In every culture, formal meals often involve many courses served in succession. Here it Italy, they’ve taken dining pleasures to new heights. A meal can be drawn out for hours and spirits replenished by multiple bottles of wine and after dinner drinks. So what are the components of the perfect Italian meal?
- Aperitivo – this first course is a beverage served to guests shortly after arrival. It is often a crisp sparkling wine such as Prosecco or Cartizze. It can also be a refreshing mix of sparkling water with Martini Rosso or Campari with a twist of citrus.
- Antipasto – Hot or cold appetizers served before the first course. These range from simple presentations of olives and sliced meats such as prosciutto di Parma and culatello to preserved fish and foccaccia breads.
- Primo Piatti – First course. Generally, this dish will be hot and will consist of soup such as Tortellini in Brodo or a small portion of pasta such as Ragu Bolognese. This is also the appropriate time in the meal for risotto or gnocchi dishes to be served.
- Secondo Piatti – Second course. This meal component is dedicated to meats and fish. Most traditional are regional fish, veal, pork and chicken. Beef is less common in Italy, but Bistecca Fiorentina is a popular interpretation of the classic American steak.
- Contorno – Side dishes of vegetables or salads.
- Formaggio e Frutta – Cheese and fruits. Often served as an assortment of cheese particular to a region with or without simple bread.
- Dolce – Sweets. Cakes, cookies, granita or gelato.
- Caffe – coffee. Usually espresso, not served with milk.
- Digestivo – A liqueur to cleanse the palate. Common choices are limoncello, nocino and zambuca. Another newcomer is Fragoli, a special Italian liqueur made from wild strawberries.
Italian meals are about much more than food. They are ceremonies of conversation, friendship, family and love . . . .and they are truly something to savor.
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