How To Eat Like A Local In Italy-Including One Specialty Inspired By A Seductive Dance

 

Roasted fig and cheesecake gelato from Gelateria Vernazza

Roasted fig and cheesecake gelato from Gelateria Vernazza

Ah, Italy. Many people adore its food, but many others miss the real food of Italy completely. For instance, if you are eating at a restaurant with spaghetti and meatballs or fettuccine alfredo on the menu, then you are eating at a restaurant for tourists and missing the real thing. While Italy does make plenty of meatballs, they are served alone without spaghetti and fettuccine alfredo is not an Italian dish.

However, here are some of the dishes that you should order to eat like a local in Italy.

bread in Italy at Ai Lumi

Bread at Ai Lumi Tavernetta in Trapani, Sicily

1. Bread

You won’t need to order bread. It comes with every meal in Italy, but you should know the proper way to eat your bread like a local. Even though they put it on the table before your meal comes, Italians don’t eat the bread before the meal. The bread is meant to be eaten “Fa la scarpetta!”, which means do the little shoe. You fold the bread like a shoe and use it to mop up the sauce after your meal. In fact, many people don’t like the Italian bread when they eat it plain. It is usually made without salt, since you are supposed to be using the bread as a utensil.

"Street food" from Antica Focacceria San Francesco

“Street food” from Antica Focacceria San Francesco

2. Street Food

Italians love to snack and Sicily, especially, is known for its street food. Focaccia, arancini (fried rice balls), and caponata (a salad made with eggplant, celery, and capers) are just some of the typical street foods you will find. I went to Antica Focacceria San Francesco in Palermo and tried their street food sampler to get a taste of several typical street foods at once. Of course, this was how I inadvertently tried pane con la milza which turned out to be beef spleen stewed in lard, then stuffed into a roll spread with more lard and topped with caciocavallo cheese. I found this to be utterly disgusting even before I knew what it was.  After watching the pot bubble with this unknown meat from above, I couldn’t wait to try it. When I tried it, I wondered who had used the bathroom in my sandwich. Maybe it’s an acquired taste.

Bubbling beef spleen

Bubbling beef spleen

Arancini

Arancini

The Italian Cow Roast-This made my day in Alghero, Sardinia

The Italian Cow Roast-This made my day in Alghero, Sardinia

3. Antipasti (Appetizers)

Typically, Italians eat their meals family style, ordering an antipasti (appetizer), primi, (pasta or risotto), secondi (main course of meat or fish), contorni (side dish) and dolci (dessert) and share it all.  My favorite antipasti was the octopus carpaccio that I had at Ai Lumi Tavernetta in Trapani. Bruschetta, olives, meats, and cheeses make up typical antipasti platters.

Octopus carpaccio at Ai Lumi Tavernetta in Trapan

Octopus carpaccio at Ai Lumi Tavernetta in Trapan

Antipasti Platter

Antipasti Platter

Italian Antipasti

Italian Antipasti

Meats and Cheeses with Prosecco

Meats and Cheeses with Prosecco

 

Bruschetta

Bruschetta

4. Primi- Pasta, Gnocci and Risotto

Here are some of the typical Italian primi courses that you can order. Try to look for restaurants that serve fresh pasta since it is worlds apart from pasta that has been dried.

Pasta Con Le Sarde

Pasta Con Le Sarde-Spaghetti with capers, raisins, fennel, and sardines

Pasta With Crab Sauce

Fettuccine With Crab Sauce

Black Squid Ink Pasta

Black Squid Ink Pasta

Pasta Arrabiata

The spicy Pasta Arrabiata

 

Homemade Gnocci

Homemade Gnocci

Sardinian pasta with bottarga, a cured fish roe

Bottarga con Fregola: Sardinian pasta with bottarga, a cured fish roe

Spaghetti with Mussels

Spaghetti with Mussels

Black Squid Ink Risotto

Black Squid Ink Risotto

Seafood Risotto

Seafood Risotto

 

Artichoke Ravioli With Calimari From Locanda del Marinaio

Artichoke Ravioli With Calimari From Locanda del Marinaio

 

5. Secondi (Main Course)

Even though you can see that I ate a lot of pasta, I much preferred the main courses in Italy. I prefer protein and vegetables over meals loaded with carbohydrates any day. My favorite main courses (and best meals) were Ai Lumi in Trapani, Sicily, and Locanda del Marinaio in Cefalu, Sicily.

