Mangia! A culinary quest through Central Italy

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My return trip to Italy has confirmed a few things. There, the cheap house red is better than the $27 biodynamic Oregon wine I was talked into purchasing last month.  If mozzarella does not ooze a bit of milk when prodded it is just not good enough.  And, there is no greater joy in the world, than a good meal, good wine, and good company.

Our first stop in Italia was Positano on the Amalfi Coast. I can safely say, this region is one of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever seen. With severe cliffs tumbling into the blue Mediterranean and precariously arranged pastel towns and villages, there is as much for your eyes to take in as your stomach.

My favorite meal in Positano was lunch at La Tagliata, near Montepertuso. Generally I’ve found that if there is a great view, the food will most likely take a back seat. Miraculously, we did not find this to be the case. This family-run gem serves whatever is ripe from their beautiful garden, and whichever meats and chesses are locally available. They’ve been rocking farm-to-table since before it was cool! Our multi-course, unlimited wine lunch was about 25 euro each. Highlights for me included the freshest tomato bruschetta I’ve ever tasted, grilled lamb chops, home-made ravioli, as well as the best view in town. After lunch, with heavy hearts and satisfied stomachs, we left Positano for my cousin’s wedding in Teggiano.

Now, Italians do not mess around when it comes to weddings. There is food. There is wine. There is so much of both that you wonder if you’ve died and gone to Food Heaven, where the clouds are made of mozzarella and the angel’s wings of proscuitto.

A quick outline: With most weddings in Italy, the church ceremony takes place in the morning, followed by an elaborate meal until about 6pm. The guests then head home for a nap, and return to the venue around 8pm for dancing, and of course – more food. After the ceremony is over and the guests have gone home (roughly 2am), the groom’s family goes to the married couple’s new home, and the bride cooks her first meal as a wife for his family.  Can you imagine, at the end of your 20+ hour wedding day, cooking a meal for his/her family?  Such is the way in small town Italy.

Our ten-course daytime meal consisted of plate after plate of smoked tuna, seafood pasta, steak, mozzarella, shrimp, mussels, octopus, orecchiette pasta, and much more. The nighttime buffet included more mozzarella and proscuitto, potato quiches, a whole roasted pig (why not), espresso, and a whimsical dessert section to make you doubt that too much sugar could ever be a bad thing.  A funny thing happens when you‘ve had ten courses earlier, but see this spread: You get hungry again. And so, eat we did. This led to more wine and naturally, a spaghetti cart around 12:30am.

The next day, food-hangover and all, we headed to Rome for our last night where my boyfriend Matt and I explored the streets of Rome before our early flight to Croatia. This Before Sunset-style wandering brought us to the Colosseum, the Trevi fountain, Il Vittoriano, and finally to La Lanterna, a cozy and unassuming restaurant on Via della Pilotta, near Piazza Bologna. A well-priced, fun dinner of caprese salad (as if we haven’t had enough mozz), spaghetti carbonara, calzone and house red perfectly capped our five days in one of the most gloriously food-obsessed countries on Earth. Grazie Italia!

Next post we’ll dive into Fish and Oysters in Croatia, Minced Meat in Bosnia, and what to eat on a 14-hour layover in a Norwegian airport.

-Delia

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