Archive for November, 2010|Monthly archive page

Fast food in Italy?!?

In Food, Life in Italy on November 28, 2010 at 9:21 pm

(Note: This post was a special request from the folks pictured below!)

Sadly, a new Burger King near our house just celebrated its grand opening–fast food is gaining importance the world over. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised with one of the fast food options we discovered at the mall when we joined a group of friends for a movie last week: A fast food pasta restaurant.

The big difference: real, fresh, cooked-to-order pasta dishes. You picked from a variety of pasta options and they cooked up your pasta for you on the spot. And the pasta was pretty good quality, too. Check out this pasta bar with some of the types of pasta you could order and/or purchase to take home with you–egg fettuccine, spinach fettuccine, bacon fettuccine, mushroom tortellini, and even chocolate ravioli (well, perhaps that one’s not so healthy!):

Food was served on real, ceramic dishes, with real silverware. Check out my pasta dish: a kind of vegetable ravioli with an herbed cheese sauce. “Buon Appetito” is right:

Here’s a shot of all of us at the table (can’t you see me sitting there at the back left?):

PS. Sorry for the long delay between posts–last week was busy with a trip to Barcelona for Hugo and Daniela’s wedding; the wedding party, ironically, was held at an Italian restaurant!


The aperitivo and the Spritz–two Italian staples

In Food, Life in Italy, Trieste on November 14, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Perhaps you’ve noticed I haven’t written as much as I hoped (and promised) to. The reason: I’ve been having quite a few aperitivos and quite a few Spritzes.  For those of you who have been to Italy, you know that the aperitivo is the Italian equivalent to Spanish tapas, and a vague friend of the American cocktail hour.  It varies a bit in every city, but all versions involve meeting up with friends at the start of the evening for a drink and a nibble at a favorite bar.

In some Italian cities, you go inside the bar and sit or stand near the counter; you pay for one drink and eat the delicious appetizers that are served up ’til your heart’s content.  Trieste, however, is filled with outdoor terraces–so it’s more common here to grab a table outside one of the many bars that fill the city. In this pedestrian-friendly strolling city, people have their aperitivo outside regardless of the temperature (they bundle up or turn on outdoor space heaters) and the weather (huge umbrellas as big as 9 square meters protect you from the rain).

We especially frequent a place called “Bar Russian” in the Borgo Teresiano part of the city, which is composed of wide pedestrian-only streets and is one of the key shopping districts in town–a perfect place for an afternoon or evening stroll, and a common spot for the aperitivo.

Here, you sit down at a table, and for the price of a drink (3-4€) they also bring you a wide variety of food to nibble on.  Each place is different, and some are more generous than others, but it’s common to find items from simple staples (olives, potato chips, peanuts, pistachios, or grissini–long, thin Italian breadstick-crackers, often with different seasonings or toppings) to elaborated spreads or spreadables (artichoke and olive dips, delicious salsa; once we even were served a truffle dip!) and warm foods (pizzas, foccaccias, pastries, mini-sandwiches, and more). If you are inside, you just mosey up to the bar to munch away; places lay out snacks for the patrons who stand at the bar (and in some places, the spread is a smorgasbord filled with tons of different dishes!)

Perhaps the most famous cocktail in this part of Italy is the Spritz, a bright orange drink which, unsurprisingly, also has many variations.  The “classic” Spritz is a mix of sparkling wine (often Prosecco; in some places they also use dry white wine), seltzer or other very fizzy water, and Aperol (the distinctive bitter-orange-and-rhubarb alcohol produced by the Campari company), in approximately equal proportions. Serve over ice cubes in a medium-stemmed, medium-bulb wine glass, dressed with a large green olive or an orange slice (or both!).  Since I’ve come to Italy, the humble Spritz has become my go-to pre-dinner drink.

Spritzes come in many variations, and here, you can’t order a Spritz without specifying which kind you want. The most common seem to be the classic Spritz-Aperol or its darker companion, the Spritz-Campari; Campari is a much stronger, more bitter alcohol, and makes for a darker red color in the cocktail. Then there’s the “Padova-Milano,” which mixes Aperol and Campari–theoretically in recognition of the differing traditional preferences in each of the cities–or the Spritz Bianco–a light, summery Spritz which omits the stronger alcohols–basically just white wine with water here! And these are just the most common variations in Trieste–there are lots of variations.

So: sorry for my absence, but I’m sure you’ll understand–the Italian cocktail cultures comes calling regularly at the best blogging hours!


In Food on November 2, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Tonight, we had caponata for dinner.  Mmm, delicious. Here’s a picture:

Caponata is a traditional, eggplant-based Sicilian dish. I used this recipe for ours:

It involves gently frying a variety of vegetables (ours included onion, celery, fennel, zucchini, and eggplant) and then adding in tomatoes, pine nuts, raisins, and basil and dressing it with a vinegar and tomato sauce accented by sugar, salt, and pepper. The dish is then covered, which allows the flavors to meld as the vegetables continue to steam.

I just discovered Rachel’s blog last night, and am looking forward to cooking my way through it!  Delicious Italian food, described in English. For all you English speakers out there, check it out!

I’ve also discovered that there are many varieties of Caponata: it always has eggplant, but among the ingredients that we didn’t include are capers, olives, carrots, green peppers, and even octopus! There will certainly be some variations on this recipe appearing in our kitchen in the near future!

my blogging strategy // thoughts on trieste

In Life in Italy on November 2, 2010 at 7:58 pm

I always fall behind on blogging: I get too distracted by life to take time to write about it.  But, I’ve again moved to a new place–this time to Italy!–and will do my best to keep you all up to date. I think this time I’ll try writing shorter posts more frequently.  You’ll have to hold me to it, though.

As you might have guessed from the title of this blog, I’m also going to write a bit about food, because I’ve moved to a place full of heaping amounts of delicious goodness. Keep your eyes peeled for stories (and recipes?) to come.

But first: a quick update. Life is going great in Trieste! The city is surprisingly gorgeous (si uno dei miei amici triestini legge questo post, mi dispiace–non speravo tanto della città prima di venire, ma sono molto contento). Somehow I always manage to find myself in multi-national, multi-dimensional places, and Trieste is just that: a city on a border. It has been part of many different countries in the past, and consequently, its inhabitants are not only Italians but also Slovenians and folks coming from other former-Yugoslavian nations. Trieste was also a major Austrian port in the past, and much of its current architecture reflects that. The downtown/coast area is gorgeous. Check out Albert’s pictures of the city:

More soon!