Travel Swellness: How to find good food in Italy

January 4, 2013

The Colosseum in Rome was pretty freakin' cool to visit

2012 was an Italy-heavy year. I visited twice (first Parma, Milan and Florence in the early summer and then Rome in the fall).

I recently spent the day with Italpasta touring their pasta factory located just north of Toronto in Brampton (my second pasta factory tour this year — first one was in June with Barilla in Parma; from now on, just call me the pasta factory tour-er! De Cecco, have you got a factory for me to visit?? Preferably in Italy? Si?). After the factory tour, our party bus then headed back to downtown Toronto for a delicious lunch at Mistura prepared by chef Massimo Capra.

Penna Montanara

The pasta entrees were all prepared with Italpasta’s new Total Pasta, which is high in fibre. I’m the first to admit that I’m not much of a fan of whole-wheat pastas, but Total Pasta (which has 10 grams of fibre, 7 grams of which come from inulin) really tastes like regular pasta. (And you know how much I love food, so I would never steer you to try something un-delicious!) I’ve included the recipe for my one of my favourite dishes from that lunch below.

Over lunch, Chef Massimo admitted that even he has trouble finding good authentic food in Italy. It was a bit of a relief to hear this; I spend a chunk of my trips stressing about finding the best meals possible. Most recently in Rome, I was disappointed in about half of the meals I ate there despite all the legwork I’d done in advance. Sitting there with a subpar meal in front of me felt like a big ol’ glaring #FAIL.

Massimo offered three tips on how to find great food while in Italy:

Do your research and be smart about what you’re ordering
Get familiar with what dishes the region you’re visiting is known for. “Don’t order pizza in Venice or spaghetti Bolognese in Florence,” he says.

Look for the snail symbol
Out and about and looking for a spot to eat at? Look for the snail logo of the Slow Food organization in the window of the restaurant.

Trust ones that made the cut in Osteria d’Italia
If you have enough time before your trip, order the guide here (I believe it’s only available in Italian, but am not sure). Skip following the Michelin stars, says Massimo, who says that’s more for tourists.

Buon appetito!

RECIPE: Penne Montanara with mushrooms, kale and cherry tomatoes

Serves 4

Prep time 15 min

Cooking time 15 min

  • 1 package Total penne
  • 3 cups kale, chopped
  • 3 cups mushrooms, mixed to your liking
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat a skillet and pour in olive oil; add garlic and onins and cook until translucent. Add the mushroms and cook gently until soft  Add the kale and vegetable stock and simmer for a few minutes, then add the tomatoes.

Cook the penne in plenty of salted water until al dente; drain and add to the sauce. Sprinkle with grated parmagiano, toss well and serve.

Filed under: Foodie Swellness,Travel Swellness

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4 Comments Leave a Comment

  • 1. sabina edwards  |  January 4, 2013 at 10:21 AM

    My daughter’s school is planning going to Italy for 2014 Easter break and she hopes to go as well (She is going to NZ/Australia for the 2013 Easter break with the schools travel club) She’s already been to Germany.

  • 2. healthandswellness  |  January 4, 2013 at 3:27 PM

    Lucky, lucky girl! Hope she has an incredible trip!

  • 3. Janine Falcon  |  January 9, 2013 at 4:23 PM

    You went with Chef Massimo? Amazing! Drooling over the penne photo and recipe. Need to get someone to make it for me. Maybe me.

    Love the tips on where to find great food. It DOES feel like a fail when an away meal is less than soul-satisfying.

  • 4. healthandswellness  |  January 9, 2013 at 4:36 PM

    Alas, Chef Massimo did not come on the tour of the Italpasta tour up in Brampton, just saw him before we got on the party bus and then he joined us at lunch after the tour in his restaurant.

    You could so make that dish, it’s simple!

    Right? Because there are a limited number of meals to enjoy while away! To waste one on something mediocre is painful!

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