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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Buon appetito!

If one has heard anything about adapting while on a trip to Rome it is the famous phrase, “When in Rome…Do as the Romans!” This cannot be truer than when it refers to the arts of cooking and eating in Italy. The chaotic city of Rome may seem as if it has no rules, but when it comes to the dinner table, grated cheese on fish is strictly forbidden, as is cappuccino in the afternoon.

The art of simple cooking is the true spirit of Italian culture with hot lunches and prolonged dinner banquets defining Italian social life.

One local family that lives in the Parioli district of Rome, an affluent Roman suburb, has opened their kitchen to teach those from “outside the ancient walls” the protracted simple traditions of Italian cooking, followed by an authentic home-cooked meal. The evening begins with a lesson in Italian gastronomic culture followed by a dinner banquet. The dinner is a typical Roman experience starting with small appetizers and bruschetta accompanied with local wines from Frascati, the hills near Rome. The menu is chosen by guests to include a variety of the guests’ and “Mamma’s” favorite first course pasta dishes and second course meat dishes. Every meal finishes the Italian way with simple desserts such as an array of home grown fruits and nuts, and an Italian “digestivo” alcoholic sipping shot, and an espresso.

The dining experience is thoroughly satisfying that there are no take-home leftovers. What you will have to bring home is a sense of a more sophisticated palette and enlightenment on Italian food culture, the core of Italian living. To recreate this experience on your own beyond Italian soil you will also have a menu of family recipes and inventory of covert cooking tricks passed on through family generations.

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