There’s more to Italian food than just pizzas and pastas

Yes, we all know that you cannot subsist on Pizzas and Pastas alone even if Milano was the birth place of the original Pizza. However, Indian palates used as they are to Pizzas and Pastas, they do remain the hot favourite of travellers to that country.This time round I discovered the panini or sandwich which unlike the normal bread and butter affair we are used to is actually more like a burger. But unlike the burger, this has a finesse to it thanks to the lovely bread which is slightly crisp on the top. These are regularly available at small holes in the wall and very often have to be eaten on a bar stool or on the go.

Paninis are great to grab while sightseeing as they are filling and sumptuous. Paninis are available at all times of the day and with lots of different fillings like tuna, ham and cheese, mozarella and tomato. Very often you can find some fresh salad like aragula tucked inside as well. These delightful sandwiches are normally placed in a glass topped food case from where you choose what you want.
Another popular snack is the Bruschetta which is a thick slice of bread topped with fresh tomato,mozarella and basil and drizzled with a generous amount of Olive oil.

While in Florence, I was advised to try some stuffed foccacia at the Cantinetta dei Verrazzano but unfortunately I didn’t have the time to do so and will have to keep that for another time

Actually I found that in some trattoria there are actually a lot of dishes to choose from and you can make your own meal with a main course of pasta and with different side dishes. Since I didn’t know a word of Italian and had no idea of the portions, I would stick with just pointing to one dish and eating that quietly while I watched my fellow diners having far more interesting fare.

I realised then that the Italians order course wise : the first course being appetisers or anti pasti which they have with their drink. Then comes the Primo or first course which is the normal pasta, or rice . Secondo is the Main course which is normally a meat dish ( which includes chicken and fish) . To this you have to add the vegetables as sides and wind down your meal with Dolce or dessert.

The Italian desserts too were not quite sweet to the Indian palate and I found they looked far prettier than they tasted. So I preferred to go with their Gelato which are simply to die for. This time round I discovered that there are three kinds of gelato, the regular ice cream or gelato, the fruit flavoured ice cream or and the mousse or semi freddo which is pure whipped cream! I also binged on the Stracciatella which is drizzled chocolate in an ice cream flavour which hardens and gives a nice crunch between the smooth ice cream bites. I had one striped zebra vanilla ice cream with chocolate pieces reminiscent of the chocobar which we are familiar with. But what I loved best was the chestnut semifreddo which was pure velvet that ran down the tongue. The Semi freddo is semi solid and is lighter than air with the consistency of a mousse rather than an ice cream.

But what is pure delight is the assorted little sweets that one can see in coffee shops , little candies and marzipan, tarts , macroons, jujube,chocolates  and biscotti……

These confections  are simply to die for and honestly I will have to go on a special culinary holiday where I follow my nose and and eat to my heart’s content.

There’s so much to this delightful cuisine that varies from region to region. Proscuitto, carpaccio the different kinds of breads and sea food……..a variety that is truly mind boggling

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When in Italy go Gelato

Ice Cream Dessert
Ice Cream Dessert (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gelato (Italian pronunciation: [dʒeˈlaːto]; plural: gelati) is the Italian word for ice cream, derived from the Latin word “gelātus.” (meaning frozen). Gelato is made with milkcream, various sugars, and flavoring such as fresh fruit and nut purees.[1]

Look at the fruit carvings--edible art! Wouldn...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t know if icecream was first invented in Italy but Gelato definitely was!! And what a concoction it is pure cream, sugar and flavouring served in just the melt in your mouth creamy way equally enjoyable in the summer as in the winter.

There are many places that claim to serve the best Gelato in Milan and each person probably has his favourite Gelataria which serves his favourite gelato. For Gelato means big business and there are at least four Gelataria in every street!

You can make out how popular a gelataria is by the lines waiting outside. If there are people waiting then surely they’re on to a good thing. Go in and experience for yourself the magic of a Gelato
The Gelato is served in a cup or as a cone so you can ask for a cono gelato or a coppa or a coppetta the coppetta being smaller than the coppa. Also make sure you ask for a small serving for that is really big enough for one because the Gelato is not served as one scoop but two. And surprise, if this is not sinful enough, you can choose two different flavours for the two different scoops.

It is no wonder then that having Gelato is no easy task. You have to come armed with the knowledge of exactly what you want to order for within minutes there is a big line waiting for you.

We were strolling down Porta Venezia when we came across this brightly lit sign announcing GROM one of the premier Gelataria of Milan.

So we walked inside and confidently asked for two small cones and a large cup and after paying, we were stuck! We just didn’t know which of the flavours to choose from. The best choices would be however a dark chocolate with either a pistachio or mint but if you are more adventurous you could try and mix some of the more unusual ones like watermelon icecream!

For those who already Gelato’d out, you could try their sorbets, granitas ( slushes), yogurts or yes…… hot chocolate!