Top 5 Italian Honeymoon Culinary Delights
Italy's The #1 Honeymoon Destination! Here are the dishes you just can't miss!
Modern Bride magazine has published its annual "World's Best Honeymoons" survey of 6,000 luxury travel agents who ranked their 50 favorite honeymoon spots and, beating out the old favorite Hawaii, and even Las Vegas and Niagara Falls is... Italy!
At first it seems unbelievable that more honeymooners would turn down a luxuriant tropical luau and prefer standing in the rain for an hour to get into Da Michele's Pizzeria while keeping an eye on the scugnizzi so they don't steal their camcorder. However, when you stop to reflect on the reasons, all of a sudden it doesn't seem so unusual. As much as Hawaii is glorious, there is a romance about culture, antiquity, heritage, architecture, and great art which cannot be duplicated anywhere in the New World. When I lived on Maui I found it to be absolute paradise and I have an abiding love for the islands that will never die, but I'd have to admit that there is little in the archipelago that can hold a candle to the glories of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance!
On the culinary front, Italy certainly wins hands down. After your throat has puckered up so badly from the astringent in undercooked poi that you can't even stuff down another bite of lomi lomi salmon, you will certainly appreciate a savory Potenzan ragu with veal braciole or a sizzling Piemontese bagna cauda even more.
Given the newly found status as America's Honeymoon Hotspot, let's take a quick tour through the gourmet landscape and point out the Top 5 Italian Honeymoon Culinary Delights which every young or not so young couple simply must experience:
#5. Bistecca Fiorentina -Anywhere in Tuscany. Don't think it's just another BBQ'd steak, as it's completely different from anything you've ever been accustomed to on this side of the pond. The meat comes from Chianine which are enormous white oxen raised only in Tuscany's the Val di Chiana. The steak is we would call a Porterhouse, but it is cut up to three inches thick and weighs well over three pounds. That steak is then grilled over a searing hot fire and served charred on the outside and virtually raw in the middle. It is hard to believe that the beef is not aged at all as is the custom here, and that the bistecca you are eating tonight might have been grazing yesterday. Italians don't age their beef and usually it results in shoe leather consistency unless extensively pounded or tenderized, but in the case of the Chianine it is so tender you can cut it with the side of your fork!
#4 Tortellini Al Brodo - Anywhere in Emilia Romagna. If you think that tortellini are those lumpy yellow dumplings that come out of a cellophane pack, you are in for the shock of your life. It is difficult to find a restaurant in Emilia Romagna that doesn't have at least one little old lady in the back room who gets up at 6 am to start making tortellini by hand, grinding up the San Daniele Prosciutto with the herbs, eggs and Parmigiano Reggiano to make the filling, then kneading the egg pasta by hand and rolling up each tortello around a finger. Served in a simple beef consomme and coated with fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano, the fresh, handmade tortellini are a complete revelation. You'll never eat out of a packet again.
#3 Cioppino - Only within 10 miles of Genoa and 1 mile from the sea. First of all, Cioppino is a Californian (!) invention. The true fish stew is called a Ciupin and varies significantly from the San Francisco variety. The original Genovese version is comprised of strictly fresh, wiggling Mediterranean fish as the Gallinella, Budego, Scorfano and Grongo, plus anchovies and sardines simmered in a rich fresh tomato broth with onion, garlic and parsley, with big chunks of crab, thick slices of squid and all types of bivalves thrown in just a few minutes before serving. Hearty hunks of Biscotto di Pane, which is a cross between traditional Italian bread and melba toast, are available for dipping and Buon Appetito!
#2 Pizza - Only at Da Michele, Naples. The World's Best Pizza says it all. Don't waste your time or money anywhere else. If you want the ultimate pizza on the planet just start lining up and watch out for the scugnizzi! ... and the number one Italian Honeymoon Culinary Delight is (drumroll please):
#1 Risotto alla Milanese - Anywhere in Lombardia. A great Milanese chef who was trying desperately to get the finer nuances of his time-honored recipe through my thick Neanderthal skull once told me "you cannot make risotto unless you are in love with it!" Truer culinary words were never spoken. You don't just toss some rice in the pan, go catch up on whoever Maury says IS the father, and come back to have it all ready to serve. Like all great lovemaking, risotto requires ample, slow and passionate foreplay. That translates into adding a small ladle of bubbling saffron-tinged broth at a time and then stirring stirring stirring until each delectable molecule is absorbed into the plump Carnaroli kernels. A true and proper risotto can take over half an hour of complete focus and attention, and every second is worth it as the result truly is orgasmic.
If I have evoked the culinary desires of Honeymooners at least to the level of their "other" desires, then all that's left is to join the couples that have made Italy the new Honeymoon Capital! Be aware that not all of Italy is the Vatican Museums or the Uffizi Gallery. It is a very diverse and complex country with spectacular seashores, mountains, cathedrals and some of the world's greatest culture, but it is also a thin strip of land about the size of Nevada where 60 million people elbow their way past each other to make a living.
In order to experience all that's great about Italy and avoid all the "not so great," the Honeymooning couple should rely on experienced travel professionals who know all the ins and outs of the country and can custom-design a comprehensive tour plan that allows you to hit all the highs. Unfortunately your local neighborhood travel agent might know less about Italy than you do, so that's when you need to find a specialized travel agency that has direct experience with the country.
There are some completely free online services, such as Tripology.com, that will allow you to find a travel agent who specializes in your particular destination. These services find out exactly what you want to derive from your Honeymoon or vacation, and then connect you directly to up to three agencies which not only have ample experience in booking trips to your destination, but likely have staff which has personally visited the places they're booking you into. In this way, their recommendations bear considerable weight. Just like the weight you're going to gain on your Honeymoon culinary tour of Italy! But believe me, every ounce is worth it and besides, you're supposed to gain ten pounds in your first year of marriage!