Meals in Italy: Exact As India, But Distinct

Text and photographs by Natasha Celmi

Some locations are excellent for a bucket checklist: one particular small check out and you can fortunately verify them off your record. But Italy is not a single of these sites. It has the alluring allure of a long time lover.

I live in Bangalore with my southern Italian husband and before the pandemic strike, we visited a diverse component of Italy every single six months. Eventually in a position to journey all over again this year, we have just returned from a wonderful holiday break right after checking out our spouse and children in Naples and Sorrento.

The Kolkata of Europe

Naples or Napoli is normally a hop-off stage for travellers who arrive at the airport and right away depart for the preferred Amalfi coastline. But I was released to this charming city by my partner several decades in the past and fell in enjoy with it promptly. Of course, it is chaotic. Of course, it has some dodgy parts wherever you have to check out your wallet. But hey, every single metropolis has a dim side.

Any time is gelato time in Italy. Image taken at the iconic Bar Napoli, Naples(Picture by Natasha Celmi)

Napoli, in fact, has a whole lot in common with the inventive city of Calcutta in which I grew up. The individuals are warm and welcoming. Life will work at the pace of dolce considerably niente (the sweetness of carrying out very little) and intimate poetry, people music and dancing are just about everywhere. This metropolis is in which you get a true style of lifestyle, tradition and history. Haphazard driving and honking — this is all element of the pleasurable, right?

The terms ‘Italian’ and ‘food’ are synonymous and when in Italy, I actually eat my way by way of each working day. Breakfast starts with an array of sweet pastries. Every single early morning I appear forward to heading down to the bar (Italian phrase for café) for a cornetto (nothing at all to do with ice cream) or croissant washed down with a solid Napolitano cappuccino.

Filled croissants & sweet pastries are the typical breakfast in Southern Italy(Photo by Natasha Celmi)
Crammed croissants & sweet pastries are the typical breakfast in Southern Italy(Photo by Natasha Celmi)

When I say cappuccino, I am not referring to a massive cup of milky foam the place you have to search for the espresso. This is serious flavourful coffee which will depart you licking the spoon! Sfogliatella and baba al rhum are are some of the other quintessential pastries on my ‘must have’ checklist.

A seafood stall in Campania(Photo by Natasha Celmi)
A seafood stall in Campania(Photograph by Natasha Celmi)

This time we stayed at an condominium by the lungomare, the central seafront promenade, with magnificent sights of the Gulf of Naples and the mighty Mount Vesuvius volcano. We put in some unforgettable evenings at the buzzing bars and restaurants that line the extend, commencing off with aperitivo cocktails of Aperol spritz and bubbly prosecco and then transferring on to a pizza or seafood meal.

 

Aperitivo in Naples: Spritz cocktail with fried calamari(Photo by Natasha Celmi)
Aperitivo in Naples: Spritz cocktail with fried calamari(Photo by Natasha Celmi)

Naples, by the way, is the motherland of pizza. This was at first a humble peasant flatbread with some tomatoes and cheese, which was introduced to the metropolis by immigrant labourers from Persia. Even currently, the outdated pizzerias in the centre of Naples are fundamental no-frills areas. But alternatively like Indian dhabas, their food items implies major small business. One of these rustic places featured in the motion picture Take in Pray Like, in the scene where by Julia Roberts devours the most succulent slice of pizza. Indeed, la Pizza Napoletana is exclusive and I promise you will crave another the very following working day.

But even ahead of heading for pizza, I want to sink my teeth into a big ball of mozzarella di bufala. Italy’s Campania area is the house of the contemporary mozzarella cheese built from buffalo milk. Each Neapolitan family members has their trusty cheese maker who will make this milky spongy goodness new that pretty day which have to be eaten by the subsequent day. This is seriously no unique from what our desi paneer is to a Punjabi spouse and children, proper?

