Missing Northern Italy: a nostalgic food trip

When I was in Italy I got homesick and wanted so badly to go home. I missed eating adobo. Now that I’m back home I miss Italian food so much. Is it human nature to appreciate what we have once it is no longer there??? So here’s a list of some of the food that I miss and a “must try before you die” Italian food bucket list:

1. Piedmont : Barolo, Barbareseco and Muscato winesThe vineyards of Piedmont are breath-taking! Driving through Asti, Alba and the Langhe region is like going through hills of grape terraces. Wine is cheaper than coca cola in an enoteca. This region is famous for the noble nebbiolo grape which is used to produce superb Barolo and Barbaresco wines. The Muscato grape is also made into wonderful white wine.

Porcini mushrooms and the truffles of Alba

Truffle hunting season in Alba is from October to November. Tartufo is traded and sought out like drugs in the black market of the culinary world. The pleasures of black truffles can cost 300 euros and white truffles can go as high as 3000 euros a kilo. Porcini or wild mushrooms are also a culinary delight. Right now I’m dreaming of Risotto al funghi!!

2. Giandujotto and Cioccolate con panna in Torino

It tends to get very cold in Turin. Nothing beats a nice cup of hot chocolate to warm you

up. Most guide books say drinking Cioccolate con panna (hot chocolate with cream) is a must do in this city. Turin is known as Italy’s chocolate capital. If you’re a tourist you can buy a Choco pass that gives you access to the different pasticceria(s) for some sinful artisan chocolates.

The best chocolate in this region is a called Giandujotto. I brought some home with me. It is foil-wrapped chocolate made with cioccolate fondante (chocolate fondant) and pasta nocciole (hazelnut paste). The hazelnuts of Piedmont are the finest in the world. Italians love hazelnut candy or nocciole and the world-famous hazelnut spread Nutella.

Btw 10/10/10 that’s when we were in Turin! Such a crazy night! We painted the town red and experienced sleeping on the cold floor of the train station in the wee hours of the morning while waiting for our train. Jajajajaja!

3. Lavazza and Espresso

I have imbibed the coffee culture but I am still trying to understand why a shot of espresso should be drunk hastily while standing in a bar. I like to take my time and enjoy a cup of coffee. Note: here cappuccino is drunk only in the mornings unless you are a tourist. I normally have Café lungo which is water downed coffee also known as café Americano. No Starbucks in this part of the world!!!

3. Gelato at Grom www.grom.it

Karla Paderna at Grom

The best gelato in the world for me would be from the gelateria called GROM. The shop originated in Piedmonte. Grom is made in Asti using top quality ingredients and fresh organic produce. The flavors change depending on what is in season. They have opened shops in New York and Paris with long lines. My favorite is crema di Grom, nocciola, and cioccolato extranoir. Yummmy!!!! Sigh! I miss Grom 😦

5. Pesto in Genoa

Paulo Empeno enjoying his pesto pasta

One weekend we took the train to Cinque Terre in Genoa. This was the location of Diane Lane’s movie “Under the Tuscan Sun”. The coastline of this Italian Rivera is one of the most beautiful in the world. It is a must to go through the “via de amore” or the famous “walk of love”. In this cliff couples pledge and seal their love with a padlock and throw the key into the ocean. Genoa is the birthplace of Pasta alla Genovese also known as pesto pasta.

6. Tuscany : Bistecca Florentina and Trippa alla Florentina

The Italian renaissance started in Florence or Firenze and was home to the powerful Medici family. Catherine Medici is known in the culinary world for her influence to French cuisine. Must try is Bistecca Florentina which is a thick grilled steak seasoned with rosemary and olive oil. Another is Trippa alla Florenintina or tripe stew from sidewalk vendors. I had café at the Rivoire expresso bar at the Piazza del Duomo while marveling at the Duomo and the Baptistry of San Giovanni. I was in awe finding out that the whole church is made of marble. Firenze is my favorite city in Italy for its elegance and grandeur.

Also while in Tuscany have a Chianti or a glass of Brunello di Montalcino. The Brunello is made from Saniovese grapes and is the best wine of this region.

7. Milan: Vitello a la Milanese, Ossobuco and Risotto a la Milanese

Italy’s fashion capital Milan is too much a metropolis for me. I don’t enjoy busy and crowed cities. Here you need to watch out for your bag and wallet. The station is so huge that we almost missed our train! Just like an episode from the amazing race!

Food to try is Vitello a la Milanese. This is similar to the breaded veal schnitzel and is cooked in clarified butter. Risotto a la Milanese is a simple risotto with saffron. This is paired with Ossobuco a mouth watering veal shank stew.

8. Bellini and Beef Carpaccio in Venice

Venice is very beautiful. Venice by night is so romantic but by day it is one giant tourist trap. It is also expensive. You need to pass through the famous Rialto bridge to say you have been to Veneto. A water taxi costs 18 euros for an unlimited pass through the grand canal to get to St. Marks or Murano. It is a better way to get around than paying 100 euros to ride an overrated gondola for 45 minutes!! Besides the gondoliers don’t really sing.

Jo Cabuay loves to drink the Bellini. Little did she know it was invented in Harry’s Bar near Piazza San Marco. The original Bellini cocktail is made from peach puree and Processo. In other parts of the world it is made with peach schnapps and Champagne. Hotel Cipriani is where Harry’s Bar is located. They say the beef carpaccio was invented or at least made popular in this place. Carpaccio is raw beef sliced paper thin. The dish was a tribute to Ventian painter Vittore Carpaccio.

Here’s a list of other things to try. And make sure you do… forget about the calories and live life with no regrets!!!

1. 20 year old Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

2.. Proscuitto from San Danielle Parma. This is dry cured and sliced paper thin ham.

3. Compare the hard grating cheeses of Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, Pecorino Romano

4. Do an olive oil degustation

5. Real Buffalo Mozzarella on its own or in a Salad Caprese

6. Artisan cheeses and breads

7.Aranacia rossa or blood orange fruit or juice from Sicily

8. Fresh home made pasta and pizza made by a grandma during siesta time. Just like in Magdalena in Costigliole

9. Napoli’s pizza Margherita – named after the queen. Basil, tomato, and buffalo mozzarella are the colors of the Italian flag. (I hope to eat the real thing in Napoli one day)

10. Tiramisu – a dessert made with lady fingers dipped in coffee, zabayone, with mascarpone cheese



About Pam

Teacher, cook, foodie, wanderlust
This entry was posted in alumni, blog, food tours, Italy, travel. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Missing Northern Italy: a nostalgic food trip

  1. Miss them all too so badly!

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