Is it possible to have too much of quintessential Italian cuisine?
One aspect of traveling that I have grown to love is the way expectations and assumptions are so easily shattered. Although some preconceptions are more complex than others I have found that even the simplest cultural realizations are important. During the first four days of my trip in Venice, and since Italy is the land of pasta and pizza, I consumed these cultural staples for every meal. And it was delicious! I indulged in meal after meal of exquisitely fired pizza crust and perfectly prepared al dente pasta.
So it is with some difficulty and tact that I must phrase the following question: Is it possible to have too much of quintessential Italian cuisine? I found myself wondering if there was more to Italian cuisine than pizza and pasta. Thankfully, my next stop was Florence, where I was introduced to an entirely new sphere of Italian cooking.
It was in Florence that I learned about Venetian and Tuscan cuisines were composed of entirely different veins. At Trattoria Cibréo, pasta was nowhere to be found on the menu. Instead, primi platos consisted of sformoto di spinagi, Swiss chard flan, and passato di funghi porcini, porcini mushroom soup. The flan was perhaps the most interesting dish I sampled, tasting something like a savory mouse topped with a perfectly complimentary Parmesan tomato sauce. My favorite secondi platos were seppie e spinagi, cuttlefish with spinach, and bresaola, a thinly slice raw beef dish with arugula.
A few days ago, I never would have thought these dishes fit under the umbrella of Italian cooking. My first foray into the world of Tuscan cuisine yielded a promising return devoid of the standard and most commonly associated Italian cuisines. For me, the most amazing aspect of this experience was that these dishes were unlike anything I have ever had before, Italian or otherwise. Swiss chard flan? I didn’t even know that was possible!