Articles

An Italian in Canada – From the Food of Italy to “Italian Food”

I came to Vancouver in 2001, right after getting my Electronic Engineering degree. I had a six-month contract as a software engineer, joining an Italo-Canadian development team. Naturally, I was very excited for the professional experience that awaited me, but I was even more excited for the opportunity to discover a big new city in an … Continue reading “An Italian in Canada – From the Food of Italy to “Italian Food””

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Palio di Siena

Personal Space and the Italians

Like other southern European and Latin American populations, Italians require less “personal space” compared to northern Europeans or North Americans. According to proxemics, the study of interpersonal communication, personal space is the cylinder of air surrounding each person which people consider as an extension of their body, where no one else is allowed. The personal … Continue reading “Personal Space and the Italians”

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the basic rules of italian food

My Guest Post on The Basic Rules of Italian Food

A few weeks ago, Diana Zahuranec, friend and recurring podcast guest, asked me if I was interested in writing a guest post for her blog: Once Upon a Time in Italy. Having lived in Italy for 5 years, Diana couldn’t help but notice that, when it comes to food, the otherwise chaotic Italians seem to follow a … Continue reading “My Guest Post on The Basic Rules of Italian Food”

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fresh and dried pasta

[Italy: Instructions for Use] Dried Pasta vs. Fresh Pasta

It has been a long time since my last post on the travel website Experience Italy Travel, but I continue to host a section called “Italy: Instruction for Use” where I talk about Italian food and culture, and where I share useful tips aimed at first-time travelers to Italy. In this informative post, I go over the difference between fresh … Continue reading “[Italy: Instructions for Use] Dried Pasta vs. Fresh Pasta”

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[Italy: Instructions for Use] How to Shop for Groceries Like an Italian

Continuing on the series “Italy: Instruction for Use”, this post contains useful tips on how to get by in Italian grocery stores. How do you line up in a crowd when there’s no visible queue and everyone is standing by the counter? What’s negotiable when interacting with vendors? Is it OK to ask for samples? … Continue reading “[Italy: Instructions for Use] How to Shop for Groceries Like an Italian”

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[Italy: Instructions for Use] How Italian Restaurants Work

As announced in the podcast, I began writing for my friends at Experience Italy Travels – a new challenge that makes me very happy! As my usual, I will be talking about Italian traditions and culture, but I’ll also give my tips to help travelers get by in Italy, and think like Italians! The first … Continue reading “[Italy: Instructions for Use] How Italian Restaurants Work”

