Food is an essential part of living in Italy. I have consumed enough pasta, pizza, and gelato to last me a lifetime. In fact, I’ve said to myself that I don’t think I will ever want to eat these foods again once back in America. I’ve found my restaurants and gelaterias in the area that I love and return to week after week here. My favorite gelato flavor is without a doubt, stracciatella. I think one of the reasons it is my favorite flavor gelato is because it isn’t similar to anything we have back in New York City. Chocolate chip in a creamy vanilla gelato is far richer than any vanilla and chocolate ice cream I have tasted back home. Last night after a delicious meal of bolognese pasta with some friends, we discovered a new gelato place, La Carraia. What was unique about La Carraia was that it is cheaper than most gelato places, with 2 flavors for 2 euros. I had been warned that gelato places with the “puffy” gelato in the window are no good and taste extremely superficial. La Carraia was the only exception to this rule. A crowd of teenagers gathered outside tasting flavors and I quickly discovered why it had attracted such a swarm. The strawberry cheesecake and stracciatella melted in my mouth with every bite. It was eaten too fast, to say the least!
I’ve often wondered how on earth Italians manage to stay thin compared to foreigners visiting here eating the same exact food. It seems crazy that you could eat food so rich in carbs and so glutinous, yet maintain a decent figure. I myself manage to make it to the gym twice a week yet still feel so weighed down by the food. The Italians eat differently than we do in America since they have an aperitivo prior to dinner. Most restaurants I want to try are not open from 3:00-7:00pm. Aperitivo usually consists of small appetizers and a glass of wine to hold you over until dinner. In America we are taught to eat our dinner on the earlier side because once it gets later, it can be harder to digest and easier to gain the weight since your metabolism slows down as it gets later. However, this is not necessarily true. It might actually be a smarter way to digest your food since it means the food is broken up into smaller amounts at a time making it easier to digest.
I also find the relationship between wine and food so interesting. Certain wines pair well with certain types of pasta, pizza or even fish. I usually opt for the house red wine, and it generally goes well with most plates. Several nights ago I was craving steak. I rarely eat red meat, but my stomach had taken over my brain. I had the most amazing wine and steak at a restaurant around the corner from my apartment in central Florence. The steak was cooked to perfection and I finished the whole steak in one sitting. Never have I ever felt the need to finish a full steak in one sitting. I truly believe that the quality of meat, grains, and dairy in America is nowhere near that of Italy. I’ll really miss the flavors of Florence.