Italy: The Eats

firenze-2 Alright guys, hold on tight because we're going to Italia this week! That's right, I'm recapping my nine-day trip to Florence and it took about five posts to squeeze it all in! Are you surprised I'm starting with the eats? You shouldn't be. You know I love food! And, what's everybody say about Italy? THE FOOD!! OMG!! THE FOOD!! One lady even told me, "It'll change your life!"

Well, dun-dun-dun: she was right! The food was amazing. Like aaaaaaaaaaaaaaamazing! We didn't have a single bad meal! Everything was good, and it was good all the time. We were introduced to so many new foods, too! The food in Italy is nothing like American food -- here's a look at some of the eats you'll encounter if you ever travel to Florence!

Fried pizza dough: Mm! My mouth waters just thinking about all the fried pizza balls we ate! The antipasto (which means the "before the meal") was cured meats, goat cheese, and these delicious -- filling! -- balls of dough. They were usually served on a cutting board wrapped in brown paper, like you see below.

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Wild Boar Sauce: I don't think I've ever seen wild boar sauce on an American menu, but it's everywhere in Florence. It's like a traditional meat sauce (bolognese) but better: lighter and tastier! Wild boar is popular in Italy because it's indigenous to the Tuscan region! (Read this recipe a delicious wild boar or bolognese sauce!)

2014-01-12_0056 Cheese, honey, and grapes: Everyone's heard of cheese and grapes before, but add a little honey and it goes a long way! This was a surprisingly delicious combination! (The honey is in the small white ramekin.)

2014-01-12_0092The Italians may have a sight obsession with nutella: But, then again, so do I! :) I got my first taste of Italian nutella with this waffle sandwich...

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Then I spotted this enormous jar of it at a local market!

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Simple sandwiches are an Italian staple: We tried all kinds of sandwiches while in Florence, but I have to admit: we didn't love them all. In the U.S., there's tons of stuff on sandwiches like mustard, mayonnaise, pickles, etc... but in Italy, they keep it simple. A little arugula, a little ham, a little goat cheese, and lots of bread! Sometimes too much for our taste (and sometimes too hard for a girl with braces)!

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Floretine Steak: Another thing you'll see on menus everywhere! But here's the catch - it's only served in qualities of 2 lbs or more, so you'll need to have a few friends on hand to help you eat this! Also, be prepared for it to be served, well, practically rare...

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Balsamic Steak: Aaron had balsamic steak twice and loved it! The first time, he remarked: "Such a simple concept to marinate steak in balsamic, yet so delicious!" I had a few bites and have to agree! delicioso!

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Pizza: Honestly, I didn't love Italian pizza at first. It's thin crust and I usually like thick; plus, it doesn't always come with meat and I usually like a meaty pizza with pepperoni or sausage. But then, I had this pizza... !

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The best pizza I've ever had in my life!!!

I know it may not look like much (it certainly doesn't look like American pizza), but the flavors and textures of this pizza were out of this world! The mozzarella was soft, the tomatoes were perfectly ripe and the olive oil -- which was nothing like the olive oil here!! -- had so much flavor!! A few oregano flakes on top really set it off!! Mmm. I would have ate this pizza everyday if I could have - too bad we found it the day before our departure! :(

Buffalo Mozzarella: Speaking of mozzarella... Buffalo mozzarella is very popular in Florence and for good reason -- it's SO good!! It has more flavor than the mozzarella here in the U.S., it's softer, and it makes the perfect pairing with fresh tomatoes... Another typical antipasto :)

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Ribollita: One of my favorite dishes!! Think vegetable soup, but with bread and olive oil mixed in! This is comfort food like you've never had before, and so perfect for rainy, cold days in Florence like we had toward the end of our trip. I had this twice in the span of two days and I left wanting more. It was so filling and so flavorful -- mm, I'm craving some now!!

