BY MILLIE BEETHAM
With all the rich and exquisite cuisine in Italy, I found my travel budget dwindling away. I wanted to try everything that the open-air produce markets and hole-in-the-wall restaurants put forth. Between the linguini, pappardelle, gnocchi, parmigianos, mozzarellas, prosciuttos, and salamis, the gluttonous, messy, delicious Italian food left me craving all the flavors of this beautiful country.
Florence, Milan, and Rome all have distinct flavors and dishes they specialize in and call their own. I found myself struggling to find the line between my adoration of the actual country and the good eats. Though my mind fell in love with the art in Florence, the nightlife in Rome, and the fashion in Milan, my stomach fell in love with…wait for it….Pisa. Who knew? After a strenuous day of climbing the “Leaning Tower” and wandering the massive grounds of Pisa’s Cathedral Square (Piazza del Duomo), my stomach told me that the time had come for some well-earned sustenance. Nothing on the main walkway of the Piazza tickled my fancy.
Somewhat annoyed with Pisa’s lack of food options I exited the front gates of the Piazza and came across Carpe Diem. The restaurant consisted of one room with a counter, behind which hung a menu board with only four options of Panini written on it. The family running the place spoke no English and all of the writing was in Italian. I ordered using some impressive gesturing (if I do say so myself), and literally was handed my sandwich from a door at the end of the counter. The kitchen, I realized, lay beyond it.
The Panini was just plain white focaccia, fresh mozzarella slices, tomato slices, and basil. The juicy olive oil and mozzarella juice was beyond satiating for my tongue, and the basil was the perfect herby flavor to finish off the bite. I left not only satisfied, but also with a renewed sense of how sometimes simple and fresh is absolutely the best. In a country where the ingredients are top notch, my “It List” choice is the good old Panini. Those Italians can make one amazing sandwich. The Panini is a must have, and a great grab and go food when traveling and touring the mesmerizing, historical Italian cities.