Italy only became a unified country in the nineteenth century, so, like so many other parts of Europe, each region has its own traditional favourite foods. It may be one country as far as government is concerned, but, where food is concerned, it’s something else completely.
Colazione, Pranzo and Cena
This literally means breakfast, lunch and dinner with lunch Pranzo traditionally being the most important meal of the day. Breakfast or Colazione generally consists of something simple like coffee made with hot milk and bread or rolls with butter and jam. Or you might get Fette biscottate, which is a kind of hard bread.
Pranzo – lunch – is traditionally the most important meal of the day. Don’t try asking for that very British snack – a sandwich – for lunch. (Yes, of course, nowadays people do eat on the hoof, the working world is much the same everywhere, but lunch on the run is more likely to be a Panini than a packet of crisps.) A traditional Italian lunch is worth the journey to Italy on its own – no picking at lettuce leaves here.
A typical lunch would consist of a large portion of pasta to start (the primo course). The pasta is cooked al dente, just long enough to permit the slightly nutty flavour of the wheat to gently release onto your tongue… delicious. Alternatively, you might have a plate of cold meats and olives for primo. The next course – secondo – will be meat (frequently chicken or veal) with contorno – side dishes of vegetables (maybe pulses, beans or carrots). Quite often, a salad is served with this course as well. Generally speaking, the Italians cook their meat in quite a simple fashion, maybe using a few herbs to add to, not overpower, the flavour – why mess about with something that tastes so fresh and delicious? And Italian meat is fresh.
All of this will be followed by a dessert (dolce), which may be fresh fruit or something more exciting. A number of Italian desserts contain almonds such as Amaretti, a kind of almond meringue, or Panforte, a sort of bread with nuts and fruit or even something like Zabaglione or Tiramisu.
All of this is followed by a nice little espresso (not latte or cappuccino after a meal).
Lunch will normally be accompanied by wine, locally produced, of course, and water. If you are not a fan of Italian wines, I commend you to open your taste buds to them. Prosecco, Italian fizz, is lighter and softer than champagne, with its soft, buttery taste. I think it’s suitable for drinking on any occasion. The reds are typically not always as full bodied as French reds, which suits me – try the Chianti (although some can be very tannic) or Valpolicella, both delicious, especially if you are eating red meat. Sicilian wines are great.
In the white wines – well, there is always the popular Pinot Grigio, or Soave. Check the local wine for your region, but most of all, enjoy. Buon appetito!
If you are planning on taking Italy holidays you just have to try the cuisine. To make your visit even more special check out the Owners Direct website and book into a luxury villa for your holiday – you won’t regret it!