Epicure, connoisseur, gourmet, foodie … whatever title you assign yourself, Italy is the place you want to be for succulent dining. Food is closely tied to Italy’s regions. That explains the rise of Eataly restaurants throughout the country (and elsewhere!). Dining at  the Milan San Babila in 2015 was taste-bud encompassing. I’d try Eatlay again one day. For me, small, family-owned restaurants win my heart every time.

In Liguria, We Devour Treats

Refreshing Drinks

Happy Hour Aperol Spritzers

An online search shows that the Aperol Spritz is a Northern Italian specialty, it was new for us. The citrusy and slightly bitter taste is perfect on a hot day … and maybe that explains stumbling on it. This was the end of May and we ran into some unseasonably hot weather. Thank goodness to needing to cool down because the Aperol and Campari Spritzes put us in heaven. A spritz is easy to mix. Three parts Prosecco, two parts of Aperol or Campari, and one part soda or, our preference, San Pellegrino. 

Another treat is sipping a traditional Bellini made with freshly pureed peaches. Give it a blend and see what you think of this use of Prosecco. Side dishes delivered with our Happy Hour drinks. They ranged from potato chips, olives, or peanuts, to focaccia bread with multiple toppings. Pop sprigs of Rosemary or chunks of olives into the risen dough and you’ll discover something infinitely repeatable.

Is There Anything as Tasty as Italian Coffee

I had an acquaintance who arrived home after touring Italy saying she couldn’t wait to land get good coffee. Huh? I remain stunned—too stunned to even ask, where were you getting your coffee that it wasn’t delicious every time?

Spritz drinks covered our late afternoon, early evening chill time. Mornings were spent enjoying espresso and their companions. If you’re accustomed to ordering a latte stateside, that abbreviated request doesn’t work here. I wound up with a creamer container full of frothed milk=latte. Realizing my mistake, I ordered an espresso to go with it and that became my signature drink at our hotel. On a hill above Rapallo near The Sanctuary of Montallegro, an overflowing scrumptious cappuccino matched the enticing view. 

Our friends Silena and Lorenzo introduced me to an authentic macchiato—a shot of espresso topped with a small dollop of steamed milk. Perfect for a post-lunch boost. PS. Never order a Caffé Latte after lunch. It is for morning enjoyment only.

Plastes of Perfect Pasta

Ravioli is my go-to pasta in all its variations. The tenderness of it disappearing into your taste buds is enough to make this human swoon. Italian sauces are diverse. Although pomodoro sauce prevails, try opting for butter and sage or pesto. Each restaurant has a twist on this tangy basil dressing that will spark your dining enjoyment.

Trofie ia a regional pasta. The short twists become intriguing combined with pesto, green beans, and small bites of potatoes. Who would think of adding those vegetables? The Ligurians of course! Try trofie at home, making sure to buy quality pasta.

Fresh Italian Produce

If you’re thinking of creating your Italian dishes, here’s what your ingredients ought to look like as you get started. Street markets are expansive, popping up around many corners. The zucchini grabbed our attention. At home, we find zucchini or the flowers, but not both at the same time. We’ll be including some zucchini plants in our garden and harvesting both parts.

Fresh Italian Produce, Italy, Rapallo
Italian Produce, Italy

Bits & Pieces of Italian Food—or Not

Living in Pittsburgh, we laugh at Heinz sightings catching our eye. We espy ketchup and mustard through shop windows and on tables—even at the superb Sheraton at Milan Malpensa Airport. For treats, I’m a limoncello fan. Combined with chocolate, well, I had to be pulled away from the store.

Delectable Desserts

One of the best inventions of the land has to be Tiramisu (translates to Pick-me-up). On this trip to Italy, we discovered Tiramisu wrapped in pistachios. Oh my! A light hand mixed the mascarpone and eggs. They dropped tiny bits of cookies and chocolate, sprinkled pistachios on top, and whipped together the sauce. With happy tastebuds clamoring for a repeat, we’ll have to figure out how that was done.

Italian food, Pistachio tiramisu with pistachio sauce
Pistachio tiramisu with pistachio sauce

Experiencing Italian Food with Friends

The most delicious meal of all was the one created by Silena. She and Lorenzo opened their home to us for our last evening. Ah, the food! A tart filled with strips of red beet, slivers of zucchini and slices of potato. I could have eaten the entire dish. Next up was traditional risotto, topped with whole and containing bits of fresh strawberries. If you haven’t had this blend, I highly suggest putting it together. And don’t forget, risotto is best made using white wine. As if this wasn’t perfection enough, our gourmet chef topped it off  with Amaretto-crusted torte stuffed with chocolate and nuts.

Italian Food is Part of Life

Eating well in Italy is a national pastime. After a moment’s consideration, the Parma Stendhal Hotel manager replied to our question, Where is a good place to eat? “There are no bad meals in Parma.” He was correct. We never experienced anything but exceptional food during our Italian travels.

PS. Italian signage is fun—don’t let the laughs pass you by.

When you travel to a new country, eating regional treats should be at the top of your list of experiences. Italian food will never disappoint. Dine and let your taste buds revel in the experience.

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