Destin-Nation Italy: Looking Beyond Pizza and Pasta

Destin-Nation Italy: Looking Beyond Pizza and Pasta

pizzodesevo, flickr

Italian food is no mystery: Pizza and pasta are staples of everyday eating in many parts of the globe. But real Italian food varies greatly different from the ol' Sunday gravy Grandma used to make.
Italian food is no mystery: Pizza and pasta are staples of everyday eating in many parts of the globe. But real Italian food varies greatly different from the ol' Sunday gravy Grandma used to make.

One caveat when traveling to Italy is that meal times there are strict, and are often far later than they are in the U.S. Lunch does not generally begin until 1 p.m., and dinner is not until 8 or 9. Restaurants also close between mealtimes.

"The one thing that Americans have a difficult time with is that the restaurants don't open till after 8," says Nicola Marzovilla, owner of the Apulian restaurant I Trulli in downtown Manhattan who offered gourmet guidance for this tour.

Attitudes towards food rules are no less stringent: nobody drinks cappuccino after about 1 p.m., never put cheese on seafood dishes, and nobody's food is as good as mama's.

Getting to Italy should be a piece of cake. There are dozens of nonstop flights to a broad range of cities, all for under $1000.

Buon Appetito!

7 Italian Cities
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Destin-Nation Italy: Looking Beyond Pizza and Pasta

These options won’t be difficult to find as most bear the name of their origin: Parma is famous for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and prosciutto di parma, a very thinly sliced dry-cured ham. The best place to find the city’s delicacies? The restaurant La Greppia, whose female chef, Paola Cavazzini, only hires women, is renowned for its perfected use of both ingredients. Try one of the restaurant’s most innovative dishes — pears poached in red wine topped with parmesan mousse.

Parma is located in northern Italy's Emiglia-Romagna region, which is famous for hosting Cibus, the international food industry's largest trade fair. The festival includes famous dishes from all over Italy and occurs in May.

Getting there: Airport Giuseppe Verdi, only 3 and a half miles from the center of town, is Parma's miniature airport, but you can only fly in from nearby cities such as London, Paris, and Rome. You can also fly into Bologna for around $700 (Delta has good options) and take the Milan-Bologna railway to the Parma station, which is at the northern edge of the city center.

The city of Bologna is well known for its love of meat. Consider, for a moment, Bolognese sauce, the rare sauce that brings its own meat to the party. Mortadella, a sausage, lasagna, and tortellini in broth are among the city’s most popular dishes.

And then there’s the city’s gelato selection. Various experts have a heated debate as to which of Bologna’s many gelateries is the best. Stefino, which has three locations throughout the city, is a definitive favorite, featuring dozens of flavors as well as sorbets and granites (shaved ice). Try the chili-chocolate flavor for an unusual spin.

Getting there: Fly into Bologna's airport from Boston or New York for $700 or $800 on Iberia airlines. The airport is about four miles from the city center and offers shuttle services to the train and bus stations.

Among Rome’s many famous attractions, the city's food markets are a stand out, featuring everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to high-quality fish to a wide variety of breads. Some run on the expensive side — like Campo dei Fiori, one of the more well-known and picturesque markets. But there are also cheaper options like Mercato Comunale Flaminio, a market near to the famous Piazza del Popolo, where many farmers sell their produce.

Visitors who get to Campo dei Fiori early in the day should stop by the bakery Il Forno, which offers delicious pastries to eat while walking around looking for the next tasty treat.

Getting there: Is a breeze. There are dozens of flights from New York and Miami at around $700 or $800 on Alitalia, and the airport is only a half hour from the city center. Shuttle buses are available.

Sicilian cuisine is notable because it is so heavily influenced by the various cultures that have inhabited the island in the past, let's say,  thousand years. The Italian tradition serves as a backdrop for Spanish, Greek, and Arab experiments that offer a wide range of spices and flavors. Not surprisingly, seafood dominates Sicilian cuisine.

Try the restaurant Il Duomo in Ragusa, whose chef, Ciccio Sultano (above), has been hailed as a master of the “new regionalism." The restaurant’s menu features a variety of surprising but tasty flavor blends. Try the tuna served raw with a mint and parsley sauce, topped with a hint of orange sorbet.

The restaurant’s website also features videos displaying how various meals are prepared — for those who love a preview arrival.

Getting there: The cheapest way to get to Sicily is a little roundabout — fly into London (there's a wide array of flights available costing around $500 from the East Coast) and then take a Ryan Air flight from Stansted Airport to Castania for only $50.

Venice has long been popular for its unusual beauty, not to mention the romantic appeal of its gondolas. It comes as no surprise that finding a decently priced place to eat here can be difficult. There are, however, a few very good options available, including Met, where Chef Corrado Fasolato offers bold twists on traditional recipes. There is also a ten course “surprise menu” made up of courses to be named later, presumably by your waiter. Make sure to try the cheese cart: The restaurant has some of the most exquisite formaggios in the city.

Getting there: Flights to Venice from New York are around $700 or $800 on Delta. The airport is about an hour's drive from the ferry to the city.

Bari is located in southern Italy on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. Though Apulia is best known for its pastas — orecchiette and cavatelli being the two best known — seafood is one of the region’s specialties. Sea urchin and baby octopus are two favorites. The sea urchins are rumored to be less fishy here and the octopus is served raw or lightly grilled. Try either of these dishes with a seaside view at Da Tuccino in the town of Polignano a Mare.

In the evening, old butcher shops here take the intestinal linings of their various victims, fill it with rolled offal, and create a sausage-like delicacy that they then grill on the street outside their shop. Not all butchers practice this tradition, so look out for Ghiammereddu, a fan favorite.

Getting there: Flights to Bari are on the expensive side (they hover around $1100 from New York). Those willing to take a scenic road trip, however, can fly into Naples for significantly less (around $700 on Meridiana) and make the three-hour drive from coast to coast — a good way to get to know Italy right off the bat.

Correggio is located in the region of Emiglia-Romagna, which is known for its creamy pasta dishes and its abundance of fried food. The city is also famous for a vegetable pie called erbazzone, made of pasta, onions, vegetables (often spinach), eggs and Parmesan cheese. To have a traditional Correggian meal, visit Trattoria Tre Spade, where they will offer you the local drink — Lambrusco, a dry sparkling wine that “goes very well with a lot of fried foods,” Marzovilla explained. 

Getting there: Correggio's small size makes it a little tricky to get here but not overly difficult. It's right near the Milan-Bologna Railroad and only about a half-hour drive from the Reggio nell'Emilia train station. An even easier option would be to make the one-hour drive from Bologna's airport into city center.


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