WRITTEN BY: KRISTINE HANSEN
Don’t forget to pack your palate for Italy!
This country’s amore per il cibo (love for food) inspired the farm-to-table movement in the States, where chefs buy from local farmers or even grow their own ingredients. In Italy, preparing or sharing food is an expression of love. It’s how you convey, without words, how much you care.
Slow Food (a term promoting local cuisine) originated by Carlo Petrini in the Piedmont town of Bra (pop. around 30,000) in 1986. When McDonald’s announced it was opening its first Italian franchise in Rome that spring, next to the iconic Spanish Steps, Italians organized against it. That’s when Slow Food was born, to remind people about preserving authentic food. Now there are 1,300 Slow Food chapters around the world, including New York City. But the idea of Italians only eating food harvested or sourced from within a few miles celebrates even deeper roots. Not only has the culinary footprint throughout Italy always been small, every region has its own dessert, bread, main meat dish, cookie, etc.
It’s why when eating out in Venice, Bologna or the Amalfi Coast don’t be tempted by the Spaghetti Bolognese or Fettuccine Alfredo (these are actually American dishes!). Order what you can’t easily get elsewhere. Otherwise, you might miss out on a delicacy like Finnocchiona (fennel-seasoned salami) in Florence, Pani ca Meusa (sesame-flavored bread stuffed with lungs of veal and chopped spleens) in Palermo or Supplí (cheesy fried-rice ball) in Rome. Not sure what’s local? Engage the wait staff. Just be warned that you may get an earful of a love story about food—maybe over a glass of local wine. Italians are highly protective of their region’s bounty.
But then again, you might be too after you’ve tasted your way across Italy!