Buon giorno! I just returned from 10 days in Italy which included 10 days worth of Italian sweets and amazing food! We had an unique opportunity to enjoy three cities in Italy: Rome, Florence and Venice.
Italy has many exciting sites to see including: the Colosseum, Roman baths, the Vatican, Sistine Chapel, canals in Venice or Duomo in Florence. However, the food and dining is an experience all in itself. Italians take their food seriously and dinner usually consists of multiple courses, laced with wine, and topped off with something sweet. Dinner starts at 8 or 9 pm, and don’t expect to eat and run! Enjoy a glass of wine or a spritz and take it all in.
Antipasto: This literally means before (anti) the meal (pasto). Common options for this course are cheese plates, meat plate, olives, bruschetta, or salads. Also small baskets of bread and/or bread sticks are served. The fresh mozzarella is out of this world!
Primo Piatto: This is the first (primo) course (piatto), and is almost always pasta but can also include risotto or gnocchi. The serving size is typically appropriate for a second course which leaves enough room for the other two.
Secondo Piatto: The second (secondo) course (piatto) is the protein course of meat or fish, sometimes with a small side of vegetables.
Dolce: The best course of all, dessert. Because of all the previous courses, Italian desserts are usually fairly light. After dinner, it’s common to enjoy a drink a digestif, like limoncello (lemon liquor), or an espresso to help digest the meal they just enjoyed.
Tiramisu: a classic dessert with ladyfingers dipped in coffee, layered with a whipped mixture of eggs, sugar, and mascarpone cheese and dusted with coco powder.
Sfogliatella (lobster tail) and Cannoli: Sfogliatella is an incredibly flaky, shell-shaped pastry, usually filled with cream (pictured below with strawberries on top). Sfogliatella means “small, thin leaf/layer”, as the pastry’s texture resembles stacked leaves. Cannoli are tube-shaped shells of fried pastry dough and are filled with a sweet, creamy ricotta filling (pictured below with powdered sugar).
Torrone and Meringue: Torrone is a soft nougat confection that is typically made of honey, sugar and egg whites, with toasted almonds or other nuts. It’s usually shaped into either a rectangular or round cake (pictured on the left). We saw these all over sold in slices and in a variety of flavors. Meringue is a light, airy and sweet confections made from egg whites and sugar (pictured on the right). There were large piles of meringue sold in pastry shops in various flavors.
Gelato: The crown jewel (in my opinion) of Italian treats. Gelato started in Italy and can now be enjoyed all over the world. It is made with a base of milk, cream and sugar. It is lower in fat, but higher in sugar, than other types of ice cream. Gelato typically has less air and more flavoring than other kinds of frozen desserts, giving it a rich and dense flavor. This is why the serving sizes are typically smaller than what you would see in the US and they serve it with a tiny spoon. Common flavors are: Cioccolato (chocolate), pistacchio (pistachio), nocciola (hazelnut), crema (like vanilla), cocco (coconut) caffè (espresso), fragola (strawberry), limone (lemon).
If you are considering taking a trip overseas to Italy, I would highly recommend it. It’s worth the gelato alone. Save travels- ciao!