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Il Mercato – The Tradition of the Italian Street Market

~~~ This article is available in narrated version. Check it out! ~~~ Every year, when I go back to Italy to see my family, I manage to squeeze in a visit to a mercato. As you may have guessed, the word “mercato” means “market”, but what’s a mercato (plural: mercati) to the Italians? I asked … Continue reading “Il Mercato – The Tradition of the Italian Street Market”

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Truffles Uncovered

I am very excited to announce that I have been invited to participate in a food lit event that will take place in Turin (Piedmont, Italy) this coming September. The event is titled “Turin Epicurean Capital” and will revolve around the universal meaning of food in life – naturally, a topic I feel strongly about. … Continue reading “Truffles Uncovered”

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A World of Eggs

Chicken eggs are one of the world’s most popular foods, and have a significant presence in the diet of both Italians and North Americans. The eggs themselves and the way they are consumed, however, are substantially different between Italy and North America. In this article, I will list 5 fundamental differences. I will also describe … Continue reading “A World of Eggs”

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Gorgonzola – The Italian Blue

If you like blue cheese, but you haven’t tried gorgonzola (), you’re going to love it. If you don’t like blue cheese, and you try gorgonzola, you might very well start to like blue cheese! In fact, next to the traditional Gorgonzola Piccante (pungent), the milder Gorgonzola Dolce (sweet) meets the palate of those who … Continue reading “Gorgonzola – The Italian Blue”

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The Italian Bar

This article hopes to shed some light on another North American misconception. Despite being licensed, bars in Italy are nothing like pubs. They are more similar to coffee shops, but they are actually far more than that: they are a service that runs all day with a wide range of food items, and a necessity … Continue reading “The Italian Bar”

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Table Service, an Ocean Apart

The customer experience in restaurants can be radically different between Italy and Canada. Most of my considerations can probably apply to all of North America, but in this article I will be referring specifically to my Canadian experience. Guest and host In Canada, the ideal customer’s expectation of good service is to be treated like … Continue reading “Table Service, an Ocean Apart”

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Pasticcini, Italian Fine Pastries

Pasticcini are exquisite Italian fine pastries which have been perfected over the centuries to bring the best flavors, textures and fragrances. In the Italian tradition, assorted pasticcini are served as a dessert, as a treat to accompany coffee, tea or hot chocolate, or as a cake alternative for celebrations and other special occasions (in which … Continue reading “Pasticcini, Italian Fine Pastries”

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the evolution of coffee

The Evolution of Coffee

Is there more caffeine in a 8 oz drip medium roast, in a single shot espresso, or in an 8 oz dark roast? Where does the espresso’s crema come from? What is the difference between the Percolator and the Drip Pot? What is the Italian Moka? This comprehensive article answers these and more questions by … Continue reading “The Evolution of Coffee”

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Tomatoes and Pomodori

Everyone who has visited Italy agrees – Italian tomatoes are much more than a condiment for burgers or a colorful decoration! Italian tomatoes are indisputably full of flavor. Originally domesticated in Mexico and only brought to Europe by the Spanish traders in the 1700s, similar tomato varieties are found in both North America and Italy. … Continue reading “Tomatoes and Pomodori”

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Italian Myths

This article is about “Italian” products that don’t actually exist in Italy – true myths like Spaghetti with meatballs (an Italian-American creation), Caesar salad and Italian soda (successful inventions of Italian immigrants), Fettuccini Alfredo, Italian wedding soup and “Al fresco” dining (specific Italian items mistaken as traditional). Despite their Italian roots, these products don’t represent today’s … Continue reading “Italian Myths”

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amaretti and amaretto

Amaretti and Amaretto

Amaretti cookies and Amaretto liqueur are both well known in Italy, and have been gaining popularity worldwide. The word ‘amaretto’ comes from the Italian ‘amaro’ (bitter) in reference to the sharp flavor of bitter almonds. Despite the name, both products are predominantly sweet, and their bitterness only enhances the flavor depth. Amaretti cookies are a … Continue reading “Amaretti and Amaretto”

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The Boom of Limoncello

Limoncello (pronounced: lee-mon-chel-low) is a sweet lemon-flavored liqueur made by soaking lemon peel in pure alcohol to extract its aromatic oils. Straight chilled limoncello is served after dinner as a digestive, or to accompany a dessert. When mixed with tonic water or sparkling white wine, limoncello can also make for a refreshing aperitif. The origins … Continue reading “The Boom of Limoncello”

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Ravioli: the Food of Kings and Peasants

The word ‘ravioli’ (plural of ‘raviolo’) refers to all kinds of filled Italian pasta where a thin layer of dough wraps around a filling (‘ripieno’, in Italian). Ravioli are either boiled and dished out with sauce (a popular first course), or served in broth (a classic dinner option, especially during winter). The pasta layer, generally … Continue reading “Ravioli: the Food of Kings and Peasants”

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panino, the italian sandwich

Panino, the Italian Sandwich

In Italy, just like in all Europe and North America, a sandwich is a popular lunch option, and in some cases also a quick dinner alternative. Italian bars often press-grill their sandwiches to enhance the flavors, turn the bread more fragrant and crunchy, and melt any cheese. However, at home, or when bakery-fresh bread is … Continue reading “Panino, the Italian Sandwich”

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The Italian Courses

Italians like structure in the way they eat. To them, the balance between the different courses of the meal is as important as the balance between the ingredients of each dish. In Italy, eating is far more than nutrition, it’s a moment of aggregation where families, friends, colleagues get together, relax and participate in the … Continue reading “The Italian Courses”

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the magic of autogrill

The Magic of Autogrill

If you are Italian, or if you have driven around Italy, you are probably familiar with “Autogrill” as a chain of restaurants that serve the highways all throughout the country. But even if you are unaware of Autogrill, every time you travel you are actually exposed to the Autogrill Group, a catering giant that runs … Continue reading “The Magic of Autogrill”

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Pasta Names Explained

In this atypical post, we will go over some of the most common pasta cuts, and describe the origins of their names. We will use the following template: Italian Name (Literal Translation) [sounds like]2 root word3 – main use(s) –4 Notes: (1) A photo* of pasta samples; the sizes are relative to each other. (2) … Continue reading “Pasta Names Explained”

