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Buon Appetito! Dining Italian Style

Jul 13, 2008
Years before Italy developed into the nation we now perceive, such country was divided among warring states, which shared no common spoken language and little cultural or social traditions. It was only in 1861 that the Italy we now know came into being. Do you know that the Italian language that we hear today was virtually non-existent up until the cessation of the World War II?


Regionalism runs fiercely among the veins of the locals. The landscape and terrain of the boot-shaped land mass fortifies regional integrity. From the mountains to the waterways and every natural element in between, only strengthens the sense of regionalism. Now, add to the mix powerful conquerors, political alliances and intermarriages. What you will have is a melting pot of customs, including culinary flavours.

Regardless of regional differences, two distinct traits have often been used in an attempt to define Italian food: Flexible and Innovative. There is always a pattern on how to cook the base of certain cuisines that need be followed, after that you can add your own flavour and make the dish your own. With that said, no risotto or pasta dish would bear the same taste coming from any two kitchen.

Seasonal Ingredients

Each area proudly possesses its own specialities and delicacies, and these vary from season to season. It is a fact that Italians have a knack for freshness. When one goes to Italy in the last quarter of the year, do not expect to be served fried zucchini flowers. Why? Because it is not in season. In addition, regional or even provincial dishes have been developed due to the availability of the ingredients. The produce is at its best if it is in season. If artichokes are in season, why not use it as antipasti together with slices of sausages and marinated olives? Of course, if your trip takes you in a city near the sea, be prepared for a lot of fish-based dishes as well as other seafood delicacies.

North versus South

Many a diner has raised the north versus south cooking. Actually, there is no style of cooking that is strictly north or strictly south. Both regions use butter; however, the north folks tend to use more (they like their sauces creamy). On the other hand, their southern counterparts, almost always, use tomato in their dishes.

Dining In Italy

Now, when in Italy, one may be confused as what the locals eat and the time they eat. Normally, breakfast consists of cappuccino or espresso, or any coffee for that matter, with a croissant or a slice of toast. Breakfast is virtually irrelevant to locals. You will see no cereals, no pancakes, and no sunny-side ups either. The term 'heavy breakfast' is not included in the Italian vocabulary. Today, yogurts are becoming the breakfast substitute. Lunch is not eaten at twelve noon, it starts at one and it usually lasts for two hours, even three. Dinner is also served late, around eight in the evening (and that still is early).

The Menu

Generally, Italian menus have sections, each representing a part of a full meal. First out is the antipasti (appetizer), followed by the primo (first course) and the secondo (second course), which is usually accompanied by contorni (side dish). And last but not the least is the dolce, or the dessert. With this enumerated, one may wonder why Italians are so healthy with this amount of food at their disposal.

How Italians Eat

Well, their food intake is controlled and balanced. Plus shortly after their evening meal, locals would take a passeggiata (stroll). Another way that Italians burn off calories is through shopping. (Yes, shopping!) Fresh food connotes that you purchase the produce on the day or a couple of hours before the meal will be served. Running back and forth to the marketplace to get the freshest ingredient possible not only guarantees good food, it doubles as exercise as well.

Truly, chi mangia bene, mangia Italiano! (Who eats well, eats Italian!)
About the Author
This article was written by Benedict Yossarian. If you are interested in property in Italy Benedict recommends Homes and Villas Abroad
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