Friday, June 12, 2009
I’ve been in Italy less than a day, and I wonder: Why does food taste so much better in Italy than in the United States? The caffè macchiato this morning was three sips, but three sips better than any cup of translucent coffee water in the U.S. Though the apple croissant was a little heavy on the butter, making it droopy rather than your typical airy croissant, it was certainly a pleasure to eat. Or maybe that was just the fact we were sitting right along the Giudecca canal in Venice, with an offshore breeze cooling our faces- I can’t be certain.
Even an American’s home cooking in Italy produces a tastier product, it seems. Last night, Christie made gnocchi with a homemade meat ragù sauce, salad with tomatoes and Parmiggiano cheese, and a few slices of baguette. It was perfection. I asked if the ingredients came from a specialty store; she named two local grocery stores- Billa and Coop. Imagine the best dinner you’ve had in the U.S. being prepared from ingredients purchased at Food Lion and the Dollar General. The difference in quality at the most pedestrian of shops is remarkable.
Our meal was simple but delightful: the gnocchi felt like pillows between my tongue and teeth. The garlic, onion and red wine in the meat sauce provided the piquant flavor needed to stand up to the heavier gnocchi pasta. And the parmesan- if only you could get such parmesan in the States for the price! A modest wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano in the U.S. will run around $12, I’d guess, while the same block is 2€ at a Venetian grocery store. And we are shopping on an island.
For lunch, I’ve got a panino Christie prepared. I’ll probably supplement with some fruit from the floating vendors as I wander the narrow calli e canale. Tonight I think we will eat out. Perhaps Restaurant Ivo, an osteria that shares its name with my Bulgarian friend Ivo Ninov. Perhaps we’ll stay on Giudecca, Christie’s island neighborhood, and go to Trattoria Ai Cacciatori where she watches Champions League Soccer matches. I’ll review that meal too, but I’m guessing it will be more of the same: just plain delicious!
at 8:13 AM