Monday, July 20, 2015

The Best of Italy

    Jet lag :(  It's such a drag after an amazing 14 day cruise around Italy and a 17 day Best of Italy Rick Steves' Tour through the interior of Italy. Nobody has asked me yet if I ate pizza while we were in Italy for 35 days and we've been home for 4 days now! The only thing I can figure is that they just assumed that pizza was on every plate at every meal of every day so it might sound like a stupid question. The answer to dispel any mystery is, "Of course I ate pizza!" I had to try out the competitions' pizza of course, and see if I could learn anything new as far as ingredients, presentation, flavors etc. I never had time to do a cooking workshop but there was always an opportunity to see where the wood fired oven was located before placing my order in any Italian villa or city. In fairness, I wanted to try some other Italian dishes as well, which I did. Boar was different and quite good. Venison was amazing in a brown gravy stew up north in the Dolomites. The cannelloni was amazing as was the al dente spaghetti and fettuccine.
   Pizza is a staple in Italy. Numerous times while walking around the piazzas I saw no fewer than 3 pizza places all in a row. The menus were extensive and the one that kept coming up that caught my eye was a tonno pizza. Yep, tuna! I had to try it to see what I'd been missing out on. I like tuna. I like it right out of the can. I like it on toast in the morning and sandwiches at lunch time. I like it in tuna salad. However, tuna on a pizza must be something you grow up with because my taste buds were telling me that tuna on pizza will not sell in the USA. You have to grow up on it like with Miracle Whip instead of mayonnaise! The only thing that would have kept me from trying it altogether would've been Miracle Whip and tuna on a pizza. I'll let the Italians corner that market.
    I did see that when being served that the Italians don't cut their pizzas into 6, 8 or 12 slices like we do here in the states. It's very thin. It's served whole with a knife and fork and you cut off pieces in order to fit it in your mouth. Honestly, I prefer a triangle wedge of pizza, picked up with your hands and devoured like a New Yorker would have. In my opinion, knives and forks should be reserved for the boar and venison but never for pizza. Sorry Europeans, that's just the way it should be eaten. That's what napkins are for!
A Quattro Pizza
     The presentation on what I thought a quattro pizza was when I ordered one, was unique as well. In the US, a quattro formaggio pizza is a 4 cheese pizza. I thought I was ordering that. What a quattro is in Italy is a combination of four toppings all separated into little groups on top of the pizza. Salami on 1 quarter, cheese on another, green olives (with pits intact!) on the third and mushrooms on the fourth quarter. It was delicious. I'm not thinking of changing my presentation, but it's always fun to see someone else's spin on a pizza.
   In addition to eating pizza and Italian food we visited many cities that I never knew existed. The WOW moment for me was a German speaking villa in the village of Castelrotto up north in the Dolomite mountains of Italy all decked out like a real Bavarian style town complete with German speaking residents, architecture and signs in German.
View of the Dolomites in Castelrotto
  They had pizza too, but it was my opportunity to feast on German food instead from an outdoor restaurant gazing at the majestic mountains above the town. It was the base town for the European skiers to come to in the winter and take advantage of the snow and scenery. What a treat! I even got a chance to speak some German and drink some German beer while we sat there with our friends soaking up the view. Rick Steves really knew what he was doing when he added this town to the itinerary.
   Two days in Copenhagen. A two week cruise aboard the Royal Clipper around the boot of Italy including stops in Sicily, Greece, Albania, Croatia and Slovenia then return to Venice only to leave quickly to catch a train to Varenna and start the Rick Steves' tour there over to Venice and across the leg of the boot through Cinque Terre, Pisa, Florence, Sienna and Rome can tire a person out but every day was a new adventure and another opportunity to see the sites and eat pizza along the way.
   It's like I've said before, "Nobody doesn't like pizza" and the Italians are there to prove it.