Eat Smart

Tastes Abroad: Pizza, pasta, and passion for all things Italian

by Rebecca Toback, blogger

When I arrived in Italy, I was expecting some of the best food I would ever have. We Americans love Italian food, so I thought eating it in Italy, getting to experience the real deal, had to be 100 times better. Well, the pasta was good and the pizza was great, but I think there are American Italian restaurants that can put the Italy’s Italian restaurants to shame. Click ahead to hear why!

On night one in Venice, we went to a Venitian restaurant. Venice specializes in seafood, which is not surprising since it’s on the water. I got pasta with seafood in it; it was good, but I wasn’t blown away. I can go to Joey’s on Thompson Road in East Syracuse and order the same quality food. The next day, my friends and I got pizza from a pizzeria our hotel had recommended. I ordered an individual pie with olives, mushrooms, and artichokes. To my surprise, one third of the pizza came out with each topping—they weren’t mixed. I doubt an American Italian restaurant would do that.

In Florence, we found the best deals on food. The first night I was there, I went to dinner with a big group of people. Although the food was again pretty disappointing (some of my friends didn’t like their meals at all), we got unlimited wine, two pitchers of Lemonchello (an Italian liquor favorite), split two appetizers and had countless of entrées. Amazingly, the bill totaled to 13 euros each. In London, 13 euros, (about 11.50 pounds) can get you an entrée alone, maybe.

On night two, we *finally* went to an incredible restaurant for dinner. It was all you can eat… literally. We couldn’t nearly finish all they gave us; included in the 15 euro all-you-can-eat price comes a half liter of wine per person. Between the seven of us at dinner, we got three appetizers and three huge trays of pasta. The penne a la vodka, tortellini arrabiata, and gnocci with meatballs were amazing; my friends and I all wished we had room to eat more or time to go back again.

By the time I got to Rome I was sick of pizza and pasta! Other than the countless bakery items, it seemed like all the food Italy had to offer was pizza and pasta. Though, we did go to one restaurant in Venice that offered horsemeat. YES, it said horsemest on the menu—I thought it had to be a joke.

In Rome, I had some of the best chicken parm I’ve ever had. Finally, the food met my expectations. The restaurant we ate at is also said to have Italy’s best penne a la vodka, which my friends got. (However, penne a la vodka is actually said to be an American Italian invention and not authentically Italian.) This Roman restaurant, Hostaria del Moro da Toni, is famous among American tourists for good reason. The food was great; the chef, Toni, walks around the tables to check on how everyone likes their food. The restaurant has a homey feel that makes the ambience just as enjoyable as the food.

Though my expectations and reality for the food in Italy did not align, it was still fun trying out the authentic Italian food and comparing Italian and Italian-American dishes by the same name. Next, I’m traveling to Prague. I hear the food there is really different—they even put fried cheese on top of hamburgers. I guess I’ll have to Czech it out for myself!