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Aperitivo

Known in North America by the French name apéritif, an aperitivo is a drink meant to be had before the meal as an appetizer. To this purpose, the apertitivo is usually a moderately alcoholic cocktail based on vermouth, bitters or white wine. Non-alcoholic versions also exist. Even though the aperitivo is technically a starter to … Continue reading “Aperitivo”

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rice demystified

Rice Demystified

Rice plays an important role in Italian cuisine, especially in the North as the main ingredient of risotto, and may be found in timbales and soufflés. Rice is also an alternative to pasta in soups and salads, whereas rice flour is used to make specialty breads, pasta and even cookies. Not all rices are the … Continue reading “Rice Demystified”

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cooking pasta 101

Cooking Pasta 101

In the Pasta 101 article we went through the different types of pasta and the Italian traditions around it. Let’s now talk some more on how to cook pasta, and particularly dry pasta (‘pastasciutta’). Let’s start with quantities. How much is one serving of pasta? It depends on the yield. Raw dried pasta absorbs plenty … Continue reading “Cooking Pasta 101”

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olive oil facts

Olive Oil Facts

Along with wine and pasta, olive oil is one of the food items Italy is most known for. Olive oil is the only oil extracted from an actual fruit, as opposed to grains or nuts, and is one of the most ancient manufactured foods. The production of olive oil started over 5000 years ago in … Continue reading “Olive Oil Facts”

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antipasto

Antipasto

The word ‘antipasto’ (plural, ‘antipasti’) comes from anti- (before) and pasto (meal), and has absolutely nothing to do with pasta. An antipasto is the Italian equivalent of the ‘starter’ course, but it also defines each individual appetizer (or hors d’oeuvre) that this course is made of. For instance an Italian would say: “We started the … Continue reading “Antipasto”

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there's milk and milk

There’s Milk and Milk

For a blog that talks about Italian food compared to its North American counterpart, milk is probably one of the less obvious choices of topic. But if cow milk is similar, the way Italians and North Americans look at it as a product can be quite different. For instance, it is perfectly normal for Italians … Continue reading “There’s Milk and Milk”

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wine and italy

Wine and Italy

With over 50 liters per person per year, Italy is one of the largest wine consumers in the world. It goes without saying that wine is deeply entrenched in the Italian culture. Wine is standard on the dinner table of every family and it’s generally not seen as a decadent treat, but rather as a … Continue reading “Wine and Italy”

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breakfast or colazione

Breakfast or Colazione?

Breakfast in Italy is called ‘prima colazione’, or simply ‘colazione’. It’s the first meal of the day and many say it’s the most important one too. However, North Americans and Italians have fundamental differences of opinions in what to eat for breakfast. The first main difference is that savory breakfast items are almost absent in … Continue reading “Breakfast or Colazione?”

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eating vegetarian

Eating Vegetarian

Italian cuisine, like many cuisines of the Mediterranean, is considered “vegetarian-friendly” because it features plenty of meatless dishes. Since not everybody has the same definition of “vegetarian”, let’s first clarify the terminology. By “vegetarian dish”, I mean a dish where no meat or fish in any form was ever used (so, no shrimp, no chicken … Continue reading “Eating Vegetarian”

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Is Water Just Water?

Mineral water is extremely popular in Italy. Each of the major mineral waters are from a specific spring (sometimes renowned as a natural spa), and thus have a precise location of origin. All mineral waters are subject to a mandatory bacterial analysis and certification from a reputable university. But is mineral water just water? No, … Continue reading “Is Water Just Water?”

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italian dressing

“Italian” Dressing?

Italian dressing. Obviously you can’t find such a thing in Italy, exactly like you’ll hardly find anything called “Chinese food” in China. But it isn’t just the name that doesn’t exist, Italians don’t even know the concept of a (premixed) dressing that you can buy in a store. The main reason why Italians don’t buy … Continue reading ““Italian” Dressing?”

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The Mystery of Bread

The smell of bread… Freshly baked bread has such an evocative fragrance. I rarely get that when entering a bakery in Vancouver. The reason why it’s often missing is that either the bread is not made on the premises, or not made using natural leavening. Italian bread, just like most artisan breads, is made with … Continue reading “The Mystery of Bread”

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gelato vs ice cream

Gelato vs. Ice Cream

Gelato is not Italian for ice cream. In Italy the word ‘gelato’ (plural: ‘gelati ‘, literally meaning ‘frozen’ and with nothing to do with gelatin) refers to a product that resembles ice cream, but that is technically quite different, especially in its artisan version. The base for gelato is a custard typically made with eggs, … Continue reading “Gelato vs. Ice Cream”

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formaggio cheese

Formaggio Cheese

Even though Italy is a pretty small place, its regions are quite different from one another. And cheese (formaggio , in Italian) is one of the products that changes the most across the territories. Since the area of origin is a big part of what defines each cheese’s properties, many Italian cheeses have a protected denomination … Continue reading “Formaggio Cheese”

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pasta 101

Pasta 101

Pasta is probably the most recognized Italian dish. And for good reasons. Pasta plays a fundamental part in the diet of every Italian – even every day, from childhood ’til death! Italians like pasta also because they know it’s a filling meal that is easy to digest, a great option for the lunch break. The … Continue reading “Pasta 101”

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pizza

Pizza

Everybody knows pizza, in a form or another, and so does for sure every Italian. In Italy, a ‘pizzeria’ (a restaurant specialized in serving pizzas) is the default for low-commitment dining, a place for every time Italians don’t feel like cooking (especially -for some reason- on Sunday nights). A traditional pizza is an affordable and … Continue reading “Pizza”

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espresso myths

Espresso Myths

Espresso is what you get if you order a coffee (‘un caffè’) in any Italian café (or ‘Bar’ as Italians call them). Home-made coffee generally isn’t an espresso, it’s a short coffee made with a stove-top machine called ‘Caffettiera’ (either ‘Moka‘ or ‘Napoletana‘). More recently, however, electric espresso machines have started to appear in many … Continue reading “Espresso Myths”

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