Italy for the Gourmet Traveler is a brick of a book which takes on not only restaurants of Italy, but shops, markets, bookstores, wineries, cooking schools and more. Author Fred Plotkin begins by sharing some general information about Italian cooking, and then explores food in Italy, region by region.
I learned so much from the general information section of this book:
*Some people who visit Italy are actually disappointed that a dish with the same name as what they ate at home doesn't taste like what they already know.
*Portions in Italy are smaller than in American restaurants.
*Many Italians go to the market every day to buy the freshest ingredients.
*You can usually spot a tourist restaurant because a standard multilingual menu will be posted outside that is identical to restaurants all over town.
*You don't drink wine with pizza at an Italian pizzeria.
*In a 1994 study, Italians were far and away the biggest coffee drinkers in Europe.
*Breakfast is a light meal of cappuccino, a roll, and possibly fruit juice.
*Lunch used to be the principal meal of the day.
*Most of the dishes Americans think of as classically Italian, including soup, pasta, risotto, and polenta, were traditionally appetizers.
After reading the general information about Italian food, I focused on the two regions I will be visiting in late May, Toscana (Tuscany) and Lazio (the home of Rome).
Information about eating in Tuscany that I carried away from this book:
*Tuscan olive oil is generally considered the world's best. Many say the best oil comes from Lucca or Siena.
*Penne is popular throughout Tuscany. In northern Tuscany, filled pasta, such as tortellini and ravioli are common.
*Tuscan bread is very popular with foreigners, and it is made without salt.
*The most characteristic main course in Toscana is bistecca all fiorentina, which is made with meat from a Tuscan breed of cattle. It is the perfect match for the region's excellent red wines.
*Tuscans and Piedmontese argue who has the best red wine in Italy. Chianti is probably Italy's most famous wine, and the most excellent chianti comes from Pisa, Firenze, and Lucca.
Information about eating in Rome that I learned from this book:
*Fred Plotkin says there is a lustiness in the food and wine of Rome that is unparalleled in Italy.
*Lamb is the preferred meat.
*Roman food has a "forceful presence of black pepper and salt."
*People in Rome generally drink white wine.
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