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Puccini Mushrooms: And risotto... Or better yet, risotto with puccini mushrooms. I tasted this Risotto with puccini mushrooms (below), as I was eating my ribollita and let me tell you: I thought THAT stuff was good! This was DELICIOUS!! I loved the texture of the risotto -- it was cooked perfect -- and the mushrooms added this huge punch of flavor! Mmm.

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Interesting fact: We bought a small pack of puccini mushrooms at an Italian market while we were there because we had heard they were cheaper in Italy than in the U.S.

Welp, upon our return, Aaron found a half-pound bag of puccini mushrooms at Whole Foods for $50! We paid about 9,00 euros for half that! We should have bought more!

Gelato: Truth: I went to Cold Stone Creamery after dinner with friends this weekend in the hopes to recreate that familiar gelato-after-a-meal feeling. TOTAL FAIL. Gelato is so different than ice cream! It's lighter and so much more flavorful; it's creamy but not in a heavy way. It was by far my favorite food in Florence!

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Tiramasu: I wish I had a picture of the first tiramsu I had at this one restaurant - it was so creamy and delicious and I was seriously dying as I was eating it, it was so good! Not to be over dramatic or anything, but the tiramasu kinda changed my life! YUM!

Photos of La Bussola, Florence This photo of La Bussola is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Chocolate-Pear Cake: Once we got in the habit of ordering dessert with dinner (the last few nights), it was kind of difficult to control ourselves! I got tiramasu two nights in a row (it was SO good, OMG.), but then, I switched to the chocolate pear cake, and didn't miss it one bit! I you like a very chocolate-y, moist, thick cake -- you'll love this stuff. Order it.

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Lastly, the drinks: water, wine, and espresso! (I still love saying espresso like the Italians! Lots of emphasis on the esss! And a little roll of the tongue: presso!).

Espresso, cappacino, and caffe lattes: The first time I tried the espresso - as much as I loved the way the word rolled off my tongue when I ordered it -- I couldn't handle it straight! I had to add sugar, but I noticed a lot of others doing the same. Aaron, on the other hand, drank it plain and looooved it. Both of us have missed being offered expresso after a meal here in the U.S.! The caffeine boost was always nice!

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Interesting fact: Italians don't take milk in their coffee after 12 noon! You can certainly order a caffe latte or cappuccino for lunch or after dinner (which I did on occasion), but it's not customary.

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Mmm. I loved the caffe lattes!!

Vino. Aaron doesn't drink so we didn't get really into wine tastings or anything, but I did order a glass here and there. My favorite part --  the house wine was always a cabernet sauvignon, which happens to be my favorite kind of wine! From the hotel to the restaurants, house wine was a delicious cab. (And I even found a delicious cab at a local market for 2,50 euros! Talk about cheap!)

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Prosecco: From the moment we arrived in Florence, the porsecco was flowing. Our group leaders served it at our welcoming reception and it was served (free of charge) with our continental breakfast each morning. We also received a few glasses "on the house" at neighborhood restaurants. I told my mom, the champagne is like water over there. #fact

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Acqua.

Water was served in small glasses, with no ice, and it was either with or without "gas." It never felt like enough (certainly not the amounts we get here of tap water!), but we savored it because we usually opted for it over soda! Win!! When we did splurge and order a coca cola, it was SO sweet! OMG! Delicious and sweet, and we both enjoyed it. We were starving and treated ourselves; I really like the idea of soda as a seldom treat, rather than a regular accompaniment to meals! (I wonder if you had to pay for water in the U.S., most people would get it instead of soda?)

The only thing I didn't like:

One of the salads I ordered with "salmon" came with raw salmon... #notafan. (And you know I love salad!)

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So, if you couldn't tell... I loved the food. I mean, I really loved the food. It might have been my favorite part of the trip! Stay tuned for A LOT more about Italy, including several restaurant reviews and a lot about the history and art! :)

Have you ever been Italy? What did you think of the food? 

What are some the unique foods you've encountered on vacations?