The food here is an art form, I’m sure of it. I didn’t realise this but many people come here for culinary tourism like in the Eat, Pray, Love book. Some people come to just eat and eat and eat. Others come to learn how to cook. You can travel to Italy and take cooking classes learning a specific cuisine or style. And people make homemade pasta here like it’s nothing. I’ve never made pasta from scratch but it seems like it’s not an easy thing to do.
I spent some time in the province of Liguria in the Northwest coast of Italy. Liguria is known for being the birthplace of pesto. For that reason, the moment you arrive in Liguria the restaurants start serving pesto options like it is its own flavor. I am not used to that. I’m used to pizza with pesto, not pesto pizza. I’m used to a tomato based pasta with pesto not pesto pasta. But that is exactly what they had. You could have anything you want in a pesto flavour or sauce. It was very interesting.
I think what was most interesting about the food is that each city and town makes their food slightly differently. So I was on a mission to try pizza in each town we were in and compare it. It took me awhile but I finally became accustomed to the Italian-style pizza. I grew up liking pizza with more calories, the thicker American-style or even the thickest Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. So it took awhile to get used to it, but then it felt good. You would eat pizza and still feel hungry (is that good?) or light. But the main thing I saw everywhere was gelato.
Gelato seems like a national pastime in Italy. It’s what you do when there’s nothing to do, especially when it’s hot. And it is quite amazing. I’m not sure what it is exactly or how you make it, but it’s not like ice cream. I didn’t even have milk-based gelato, I only had sorbetto (or sorbet). Now, when you have sorbet outside of Italy, it takes like . . . like ice. In Italy, the sorbetto is like ice cream. I’m not sure how to describe, but I had to ask more than once “Are you sure there is no milk in this?” It was so creamy. I’ve never had creamy-tasting sorbet before but that’s how Italian sorbetto is. I loved it. Again, every town claims to have the best gelato. We found the best gelato in a small suburban shop in Rome.
So now, I understand why people actually go and study Italian cooking. I originally thought it was a bit narrow. How many ways can you cook or make pasta? But it’s quite rich and diverse and has the potential to be ridiculously tasty if done well. And, yes, we ate well.