Anybody who follows our adventures knows that we love to eat. We believe the best way to appreciate and embrace a culture is through its cuisine. I was recently hosted on a trip to Gargano, Italy by a local tourism group called Gargano OK. Gargano is the “spur of the boot” jutting out into the Adriatic Sea. It is a popular destination among Italians but it is not nearly as touristy as many of the other regions in Italy. Therein lies her charm. Less touristy equals more authenticity. It was here that I enjoyed the most authentic culinary experience of my life and surmised what I consider to be the ten commandments of an authentic Italian meal.
In the United States, it takes me less than 15 minutes to consume most meals. Heck, I’ve consumed many meals in my car between traffic lights. What I love about Italy is that meals are not just about taste and sustenance. Italian meals are about the experience. They are an event – consisting of several courses, often lasting two to three hours.
I was blessed to experience many fantastic meals during my time in Gargano. Though there are some variations to these meals, adherence to these ten commandments make for the ultimate authentic experience.
1. Thou shalt eat bread
Without exception, whenever we sat down, we were greeted fresh warm bread.
2. Thou shalt enjoy the fruit of the vine
Shortly after being seated, vino rosa (red wine) and vino bianco (white wine) are brought to the table, often in pictures. I could get used to this tradition in a hurry!
3. Thou shalt eat appetizers
Appetizers usually consisting of prosciutto, cheese, and bruschetta are served. There’s nothing better than fresh, warm mozzarella!
4. Thou shalt savor seafood
With over 100 miles of coast on the Adriatic Sea, it’s no wonder that seafood is prominent with every meal. The seafood course would usually consist of a combination of fish, muscles, shrimp, prawns or squid.
5. Thou shalt partake of pasta
In the states, I would consider the pasta course a meal in itself. There are endless combinations of pasta noodles and sauces.
6. Thou shalt eat meat
The meat course would usually consist of a meat (chicken, beef, lamb or fish) served with vegetables.
7. Thou shalt feast on fruits
Fresh fruit is always present in an Italian meal.
8. Thou shalt devour dessert
You can’t really call it a meal without dessert. Just when you feel like you can’t eat another bite, they bring irresistible gelato, cookies, cake, and tiramisu!
9. Thou shalt conclude with coffee & limoncello
Most meal events concluded with a caffeine concoction to counter the inevitable sugar crash from the dessert course. Whether you choose coffee, expresso, or cappuccino, you can’t go wrong. It’s Italian and it’s awesome! And just when you think it’s all over, you are presented with a shot of limoncello – a sweet, syrupy liqueur made from the zest of lemons.
10. Thou shalt enjoy thy dining companions
There’s no hurry as meals are meant to be savored along with the companionship of your fellow diners. Sharing laughs while consuming incredible food creates a unique bond among those at the table – a bond that transcends cultures.
What’s your favorite authentic dining experience?
Special thanks also to Hotel Pellegrino Palace for our wonderful meal and accommodations on our last evening on Gargano and thanks to Zangardi Tours for their contributions in putting our amazing trip together. Gargano will forever be in my heart and on my mid-section.