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Introduction

Italian cuisine is much more than pizzas and pastas. The variety of eat outs and flavours can be a gourmet's delight


ITALY NEVER tasted so good. Just recently, I found myself counting my blessings when I landed in this magnificent country. Distinctly different food marks each region, but its people are always wonderful, warm, sometimes irascible, always challenging and inspired. I try and distil the sensuality of Italy expressed through its food and wine, its music, flavours, fragrances, sensational scenery and art. All these are sources of pleasure, known in Italy as "piacere" and believe me, the Italians are maestros at pursuing this skill. My mind and senses are always engaged here, I roam around like (what author Fred Plotkin would say) Garibaldi with a fork and I come back wondering why the world thinks that Italian food is all about pizzas and pastas when there is a world of food out here. And what a world!

Should you be planning a trip here here's a ready reckoner.

A ristorante usually has a wine list with printed prices and a menu that has certain fancy ingredients such as truffles and lobsters.

The trattoria is generally a notch below the ristorante, but the food is just as good and usually family-run. An Osteria is often the best place to get good value for your menu. Here, you often share tables with others and become friends over great food and decent wine.

The Enoteca is a more urban version of the Osteria, a wine bar with light food.

A Pizzeria is not a place to stand up and eat a slice with a soft drink, but a place to go in the evenings (Italians never have pizza during the day and usually eat it with mineral water or beer, never wine).

A Friggitoria (fry shop) is for fast food and the Gelatarias are for the best in the world Italian ice creams. Look for the word `artigianale' (made in-house). Their Espresso jolt is addictive. Make it a point to hang out in bar-pasticcerias serving coffee, tea and bakery products. I used to begin my day with Illy, the Ferrari of coffees and end my meal with that marscapone cheese and the coffee dessert, Tiramisu which literally means `pick me up'.

No wonder, the Italians have a saying "A tavola non si invecchia" (at the table one does not age). Is that why I come back feeling younger than ever?

By Rashmi Uday Singh

(Rashmi Uday Singh is a food reporter, critic and author for 21 years.
Food and health are her passions. )

Dial 28365010 or e-mail gfl@rashmiudaysingh.com or mail us at Good Food Line, Metro Plus, The Hindu, Kasturi Buildings, 859/860 Anna Salai, Chennai- 600002.

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