Pork Shank at Ai Lumi

Pork Shank at Ai Lumi- My kind of meal!

Fritto Misto

Fritto Misto or Mixed Fry of Calamari and Fish

Grilled swordfish

Grilled swordfish from Locanda del Marinaio

Swordfish in Tomato Sauce

Swordfish in Tomato Sauce

6. Dolci (Dessert)

Many Italians skip dessert and have gelato while going for a walk after dinner. Who wouldn’t want to walk after all that food?  I had the best gelato of my life at Gelateria Vernazza in Vernazza, one of the Cinque Terre Villages. The flavor I swooned over (and ate 7 scoops of in two days) was the roasted fig and cheesecake. The second best gelato I had was cassata Siciliana (the famous Sicilian cake) at L’Arte de Gelato in Erice, a medieval village in Sicily. Of course, there are quite a few other Italian desserts you shouldn’t miss.

Roasted fig and cheesecake gelato from Gelateria Vernazza

Roasted fig and cheesecake gelato from Gelateria Vernazza

 

Gelato from L'Arte de Gelato in Erice

Gelato from L’Arte de Gelato in Erice

Gelato from L'Arte de Gelato in Erice

Cassata Siciliana and Chocolate Amarena (cherry) Gelato from L’Arte de Gelato in Erice

Whatever you do, if you go to Palermo, don’t miss the Cassata Siciliana cake. This cake is moistened with liquer and layered with ricotta cheese and candied fruit. My favorite one was also the most simple and made by the Pasticceria Oscar in Palermo.

Cassata Siciliana cake

Cassata Siciliana cake

Cassata Siciliana cake

Cassata Siciliana cake from Pasticceria Oscar

Cassata Siciliana cake

Cassata Siciliana cake

Palermo’s specialty seems to be cakes, and they are also known for the rich, chocolatey (did I say decadent) Torta Setteveli or Seven Veils Cake.  The seductive cake of the seven veils, named after the dance of the same name.  The dance of Salome to make Herod go crazy with want and lust, yeah, that one. Here’s the cake. Italy’s own version of the “better than sex” cake.

7th layer (top layer): Chocolate Glaze

6th layer: Chocolate Mousse

5th layer: Hazelnut Bavarian Cream

4th layer: Chocolate Sponge Cake

3rd layer: Hazelnut Bavarian Cream

2nd layer: Praline Crunch

1st layer (bottom layer): Chocolate Sponge Cake

Torta Setteveli- a cake so good it's named for a seductive dance

Torta Setteveli- a cake so good it’s named for a seductive dance

The cannoli, too, was invented in Sicily and is the perfect afternoon pick-me-up or the perfect ending to a meal.

Insider tip: For the best cannoli, ask them to make yours fresh instead of getting one pre-made from the display case. This is what the locals do for one that is crispy and just right. 

Cannoli

Cannoli

Cannoli and Pistachio Croissant

Cannoli and Pistachio Croissant

Don’t miss anything made with arancia (local oranges). If you are there in the Spring, you will smell the orange blossoms all day, and there is no better flavor than these vibrant oranges.

Arancia (orange) parfait from Locanda del Marinaio in Cefalu, Sicily

Arancia (orange) parfait from Locanda del Marinaio in Cefalu, Sicily

Yeah, you have to do it. Order the tiramisu. This coffee-flavored dessert is the next best thing to having actual coffee. Luckily in life, you can have your cake and eat it, too, and order an espresso on the side.

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

Many times, I just enjoyed a glass of limoncello after my meal. This lemon liqueur, made from the zest of lemons, is about as fresh as you can get and is the perfect ending to a meal.

Limoncello

Limoncello

 

7. Espresso

Oh, yes. I saved the best for last. The dark, thick, syrupy espresso that you will find in Italy is like nothing else in the world. This is where my coffee addiction began many years ago. The Italian espresso for me is an elixir that causes me to savor and appreciate the languid days as they gently pass by.

Insider tip: Only order a cappuccino in the  mornings. This is considered a breakfast drink, and you will stand out as a tourist and even be gossiped about by the locals (it’s true), if you order one at any other time. 

espresso

Espresso in Italy

Traveling to Italy? Visit a holiday park in Italy, and enjoy a wonderful stay!

 

What’s your favorite thing to eat or drink in Italy?  Leave a comment below!!

Valen Dawson from www.eatingtheglobe.com in Italy

Enjoying the cannoli!

 

 

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