The Italian way

Since I moved to the UK 6 years ago, most of my conversations are about “proper Italian food”: not that I go around restaurants investigating all ingredients listed in their carbonara, it is more like people asking me for tips and secrets of having food “the Italian way”. I do enjoy all sorts of cuisines, but I admit that I love my country’s food, so I am always very happy to give some advice and enjoy the surprised faces I get when I explain that in Italy, latte is not exactly what you get from Starbucks (explanation below).

So here are the 5 Italian Way golden rules:

Cappuccino doesn’t belong to lunch

Cappuccino is for breakfast only. Having your lunch with cappuccino is a no no no no in Italy. I understand it is delicious, but having lasagne and a sip of milk and coffee is really frowned upon (no judgement from me, as far as I am concerned there are no rules when it comes to delicious food);

Nothing gets wasted

There is no way that an Italian nonna will throw food away: there is always a way to use it up to make something even more delicious. Olive oil is used to make soap, breadcrumbs are made from stale bread… Leftover pasta? Mix it with cheese, cover in batter and fry it: you will get a delicious frittatina di pasta

best frittatina di pasta from Cresci, York

The seafood and cheese conundrum

Topping seafood pasta (or any pasta with fish) with cheese is almost forbidden by law: if you ordered spaghetti with clams and ask for parmesan cheese, the waiters will think you are joking! Imagine my surprise when I moved here and found out that a very popular dish in the UK is “tuna pasta bake”. I still haven’t tried it yet, but I promised myself that at some point I will give it a go!

La scarpetta

La scarpetta is an almost holy ritual. After eating pasta or a saucy meat, the delicious sauce can’t be wasted (see point above), so italians do the “scarpetta”, which translates as “tiny shoe”: all you need is a piece of bread, which is then drowned into the sauce and eaten with no shame whatsoever. It is definitely not elegant, but it is a very good way to show appreciation of the food just served

I suggest you don’t order a latte in an Italian Cafe

So here is the uncomfortable truth I had to reveal over the years: if you order a latte in Italy, you will get 2 things, in this exact order:

-a frowned/confused face

-a mug full of hot or cold milk

The reason is that latte in Italian literally translates as “milk”, while the drink that people are looking for is “caffelatte“: a brew made of espresso and steamed milk (usually served at breakfast only, like cappuccino).

These were the most common points I always find myself discussing when it comes to Italian food, but there are some more that I will share in another post! Do you have any golden rules when it comes to food? Let me know in the comments!

#food

22 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Some interesting points here. In Australia coffee is drunk in any form all day! My husband also gets frustrated when he orders a seafood pizza and it comes with cheese. Hope you are enjoying the UK 🙂

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  2. Being of French extraction, we mingle lots of seafood with cheese! Coquilles Saint Jacques, Crab and Gruyère Soufflé, Sole Mornay, etc. Although I know it is totally against the law, I love a little freshly grated Parm on shrimp scampi (sorry, but I love it with or without!).

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  3. As I am half-French, I agree with the commenter above. Cheese and seafood can go together. However, that said, I love Italian food and would never break the rules while in Italy; those rules have produced one of the world’s greatest cuisines. I do agree with the coffee rule, though. Cappuccino belongs to the morning.

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  4. I taught in Italy and though Italian, I do have some Aussie habits they thought strange and one of them was my passion for cappuccinos at any time of the day and the other is cheese on seafood. I know I am a disgrace but they got used to it.
    Great post, entertaining as always.

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  5. What a fabulously entertaining and informative blog! I agree with all your sentiments, especially la scarpetta and no cheese on fish! OMG! Just the thought alone gives me agita! We have a very popular tuna noodle casserole here in The States but I have never tried it; the closest I’ve come is making a cold tuna/pasta/veggie salad sprinkled with grated cheese which was quite good but cheese on my spaghetti alle vongole? Never never never!!! Now I shall enjoy a delicious caffelatte and biscotti for breakfast! Ciao,Cara. Have a lovely day! ❤️

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  6. I enjoyed your post. It reminded of the time years ago (before Starbucks) when I first started dating a Frenchman. Cappucinos were a novelty then and I’d have it at lunch & dinner. He’d shake his head and say “No, no … this is a breakfast drink.” 🙂

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  7. I’ve been doing la scarpetta my whole life without knowing it was an actual ritual… Nothin better than some bread soaked in really good sauce 😋

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  8. Love it! We love Italy so much and we often travelled there before the pandemics and know most of these basic rules, but at home in Denmark, husband allows himself to order capuccino after 10am just because he loves it so much LOL

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  9. Oy, what we (we in this case being non-Italians) have done to pizza. Added not just tuna but pineapple, seventeen raw vegetables, old shoes, bicycle chains. I grew up in New York when you could get either plain pizza or sausage pizza, by the slice. End of discussion. It’s one of those–well, it’s sort of like committing yourself to a religion. It’s a belief system.

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