Thursday, April 7, 2011

Italy vs USA: the world plate

A lot of people believe that a trip to Italy translates into daily feasts unlike anything possible in the U.S.
This is fortunately NOT true. What Italy offers is pure Italia, the whole experiencia: the land, the people, the culture, and the food.
Without going into lengthy internet research, a restaurant food experience in Italy will net the same average of superb to okay as the U.S with one difference. In Italy they chop the meat and bones of hare and wild boar for sauces. The resulting ragu (a meat-flavored sauce) is full of razor-sharp bone shards that would thrill any settlement-seeking law firm south of Point Barrow, Alaska.
On the other hand, the Italians really know their tomato sauces. The subtlety of marinara and pomodoro was exquisite. There is no better place for cheeses and olive oils. Each region has its own local flavor and is proud of it. Sampling cheeses in a hilltown market makes an indelible mark on your food-memory.

In comparison, attentive chefs in three restaurants in Portland, Maine: Vingnola, Cinque Terre, and Ribolita make mouth-watering authentic Italian food that would be hard to stumble upon in most cities in Italy, and I'm glad for it.

Vignola and Cinque Terre feature locally grown meats and vegetables grown especially for the dishes on the menu. The wine list is personally selected by the owner and chef from the best available.

Ribolita has an intimate atmosphere and delicately flavored authentic dishes. Reading the menu, I was taken back to Siena. The names of the dishes directly translated into my experience of Tuscan food.

Granted, after dinner I could not take a stroll on Piazza Il Campo but I got home without a trace of jet-lag.

Bravo to any restaurant that holds to exacting standards. They are places where food-memory is alive.

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