Wednesday, October 27, 2010

an italian meal, revisited

As much as the concept of still living with my parents irks me, it definitely has it's advantages. In addition to the more obvious free rent, my darling father insists on taking us out to eat at least once every two weeks or so. Tough life, huh? Right before I embarked on Road Trip U.S.A., we ventured to Finalmente Trattoria
As I admired the beautiful sunset on our ride into Sleepy Hollow, I couldn't fathom the fact that I was really leaving tomorrow, that I was really going to drive all the way across the United States and back, and that I was really going to do it all by myself. I wasn't nervous, per se, but I was definitely anxious.
And yet I put on a face of pure excitement for our family friends. I didn't want to worry them, nor my parents... not yet at least ;). Thankfully, as you know by now, nothing really went wrong. The road trip went better than planned! I stayed safe, healthy, and honestly spent 99.99% of the journey, authentically happy.
[pre-dinner glass of Sangiovese]

Now I'm home again, safe and sound, with fantastic Italian food all around me. As the Jersey Shore so shamelessly exemplified, there is a very strong Italian and Italian-American culture in this region of the United States (although only a small percentage of it can be stereotyped into what they display, I assure you). 
[warm slice of Italian bread with extra virgin olive oil]

I grew up thinking that everyone had a handful of family-owned brick oven pizzerias in their neighborhood and was as familiar with Italian bread, fresh pasta, and prosciutto as they were with macaroni & cheese and chicken nuggets.
[Appetizers: frisée salad and fried calamari]

It was not until I went away to school that I realized not everyone had such a lucky childhood ;). What some others did have, however, was access to some of the best Creole, Mexican, Austrian, Japanese, and Vietnamese in the country, as I quickly discovered on my rides through their home states.
[bottle of organic red for the table]

I didn't fully appreciate the wealth of culture throughout the United States until I experienced it with my own senses. Po-boys and beignets in New Orleans really are all they're cracked up to be, eating Mexican food in southern Texas is a must, Kansas boasts a multitude of eastern European influences, and when visiting, one should be fed accordingly, get sushi in Los Angeles, (just do as I say, you'll understand,) and Vietnamese just may be my new favorite cuisine thanks to tofu-vegetable curry in Portland and pho (pronounced fuh) in Seattle.
[Entrées: fettuccine al forestal and lobster fra diavlo]

Then of course there are the true blue American classics like Southern hush puppies and grits (I recommend North Carolina farmer's markets and any restaurant in Savannah), fried chicken and waffles (it can be found amongst more sophisticated breakfast options at many Oklahoma restaurants), walleye (a river fish native to the northern midwest, I'm partial to South Dakota's offerings), cheese curds (the brainchild of Wisconsin's dairyland), Colorado beer and California wine (no explanation needed.) 
And if you happen to come by my neck of the woods, phenomenal plates like this one. Those many nights ago, I nearly died as I enjoyed the homemade spinach pasta in a pesto oil with haricot verts and garlic. Even just thinking about it...
[Dessert: decaf cappuccino]

Forget fast food, truth is, we really can eat well throughout the United States. Seasonal produce can be found almost everywhere, and for those less than healthy options, well, they  can be attributed to our ridiculously hardworking past of farmers and factory workers. Or, as in the case of Pittsburgh, miners. They inspired the infamous Primanti Brother's sandwiches that consist of a full meal between bread, fries and slaw included. So, the next time I eat out locally, I plan to make the most of the culinary riches surrounding my hometown. Maybe I'll even return to Finalmente Trattoria, a beautiful and delectable restaurant decorated with Baroque, Byzantine, and Venetian accents and intimately lit by Moorish sconces. It's certainly about time.

What fine foods can be found in your area? You know, in case I want to visit ;).


  1. What a perfect Italian meal! That spinach pasta with haricots verts is particularly eye-catching.

  2. Oh my goodness, that spinach pasta. Spinach, pasta, haricots verts, olive oil. I die. What a perfect entrée!!!

  3. I miss my authentic Italian food :( That looks delicious!

    Living in the South the past few years, I've discovered things like deep-friend Snickers. Oh, and the Krispy Kreme Hamburger. I haven't tasted either of them, though...

  4. Hello Danielle, I'm an Italian girl and I read your Italian dinner ... you have eaten very good things! Do you know the only difference? The Italians finish the meal with an espresso and you end up with a cappuccino, I see lots of tourists do this in Italy! This makes me smile, because we drink cappuccino for breakfast! A kiss from Italy!

  5. Well, seeing as I live in Spain, there are a lot of fine foods, including the best thing I've ever eaten: merluza hojaldrada. It's like a white fish (hake) with this crust around it in a leek cream sauce. I've had it twice and I's so delicious.

    But also: lots of delicious lentejas, ham, CHEESE (Manchego, please), and bread, bread, bread.

  6. we should find somewhere to get pho soon - i've never had it! i knew someone in prague who used to eat it for lunch and dinner back home, and he was obsessed with finding it over there. i've always been curious.

    that has little to do with this post, except to say that i can't wait to hear more about all the u.s. food culture you soaked up these past couple months. there's nothing like local specialties - or local anything.

  7. BroccoliHut: Isn't it beautiful? It tasted amazing.

    Savannah P: If there ever were one :).

    anandaprana: Thanks! Yes, there are things like that. Some more appetizing than others :)

    Violet: Oh I do know that! I actually usually get espresso but wanted something sweet that wasn't one of the listed desserts :). Ha, I'm a little embarrassed now. Thanks though!

    Kaley: Oh my gosh, that sounds amazing. All of it!

    leslie: Let's pho soon please.


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