Wednesday, 7 August 2013

{Italia: Eat Your Heart Out}

I have to confess the real lure of Southern Italy... the food. I've been to Naples twice before to visit friends, and both times flown away well satiated by the delicious Italian specialties that our friends insisted we try. For Italians, food rates just as highly as body language (v.important) in expressing warmth & love. After extensive research, I concluded that there are three key moments in a young Italian's day..

Aperitivo Hour

As the sun went down each day in Calabria, we showered away the salt & sand and emerged outside to a table laid full of beautifully presented goodies. Fresh mozzarella & tomatoes, ripe peaches, crisps, olives, crackers... all washed down with a chilled glass of Prosecco or a beer.

Friends would drift in and out, greeting each other with kisses before getting stuck in to the beautiful snacks. In English terms, the Aperitivo feels like an entire meal in itself. For the Italians, it's just the warm-up - so be sure to pace yourself!

3am Coffee/Croissant Run

Once the food has been cleared away, the wine has been drunk and the world has been put to rights, you'd have thought the end of the evening was nigh. But no, in Italy, there's one last stop to make. A night out with Italians is not complete without a late-night trip to the local coffee house. 

Our friends would order teeny espressos and chat to the owner & other patrons, while Annie & I got stuck into the serious business.. pastry testing!

Come 3am, you'll find everyone in there - from policemen to folks out walking their dogs. It's always buzzing with Italian energy! How they sleep after the shots of caffeine I'll never know, but each night I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow - gleefully full of pastries & wine. 

Ps. My favourite was the croissant filled with chocolate cream... just sayin'.

24/7 Mozzarella 

Come day or night, Italians are ready for mozzarella. It's as much a part of their staple diet as water. On the long drive down to Calabria, my friend Ami took a detour to the town which, he promised, sells the 'best mozzarella in the world.' According to him, this is down to the large number of buffalo grazing the surrounding areas. I was slightly dubious about his rash declaration; I take my mozzarella judgement very seriously.

The café we stopped in was very rough & ready, with dusty chairs scattered about & locals stopping in for their daily dose of mozzarella balls. We let Ami do the talking and he firstly ordered these simple balls, as you can see above. No fuss, and no distracting accompaniments. Well, I can conclude that this was the best mozzarella I've ever had, and probably will ever have again! The mozz in England is pretty tasteless if we are all honest with ourselves, but this cheese was full of juicy goodness.

Ami then asked the owner to make us up some fresh sandwiches with parma ham & mozz, just to make sure we'd got enough of the good stuff!

As you can see from the photos mozzarella was a big part of my holiday, featuring in every meal. For some reason the boys decided that the dress code for dinner was speedos... we on the hand remained fully clothed.

On my final night in Calabria, we decided to cook the boys a traditional English(!) dish of Chilli Con Carne. They ate it all up and declared it delicious, but somehow I don't think I'll be swaying them from their diet of mozzarella, pasta, coffee & pastries!

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