Sunday, June 2

Eating out in Italy: Diner Dash

While scanning TripAdvisor for some restaurant recommendations in Rome (I was cross-referencing places on a link I posted on my Travel Trips page to gluten-free restaurants around town), I came across a comment from a frustrated patron.  He complained that at a certain place, everyone got their meal served at a different time instead of all at once.  This came as quite a shocker.  A shock, because, the author was Italian.  As long as I can remember, food in Italy, like sweet revenge, is always best served hot -- regardless of who or what else was ordered at your table.  I'm not quite sure when restaurants started serving everyone all at once, but I know it slowly, but surely, must have seeped into the serving practices of ristoranti everywhere when I wasn't looking.
The reason I'm not quite sure is because, not one to imbibe on too much pasta, I often  order a slew of scrumptious appetizers for my meal.  And then I beg, plead and cajole to receive those appetizers when everyone else got their primo (first pasta dish course) or secondo (their entrée).  This simplest of requests has yet to transpire in actual fact, but no matter.  And that's because, generally speaking, I had grown accustomed to plates being served willy-nilly, no matter if our entire table had ordered a primo or not.
Picture from mycookingrecipes.com* 
I remember the very first time I noticed what I thought was tantamount to abetting a food fight. Having grown up in a family that made eating out its family pasttime, I knew the routine.  But it was 1982 and I was visiting family friends in Florence.  We all sat down, we all ordered.  And then I was left, mouth agape -- and not from plying it with tasty Tuscan pane (well, maybe that, too) -- at seeing some in our party happily indulging while the rest of us were left to longingly look on.  I soon found myself salivating like one of Pavlov's pets.  To a restaurant aficionado like me, it was blasphemy on the highest order.
From that point onward, however, I started to notice the trend.  Every so often I would venture to put forth a request that we all get our meal at the same time, but when my fancy was entertained in this way, inevitably someone's meal would be served cold or clammy.  And so it was that I happily took up my place as the dinner theater entertainment while someone else carried on chewing, and then, like in a game of table tennis, got my turn to receive the same treatment in return.
Now that the Italians are complaining about this funny turn of events, I'm wondering...when did everything start coming out of the cucina all at once and when, exactly, did I go wrong? 

*check out the article on Italian Chefs wanting to throw a proverbial pie in the face of a Junior Minister in Italy's new govt at www.mycookingrecipes.com

5 comments:

Harm said...

Good question!

Donald Lewis said...

Great post! It's a shame that many cultural traditions are being replaced by Americanized views. I plan on venturing to Tuscany, Italy this summer and I will be seeking some traditional Italian cultural spots. I am researching some beautiful Villas for Rent in Tuscany so I can get the full Italian experience!

Francesca Maggi said...

Hey Donald - you'd be surprised to learn that Halloween is a big feature here as well (although I enjoy it and as far as I can tell...so do the kids)

But, as far as Villas to Rent in Tuscany? You'll be hard-pressed to find Italian owners (they're there, of course...but...)

I'd stake out a claim in Puglia or Calabria if I were you.

Dave514 said...

Francesca:
t seems as though you're getting either busier with other things or lazy as your volume of posts has halved.

Or is it like the opening line of "The Love of four Colonels" written and produced and starring Peter Ustinov who said, "We seem to have run out of conversation."

What's going on?

Un abbraccio forte,

Davide

Francesca Maggi said...

@Davide!
It sure took you awhile to notice...! I think it's a bit of both...

But, I spent the last year transforming a brilliant manuscript into a romantic comedy expat memoir with a friend, and...we're almost ready to launch!

So, all my creative energies were really put into that...and it was getting tougher to blog so often.

That .. and, the arrival of Twitter. It's going to be the end of me.