Italian food seems to always be our go-to on date night. Well, only because we mostly cook Greek food at home. Especially in our beloved Kansas City, we frequent the delectable options of Italian bistros. We have our favorites for sure but we are always open to suggestions. Just think about all the ways to name an Italian restaurant for a minute—-cafes, osterias, trattorias, ristorante, enotecas, fattorias, cucinas, bistro…
Before you think, “ummm….Italian food is so rich….” just remember that smaller portions of rich foods can be enjoyed, too. If you have ever watched Extra-Virgin or Giada on Food Network, you’ll see that trim Italians have mastered the euphoria of culinary enjoyment with healthy living. They savor the flavors while they create their masterpieces but they don’t have to necessarily over- indulge. I recently learned (by watching Extra Virgin) the origin of bruschetta (pronounced /broosketa/. Gabriele, the chef, explained that in the old days when people were too poor to own plates, they used stale bread as a plate or method of bringing their food up to their mouths with brushcetta! The toppings on the bread made this “meal” complete. Now that I know that, I love bruschetta even more. (Just ask my good friend Diane! She knows all about my love for bruschetta.)
Foods based in healthy olive oil, veggies and moderation of good cheese topped off with antioxidant rich vino embodies the expression “All Things in Moderation” or as the Greeks say, “Pan Metron Ariston.” It’s like a word-palindrome—all things in moderation; moderation in all things.”
There are various ways that Italian dining establishments are called. For example, …
- cafe: an informal establishment
- osteria: a pub where the focus is on wine, pasta, grilled meat or fish
- trattoria: family owned establishment
- ristorante: an Italian restaurant
- enoteca: a casual wine bar
- fattorias: family owned but produces its own products
- bistro: a small tavern, bar or restaurant
Let’s talk VINO! You all may know by now that my favorites are Red Zinfandels and Malbecs. Earthquake and Saldo reign supreme for Red Zins and Pascual Toso wins the prize for Malbecs.
Let’s talk cheese!!! Burrata, specifically. You’ve probably had it but do you know what it is? Burrata is a pouch of mozzarella with a cream inside. It’s not mozzarella itself. Kind of complicated. It’s curd and cream. I’ve bought burrata before at the grocery store and attempted to make a salad with it—much like the one I love at Flemings. It is stringy and loose. It was a complicated mess and much easier to just order at a restaurant. But, it’s good to attempt things at least. Add some arugula, cherry tomatoes and crostinis and you have an authentic Italian ensalada.
Fried artichokes. Let’s celebrate the fried artichokes of Italian cuisine. Eggs, milk, bread crumbs, parmesan, garlic, olive oil, lemon, mayonnaise or mustard….find a recipe you like. This appetizer will whet your whistle every time. My favorite fried artichokes were at Il Piato in Tulsa. (no longer open)
Grappa and Limoncello. Lastly, let’s talk liquor. Grappa and limoncello. What Ouzo is to the Greeks, Grappa is to the Italians. Limoncello is a homemade lemon liquor. You could say it’s like the Italian’s classy version of moonshine. I’ve enjoyed some grappa at Lidia’s in KC– a rustic farmhouse atmosphere.
Cappucino or Espresso. After all the indulging or moderate-tasting of this sumptuous cuisine, many of us like to finish the meal with the magic beans of the coffee gods….and something sweet. Tiramisu? Italian cream cake? (Right, Diane?) Those are my choices. Look at this cappuccino–why do you think it has a heart in it? Because I’m in love with it, that’s why. We are in a relationship, all of us, with coffee. So, there is a brief lexicon of Italian cuisine 101. The best way to obtain the knowledge about these establishment is to just ask the staff! They usually LOVE to talk about their relationship with cuisine and vino, the origins of the recipes and their favorite wines. This is another reason why Italian bistros, etc are perfect date nite experiences.
Our favorite Italian ristorantes in America are: Cucina Della Ragazza in KC, Lidia’s in KC, Biga in Tulsa and our own kitchen in our house.