Thursday, November 8, 2012

Is it Lunchtime YET???

I've written a lot about how wonderful the food is in Italy, but I don't know how much I've written about Eating in Italy. Eating and mealtimes has been the biggest cultural hurdle for me to get my mind wrapped around but I think it's finally sinking in to my brain.

If you are full-blooded American, you will be disappointed that you cannot find a restaurant that serves American-style breakfast. In fact, you won't likely find any restaurant open before 8pm! That's not a type-o. I'll explain momentarily.

Breakfast in Italy is cappuccino and cornetto (a sweet croissant). If you are at home, you might have a glass of steamed milk, a glass or juice and 5-8 breakfast biscuit cookies (and of course caffe). Cereal is a trend that is just catching on here. It's funny because there are directions on the box including that you pour cold milk (not hot) on the cereal. We think that's funny, but if you look at a box of pasta here you would not see any directions on preparation except for the number of minutes to cook. In the states, there are directions on the box (boil 2 quarts of water, add salt to water, etc)

You can eat anytime after waking. Some eat at home, some eat at a cafe bar. I think up until 11am is normal.

Pranza or lunch is usually eaten at home. Again, very few restaurants are open. Only in metropolitan areas and tourist areas, and 12 at the very earliest. If you work, you may get a panino (sandwich) or pizzette (little pizza-style pastry) at the bar. At home, lunch is pasta, and usually a substantial amount. Oh, and lunch is around 12:30-1:30pm. Very late!

At this time of day you will only find pizza at a lunch walk-up place in a metro area (ie: downtown Naples or larger suburb). There might be a couple of tall tables to stand at and eat or you would take it home. These places also sell yummy little trasures (none of them healthy) like croquette
made of potato and sometimes a meat filling, arancini which are deep fried, breaded balls of risotto or pasta and my favorite, zeppoline which are fried pieces of pizza dough salted - heart attack food for sure. But pretty tasty! Real restaurants have wood ovens for pizza and they don't heat them until dinner time. It takes 4 hours to get the oven to the proper, consistent temperature!

If you do find a restaurant they will serve you a multi-course traditional lunch. It's pricey and it's a lot of food. You can push back and only order one course too. It starts with a plate of fresh mozzarella di buffala, proccuitto crudo (raw) and maybe a salami of some kind. Then you would select from the primi piatti or first plates of pasta. And it's substantial! Then you would choose from the secondi piatti which is a main course. Then maybe a salad after that! It goes on and on! I usually only order from the list of primi piatti or insalate (salad).

So everyone eats a large pasta lunch and takes riposo (a nap). Yes, businesses completely shut down. You can't go to smaller stores, specialty stores, schools are dismissed, everything! Some gas stations are open and very large supermarkets, but everything else closes. I was in a United Colors of Benetton and they were hurrying to ring me up before they closed for riposo. it's a very serious thing.

So they sleep until 4 or so and return to work! Work until 7 or 8 and then it's dinnertime. 8 is the earliest you will see an Italian at a restaurant. 9, 10, 11 not uncommon. Makes me yawn just thinking about it!

The convenience of a 24 hour Denny's is greatly missed by this American girl! I really miss going out to breakfast more than anything! But no lunch spots and no dinner until 8 is just as frustrating. Even the few McDonalds here don't serve breakfast. They open at noon. Another of my favorite activities, going to lunch with a girlfriend is near impossible - but if you go downtown or near the seaside you can find something. I'm adjusting, and it's difficult, but the food is so good, it's worth waiting for!

Today I'm thankful for:

13. Zeppoline

14. The car our landlord let us borrow while ours is in the shop

15. Kids karaoke night on the base. Emily loves it!!!

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