first experience with this bitter drink was in Venice. Carlo and I had just finished with our gondola ride on the canal and were walking around the streets of Venice when we stumbled upon this hidden Piazza that overlooked the canal. There was a huge crowd of people gathered hanging out, talking, listening to music (kind of like an outdoor club, of sorts) and they were all holding these large balloon wine glasses filled with this orange liquid!
Of course, I became very curious at that point and asked Carlo “What are they drinking? Orange soda.” I thought, well these Italians must know about some new trend that I do not. He said, “Oh those are aperitivo’s.” I immediately turned back to Carlo and said, “I want one of those. They look so cool and refreshing” especially on the warm night that it was.
So we found where everyone was getting these orange drinks and got ours. Now, Carlo warned me before I took a sip “You might not like this, its bitter.” And I just scoffed and said, “Well I like bitter things sometimes” thinking that I had a refined palate and could handle this new taste experience. What came next, I will always remember.
I put my lips to this beautiful orange drink with soda water bubbles and ice bobbing around and take a gulp. After my brain registered what I had just ingested, I nearly spit it back out. I looked up at Carlo and said, “What in the world is this and how is everyone drinking it and actually enjoying it!?” He just laughed and said, “I told you it is bitter.” Boy was he right.
Well, after that first shocking experience it took quite a few more times of trying these aperitivo’s before I actually started to enjoy them. It is an acquired taste, so don’t expect to like it your first time. I think the best way to acclimate your tongue to this drink is to add a bit more than a splash of lemon-lime soda to it.
We have now covered the drink portion of aperitivo’s but like I said, the Italian’s do it with style and food! If you order an aperitivo in Italy, you are given your drink as you sit down at a table and then you are presented with a huge platter of beautifully laid out snacks.
Here are a few pictures from our trip.