This post is a response to a comment about our blog: "You are in Italy if I'm not mistaken…so, what about the FOOD?!"
It has actually been a bit hit-or-miss (shocking!), although definitely favoring the "hit" side most often.
A few of the greatest gustatory hits so far:
In all flavors, styles, sizes and shapes (some more evocative than others!), with many cities and regions specializing in a specific cheese.
Even the supermarket cheeses are amazing, as evidenced by the drooling C in this photo. (She is also conveniently oblivious to the 30 Euro/kilo price tag on that truffle-infused cheese she is oogling!)
We are slowly learning to treat it with the same reverence as Italians. In your average super market the olive oil section is as big as the cereal section in the US, and just as varied.
It helped that we visited an olive farm and tasted an assortment of oils, complete with learning the rapid, air-infusing “slurp” that’s required…followed by the peppery burn of quality oils in the back of the throat. Who knew that was a good thing?!
Since Genoa is a port city, seafood is abundant. Our family is making strides toward eating more fish, including attempts at the tentacled and shelled variety by the girls.
Remarkable cured meats, of all types. They make for simple, fresh meals at home too.
Thank goodness for Margherita pizza, since it’s inexpensive and frequently a staple for the girls. (In Italy, it’s a bit like the hamburger in the US – available almost everywhere and consistently of decent quality.) But they are adventurous too, including trying out a mixed-topping pizza sold by the meter! Unfortunately, that experience was tainted by the take-out box for our leftovers, adorned with “Puffi”/Smurfs. We can't escape US marketing!
Surprisingly, this is not a strength of Italian cuisine. In most restaurants you are welcomed with a small basket or paper bag containing bland, cold, stale slices of white bread – offered as part of the per-person Coperto - cover charge - that’s added to the bill (and substitutes for a tip). But you also occasionally find a regional specialty that can be extraordinary. In Genoa, it’s “farinata genovese”, which is a chickpea flatbread cooked in a large pizza-like pan, quickly sliced, and served warm. Deliziosa!
Every shape, size and variety you can imagine. We are learning to recognize when it’s properly cooked (always al dente!) more by sight than by timer…but that’s probably a lifelong process.
We've developed a gelato-a-day habit since arriving in Genoa, and we're thankful for the steep streets to help burn off the calories! We have also branched out a bit, adding Granita to our frozen dessert repertoire. There's a spot in Genoa that makes it in the original Sicilian style, using fresh fruit puree and a sugar syrup to produce a semi-frozen slush that's pure joy. Even the occasional brain-freeze is more tolerable.
The "artisan" food movement is just as active in Europe as in the US, and - just like Portland - farmer's markets are the best place to find a wonderful variety of sights, smells and tastes.
Despite these many decadent delights, there are many nights when we’d do just about anything for a fantastic burrito, or a bowl of kung pao chicken. We've seen no more than a half-dozen non-Italian restaurants in our travels around Genoa, as “ethnic food” just isn't a way of life in Italy.
Okay, okay, we can still drown our sorrows in Pasta Bolognese and a nice Barolo!