So after studying abroad and living in Sorrento for basically two months now, I feel like I have a pretty good idea about the essentials to surviving in Sorrento. And by that I mean food…what else!
One thing that is very different from home is that in Sorrento, there is only Italian food. Granted, if you really scrounge around in some grocery stores, you can find a couple recognizable brands from home like Pringles or Coca-Cola. But that’s pretty much it. No Chinese, Mexican, or other cultures’ foods. Another big difference is the fresh fruits and vegetables. The best fruits and veggies are sold at their own shops, are very delicious, and are way cheaper here than at home. So much for “everything” being more expensive in Europe. Italians also go grocery shopping several times a week. The meats and cheeses only stay good for a few days; which is actually great once you get used to shopping a little more frequently. Everything is so much cleaner/less processed.
In regards to another stereotype of living in Italy, yes Italians really do eat pasta, bread, panini, caprese salad, and pizza ALL the time. Whether cooking at home or dining out at a nice local Italian restaurant, it is very common to have many of these as a “primo piatto”, or first plate.
My favorite primo piatto to get is gnocchi, which is a potato dumpling. Even though I often eat it as my meal because it’s SO filling. Gnocchi is one food that I’ve tried to re-create in my apartment, but it’s not even close to when it’s made in a restaurant. One, because pre-packaged gnocchi tastes a lot different. Two, because most restaurants make a yummy tomato or tomato cream sauce that I don’t know how to duplicate.
Being in the Bay of Naples, some of the best local cuisine I have had is Sorrento’s fresh seafood. Honestly I’m not that big of a seafood person, but the fact that this food is so fresh (usually caught the same day) makes it an entirely different ballgame.
The fish dinner is cod in a buttery sauce with a side of potatoes. Maybe it’s just because I don’t eat seafood regularly at home, but I had never seen the way that they served it before. Our waiter brought out the two huge fish on a platter, scales and all, showing it to us for approval like a bottle of wine. Then he took off the scales, and fileted the fish, plating our dishes in front of us. NOM! The plate of pasta is a tasty spaghetti lunch dish with olive oil, garlic, mussels, and clams. And of course, both meals included white wine.
So what about desert? Now there are way, way, way more Italian deserts than I could possibly try while I’m here without becoming the blueberry girl from the Willie Wonka movie, but I do have a couple favorites. Gelato! Sometimes as a mid-day snack, beach snack, or the just because I’m in Italy excuse; gelato is just happiness. If you ever go to Sorrento, you have to go to Raki and try their gelato. They have flavors from ricotta, to hazelnut, to the classic milk chocolate, mango, and pretty much anything you can imagine.
Another popular item here is limoncello. It’s a sweet lemon liquor that is famous for being made in Italy, especially southern Italy. The best way to have it is cold though! The first time I tried it, it was warm, and it tastes like a whole different drink once it has been in the freezer. It’s a really tasty and light dessert drink; and a great way to round off a massive Italian meal.
…So after talking about Italian food for this long, I need to go get some gelato! Ciao!
*A big thank you to Sara Davino, Fall 2014 Sant’Anna student, for writing this great piece! Grazie mille!*