I would, if I could, be a professional eater, so I revel in the delights of eating here in Italy. In general, I would argue the quality of food is higher than in the US. It is possible to have terrible meals, or to eat only at fast-food if you want, but I avoid both at all costs. There is a danger to eating in Italy though, one I never anticipated before travelling here regularly: the irrepressible dominance of flour in practically everything you eat. It’s inescapable. Let’s say you go to a bar for breakfast: you have your caffè of choice (I typically go for a cappuccino in the morning) and a pastry, a cornetto con crema maybe. Pastry = flour. Whether you get pasta, pizza, or a panino for lunch it’s all variations on the flour theme. Maybe, MAYBE at dinner if you order a contorno (side dish, typically a vegetable), you might see something green. Here in Rome at traditional restaurants there might be as few as three vegetable options on the whole menu: mixed salad, chicoria, and spinach or maybe grilled radicchio. Most secondi (main courses, because pasta is essentially a starter) come with potatoes, which is not really an improvement on the all-starch-all-the-time idea. As my dear companion likes to say, “we’re drowning in a sea of flour.”
I saw this street sign the other day after picking up a lunch of pizza bianca (delicious, delicious unadorned pizza bread with oil and salt) at Antico Forno Roscioli. It seemed a little too on-the-nose as I was savagely tearing into my warm little rectangle of flour. I never expected that in Italy, where there’s the fantasy image of mounds of produce spilling out of market stalls, and California-like ideal weather for agriculture, that the vast, vast majority of the veggies I would consume would come from my own kitchen. It is easy to go days without eating (or even seeing!) a vegetable. So, when you come to Italy, beware the mountain of flour!