Studying abroad in Italy for a month was both a blessing and a curse. I never went hungry with an abundance of pizza, pasta, wine and gelato available. But my wallet definitely took a hit.
Everything that you’ve heard about the food in Italy is true. Once you’ve been, you can’t come back home and eat the basic “Italian” food that is waiting for you. Whether you’re headed to Italy or just planning a fantasy trip, here are some of the best dishes to try in the land of endless food.
Fettuccine del Cuoco
La Taverna Dei Fiori Imperiali, on the corner of Via Cavour in Rome, was a great place to stop for dinner. Located down the street from the Colosseum and our hotel, we decided to stop in after noticing that it was always busy. After studying the extensive menu, I decided on the chef’s special fettuccine. The dish was described as being served with “baby tomatoes” and ricotta cheese, so I knew it would be delicious. Hands down, this was the best pasta I’ve ever had. This NY Times reviewed restaurant definitely lived up to the hype.
A small potato pasta, gnocchi is a blank canvas and can be transformed in many dishes. A staple on most menus in Italy, this versatile pasta can be found dressed in many different types of sauce. We tried Gnocchi al Quattro Formaggi, Gnocchi al Pesto, and Gnocchi al Sorrentina (a simple tomato sauce). All of the gnocchi dishes we tried were cooked to perfection and each bite was a little piece of heaven.
While we spent most of our trip in Rome, we also visited the quiet town of Siracusa in Sicily for a few days. When we were there, we tried Norma, a Sicilian specialty. Norma can be made with any type of pasta, but always includes tomato chunks and fresh eggplant. If you travel to Sicily you’ll find this staple dish on the menu, and it’s definitely worth a try!
Pesto (All Day Everyday)
In Sicily, we couldn’t find pesto on a menu until one of our very last days. One restaurant had Orrechiette con Pesto, although the pasta was really just in a vegetable purée. Rome however, was the land of pesto. For a great pesto dish, check out Caffé Domiziano in Piazza Navona for Linguine al Pesto Genovese. Although at 18 euros this was one of the most expensive lunches we had, it was definitely worth it.
If you go to Italy and don’t get gelato, were you really in Italy? Gelato was amazing either as an afternoon snack or an after dinner treat. With so many gelaterias, it’s hard to narrow down which was the best, but Flor Gelato Italiano seemed to pop up every few blocks. Their stracciatella had the perfect vanilla to chocolate chip ratio. It was sweet, creamy, and left us wanting more. If gelato isn’t your thing, Flor also has pastries and crepes to die for.
The only thing better than the Italian culture was their food, and the authentic Italian cuisine truly puts America’s version to shame.