144. More Food

If you ever needed to win a debate as to whether Italy is the greatest food country in the world, you could do it with just one word: Autogrill. The chain of highway rest stops has reliably excellent sandwiches, pastries and pizzas, great coffee, and the larger ones have pasta, salads and entrees, too. Italians wouldn’t tolerate anything less. You can count on clean bathrooms and a pleasant (and COVID-safe, Vax-card-checked) place to eat. When we’re doing a road trip, we make sure to time our journey to be on the Autostrada at lunchtime.

We sometimes choose rental car over train simply to have the Autogrill experience.
They put these in the panini press so the cheese gets all melty.
Our first of several Autogrill lunches on this trip.
Autogrill worker hustles to keep up with the demand for their first rate caffe, what we would call espresso. As you can see from the sign, Italy has slowly adopted coffee “to carry,” but nothing beats the clink of those shiny white cups.

I always used to mock my father when he claimed to smell chestnuts roasting on the streets of New York. Turns out he was always right. He knew what he was talking about: fall is chestnut season in Italy.

Roasting chestnuts on the streets of Ferrara
Chocolate covered chestnuts in a fancy candy shop

It seems that every town has its own distinctive culinary specialties. Venice is known for its cicchetti, small bites that are served with apertifs at cocktail hour. We especially enjoyed getting a plate of them to share for lunch.

Our favorite was the one with gorgonzola, walnuts and honey.

Meanwhile, about an hour away in Ferrara, they feature this oddly-shaped bread that tastes like Maryland-style chowder crackers.

Do they look obscene to you, too?

And of course, the markets are incredible, filled with excellent products, artfully displayed.

The sign says these figs from Puglia are the highest possible level of sweetness. It’s definitely not false advertising.

I maintain that the food in Italy is so great because they really, really care about it. They care about the purity of its ingredients, the precise method of its preparation, its presentation and appearance, the geography in which it is rooted, the surroundings in which it is eaten, and the family traditions it represents. The American values of convenience and speed are just not high on the list.

A simple lunch in Orvieto.
This lunch couldn’t be simpler… and couldn’t be better. Of course, the setting doesn’t hurt.

3 thoughts on “144. More Food

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