The author cooking with seasonal produce on their terrace
The writer cooking with seasonal develop on their terrace

Deliver on the baingan

Our following quit was Sorrento, a 45-minute drive from Naples, exactly where we stayed in Massa Lubrense, a tiny village nestled in the hills earlier mentioned Sorrento. Our dwelling was perched on a slope amidst citrus trees, olive groves and tall pine trees, supplying us very long, scenic walks to the sea, kicking a soccer or two with the young children along the way. Finding again meant hitching a experience up the steep highway with some sort soul.

The regional farmers’ current market built me come to feel like a child in a candy store. A bit of ham, a bit of cheese, a several juicy tomatoes, a drizzle of aromatic olive oil on crusty region bread and voila, a gratifying lunch. Easy can be exclusive.

Summertime is the year for sweet, succulent tomatoes in Europe, ranging from green and yellow hues to lively orange, vermilion and crimson tones. This is when total people, including ours, slow cook kilos and kilos of the ripest tomatoes to make new tomato sauce or passata that will be bottled for the rest of the 12 months. Of course, lots of jars are supplied as gifts, for each family members prides itself on its secret cooking strategy, high quality of elements and labour of love.

Italy is as regionally various as India, and just about every location boasts of its have dialect and culinary tradition. In Campania, seafood is at the heart of the diet alongside with the most vivid vegetables. We appreciated the regional delicacies of gnocchi alla Sorrentina (potato dumplings draped with a luscious tomato sauce and baked with oozy mozzarella), ravioli alla Caprese and the delish Melanzane Parmigiana (eggplant parmesan). When I 1st came here with my partner, I was astonished by how the humble baingan is savoured. My desi spouse and children was fairly appalled when they learnt of pizza with eggplant and nonetheless are not able to digest the plan of ‘pizza pe baingan’!

 

Natasha Celmi
Natasha Celmi

My prime dish to try to eat in this article is the risotto al pescatore — a seafood risotto with a melange of shellfish brought together in a harmonious broth. Baccala or cod is a well-known fish served as the 2nd class and I really like the firm, meaty flesh. Spaghetti con vongole (mussels) is a typical, homely dish that preferences of the sea. Fritti or fried seafood is just one of my favourite appetisers to nibble on with a chilled prosecco.

When existence presents you lemons

Naples and the Amalfi coast are popular for their fragrant lemons. These lemons are mildly tart and have a distinctive flavour with a heady aroma. Houses in the place have lemon trees in their backyard and you just go pluck a ripe lemon when you want 1 in the kitchen area, which reminds me of the banana and coconut trees in residences around South India. My father-in-law taught me how to try to eat the a lot less tart wide variety just like an orange. And when daily life provides you these superb lemons, you make limoncello! Nowadays, this yellow citrus liquor is built commercially, but traditionally men and women make limoncello at household, cooking the very best of lemons with sugar and liquor. Our relatives helps make its have limoncello too and we convey bottles again for pals in India.

The gorgeous Amalfi lemons(Photo by Natasha Celmi)
The lovely Amalfi lemons(Picture by Natasha Celmi)

Wine is an integral aspect of each day lifetime and it is incredible how the flavours of the meals are not comprehensive devoid of that sip of wine. In fact, wine is deemed to have medicinal characteristics — a glass of heat mulled wine is the classic medicine for the flu and a glass of red wine a day is the secret to a balanced heart. The Campania location features some of the finest wines of Italy and I like the Falanghina, a crisp edged wine with a delicate bouquet. For a robust comprehensive bodied red, the Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio, which is cultivated on the slopes of the Mount Vesuvius, is the star. How romantic is the extremely title which indicates ‘Christ’s tears’.

There are so numerous similarities and parallels between Indian and Italian cuisine, which make me marvel at how we are all linked by way of food items – exact, identical but diverse!

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Natasha Celmi is a chef and foods author. She is the creator of the award successful cookbook, Rapid Fresh new Flavourful. Her mantra is Clever Cooking: nominal effort and hard work, maximum flavour employing contemporary area develop.

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Theresa D. Begay

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