Chandler West

Rock Hill teen in Italy learns about authentic Italian cuisine

Food in Italy is very little like Italian food in the United States

ColumnistJanuary 26, 2012 

— When I was preparing to come to Italy, one of the things I was most excited about was the food. I loved Italian food, though most of my experience with it had been of the American-interpretation variety.

Although plenty of the Italian restaurants I'd tried back home claimed authenticity, real Italian food in Italy turned out to be very little like what I'd tried in the past.

It turns out that American-Italian and Italian-Italian cuisine are two very different things, which happen to share some main components like pasta and pizza.

You never encounter (or at least I never have) a restaurant in American that boasts "Authentic Italian Breakfasts!" but Italians do partake in a morning meal, called " colazione" in Italian.

An Italian breakfast is always, without fail, sweet. No eggs, bacon or sausage to be found. Some days I'd do anything for an omelet, but here I have the same thing every day.

While I miss salty American breakfasts (and pancakes, which most people here have only seen in the movies and on TV), my Italian breakfast is quite good.

I have pan gocciole, a small round piece of white bread with chocolate chips, a mug of hot chocolate and a small glass of orange juice. The orange juice here is pink, because it comes from blood oranges. Other people eat different things like brioches, cookies and cakes.

Where coffee in America is often a morning-time thing, it is served all throughout the day in Italy. A normal coffee comes in a tiny cup with a packet of sugar or two and is incredibly strong.

The first time I tried it, I was a bit startled by the powerful flavor, but now I love it. Cappuccino, which can be ordered all day but is more popular earlier, is also good and is more like what I'm used to having. It's sweet and frothy. At the cafés, they like to serve it with pretty designs and pictures, like hearts or flowers, made out of the froth.

Lunchtime at home and out, in my experience, have been two very different things. At home, my host family usually gives me pasta of some sort.

There are more than 500 types of pasta made in Italy, not to mention all the different ways they can be prepared. There are many sauces available, but all consist of vegetables. I've only had meat with pasta once in my almost five months here.

Most cafés I've been to for lunch serve mainly sandwiches. A sandwich, in Italian, is called a panino. Back in the U.S., I can remember ordering a "panini," and expecting a warm, round flat sandwich.

None of the sandwiches I've ordered here have been flat. They're usually made from a bread roll. They can be filled with many things including prosciutto (ham), either " cotto" (cooked) or " crudo" (not cooked); " tonno" (tuna); mozzarella cheese; fontina cheese; mayonnaise and more.

Dinner at home can be just about anything, but when I go out for dinner with friends we almost always have pizzas. We pick them up and eat them at someone's house, or all eat together at one of the many pizzerias in and around Brescia.

I try to order a different type of pizza every time I go, which isn't difficult because there are countless options. Anything can show up on a pizza in Italy. I've had artichokes, eggs, shrimp, nuts. My favorite was a pizza with grilled zucchini (another word English-speakers use in its plural), fresh tomatoes and an egg in the middle.

In Italy, if you're craving a good old pepperoni pizza, order " salame piccante." When you ask for pepperoni, you'll end up with a pizza full of bell peppers, which actually turns out to be pretty delicious.

Chandler West is a Rock Hill High School student who is spending her senior year in Italy. She writes about her adventures abroad each week in The Herald.

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