Our colleagues at Roads & Kingdoms launched a new book on Tuesday in partnership with Anthony Bourdain—it’s a deep dive into Italy, a country that Tony was fond of and deeply cared about. You can revisit Tony’s Parts Unknown episodes in Rome here and Southern Italy here.
Pasta, Pane, Vino is a travelogue, a patient investigation of Italy’s cuisine, a loving profile of the everyday heroes who bring Italy to the table. Town by town, bite by bite, author Matt Goulding brings Italy to life through intimate portraits of its food culture and the people pushing it in new directions. The book offers stories like this one on a trio of itinerant mozzarella-making brothers, as well as bits of local wisdom, like how to pick the best sardines at the mercatto. Here are a few tips for you, dear readers, on how to eat like an Italian.
1. Make every meal count. A meal is not just a chance to fill up, but an opportunity to gather, share, debate, and disconnect from the distractions of the outside world. Make every meal into an event: Pack your tables with people, order with gusto, linger a little longer—lunch or dinner can (and should) last two or three hours in Italy.
2. Build your own feast. Break free from the restaurant routine and dive deeper into Italy’s pantry. Buy 100 grams (“un etto”) of three or four kinds of salumi, add a wedge of cheese, olives, roasted peppers, artichokes, a hunk of focaccia, a bottle of wine. Find a piazza or a park and enjoy a picnic par excellence.
3. Start Sweet. Breakfast in Italy looks a lot like dessert in other parts of the world: cream-stuffed pastries, pistachio-crusted cannoli, chocolate-laced croissants. Sicilians are kings of the sweet breakfast: gelato-stuffed brioche is a perfectly acceptable start to the day. Life’s short, start with dessert.
4. Get in with grandma. The nonna has long been the progenitor of Italian food culture—the expert on ingredients, the developer of recipes, the protector of food’s place at the center of life in Italy. If you’re not lucky enough to have (or befriend) an Italian nonna, try RentaMamma.com for a chance to spend an evening feasting in a real Italian home.
5. Show some restraint. Restraint is the common bond between all great Italian regional cooking—a culture where Parmesan on many pastas (especially seafood-based pastas) is sacrilege, and even a wedge of lemon can be seen as an assault on pristine seafood. Savor the simplicity, and the chance to be in a world where less is almost always more.
6. Own the market. More than genius cooks, Italians are genius shoppers, who believe it’s their God-given duty to return from the market with the best meat, fish, and produce possible. Whether buying a single tomato or a pound of sardines, be selective, demanding, relentless in your search for perfection.
7. Manage the menu. Five categories dominate the Italian menu: antipasti (appetizers), primi (pasta, rice, and soup), secondi (mains), contorni (vegetables) and dolci (dessert). At best, you’ll have room for three, so choose wisely. My personal strategy rarely wavers: antipasto, pasta, split dolce, and a bottle of wine.
8. Mangia! Mangia! The only thing more perilous than a lack of patience in Italy is a lack of appetite. Everywhere you turn, expect to be implored to eat—by new friends, garrulous servers, wild-eyed cooks. Enthusiastic eating is an easy way to both show and gain respect, so loosen your belt and dig deep.