Our trip to northwest Italy was amazing in every aspect. The food was just one of the memorable experiences that will stay with me for a longtime.
Traditional food in this part of Italy was not what one would assume. Spaghetti and meatballs and pizza are more southern fare, whereas beef tartare (known as battuta) and raw vegetables served with an anchovy gravy (known as bagna càuda) are specialties of this area. Of course, the hazelnut-chocolate spread, Nutella, is one of the most well-known inventions of the Piedmont region.
A thin slice of veal covered with tuna sauce (known as vitello tonnato) is a popular starter. And gnocchi (potato pasta) showed up on most menus. Risotto dishes, such as risotto milanese, are very popular as well.
Then there is lardo, which is thinly sliced animal fat that has been cured with herbs and spices. Yes, I tried a small bite, and it was tasty!
Another popular antipasto is a thin slice of tongue covered in green sauce (the sauce is known as bagnetto). It too was flavorful and surprisingly light.
A typical Italian menu will feature antipasto, first course, second course and dessert. The antipasto could be multi-courses, as we experienced at Erbavoglia Restaurant. The first course is typically a pasta course with the second course being a meat and vegetable offering.
No discussion of Italian foods would be complete without including gelato. Of course ice cream is my favorite food group, so gelato was a daily treat. All the walking we did helped to offset the added calorie intake, so no guilt here!
One of our tour guides recommended that we stay away from the gelato that was displayed in a domed shape over the carton. She said it was not as good since it had more exposure to the air. I guess I should have tasted one domed and one not domed in order to make a comparison. However, with limited chance for gelato, I heeded her advice.
The flavors of gelato that were offered were inspiring. I fell in love with stacciatella which is a vanilla flavor gelato with small thin bits of chocolate. Like a chocolate chip ice cream, but lighter. My other favorite was gianduja which is hazelnut and chocolate flavored. Since hazelnuts are a big deal in northwestern Italy, this was a very popular flavor.
The best view of Lake Como can be seen at Gatto Nero, which is where Amal and George Clooney like to dine. Of course the food is delicious, so whether you go for the view or to eat, you will have a great night!