I’m not gonna lie, this week at work has been incredibly stressful. I’ll spare you the gory details, but, if you must, imagine the look on your teacher friend’s face when you say the words “exam” and “prep” right next to each other.
At times like this, I find that it’s helpful to think of the nicer things in life. I also find eating to be a generally pleasant experience. Therefore, I have prepared a list of some of the nicer things I’ve experienced (read: eaten) in Italy.
Tortellini con Pera e Ricotta It might not look like much in the picture, but this little plate of delight is, in a word, amazing. I first had pasta con pera e ricotta when I was in Rome four years ago, and I haven’t stopped talking about it since (just as my mother). I never would have thought of putting pears and ricotta cheese together, let alone in pasta, but I’m glad that someone else did. It’s served with a cream sauce on top of a carrot puree, and I’ve only been able to find it in one restaurant in Rome: Osteria dell’Anima, just off of Piazza Navona (Via Santa Maria dell’Anima 8).
pera e ricotta (peh-rah eh ree-koh-tah) pear and ricotta cheese
Pasta Fatto a Mano Okay, I’m bragging a bit with this one. I asked my boss if she could teach me how to make homemade pasta, and boy, did she ever. We started out in the morning and bought the flour, the eggs, the tomatoes, the meat, and the vegetables, and we set to work. By lunch time, we had a massive – I mean, colossal – bowl of pasta to pass around. There were six people at lunch that day, and we still didn’t eat all of it. Despite the absurd quantity, the end result was fantastic. I even got the skinny on how to make a homemade ragù. Since then, we’ve received several requests to host a luncheon di nuovo.
pasta fatto a mano (pah-stah fah-tah ah mah-noh) handmade pasta
Aperitivo I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this, the staple of a classy Italian afternoon. The closest thing we have to this in the US is a happy hour, and they often translate it as such. Here in Italy, it’s a budget-friendly pick-me-up and – for us American tourists – a way to stave off the hangry episodes before the restaurants open for dinner at 7pm (in Sicily, it’s closer to 8 or 9pm!). For less than 10€, you can get your choice of a drink and a plate of snacks. In Messina, ‘snacks’ means something more like ‘heavy hors d’oeuvres,’ and usually includes mini arancini and sandwiches.
aperitivo (ah-per-ee-tee-voh) happy hour
Cannoli Cannoli make me happy. Cannoli in Catania make me even happier. Cannoli in Catania with old friends make me the happiest. Bonus points: We both ended up with cannoli filling all over our faces, because we tried to walk and eat at the same time. Even Italians go crazy for these little guys. One night, a group of us went on a hunt for a shop that sold cannoli at 11 o’clock at night in the middle of winter.
cannoli (kah-noh-lee) sweets made with sweet ricotta cheese and a fried pastry
Gelato alla Adventures with Becky and Rachel So, this happened. It’s pretty much mandatory for me to stop in a gelateria in every town I go to. When we found ourselves in Reggio Calabria, needless to say, we found a gelateria. We walked in, and the guy dipping gelato behind the counter immediately pegged us for tourists. He was then immensely entertained when Rachel tried to order in Italian. At several points, he helped her pronunciation. Once, after pronouncing a particularly difficult flavor name, he gave her a high five. Then, he asked if she wanted cream on top. “It’s very good,” he said. Rachel hesitated. “Yes,” he said. “Nutella? Yes,” he said. “Nuts? Yes,” he said. When it was finally my turn, he didn’t even ask. He just piled it on. I ended up with three flavors of gelato, whipped cream, three shortbread cookies, three chocolate chunks, chocolate sprinkles, and chocolate sauce on top. I’m not sure what was the best part of this whole escapade: the gelato, how entertained the guys in the shop were by how entertained we were, or the fact that the (Becky-sized) cup of tasty goodness only set us back 3.50€ a piece.
gelato (jeh-lah-toh) a delightful frozen dairy dessert