Sitting down to eat at four in the afternoon and getting up at eight in the evening is not that unusual when your host is Italian. Foods in Italy speak of sun, music and zest for life. Italians love food; for them, food is pleasure as much as nourishment. They are generous with ingredients. They also know how to present a lavish table.
- ‘Antipasto’ - before pasta, literally, is the traditional opening for an Italian meal. It consists of pickled vegetables, salami, ham, salads and even seafood in small portions.
- Italian salads are colorful- think green zucchini, bright red tomatoes, and black olives, or white mozzarella against red tomatoes sprinkled with fresh green basil. Italian salad dressing is always based on olive oil.
Oregano and basil give a flavor that is strongly associated with Italian cuisine. The tomatoes and pasta over which those seasonings are spread are the essence of south Italy. Let's not forget about Napoleon's birthplace either. Sicilian sauces are one of the best kept culinary secrets of this sun-drenched land.
But hey, hats off to our dear old pizza. This dish from Naples, with ingredients as far flung as tomatoes from Spain and flatbread from Greece, is popular the world over. You may be surprised to learn that it isn't just California that has found a hundred new ways to make it. That innovation started in Italy itself when every sailor decided to try his hand at making something to take on the long sea voyage.