By Eileen MacTigue
We all have American guilty pleasures we know and love. Here, we’ve compiled the equivalents so you can feel just at home in your new country. Between delis, restaurants, gelaterias, markets, cafes, and more… here are the Italian versions of our American heart attacks on a plate:
Fritto Misto: literally translates to mixed fried food. My favorite are deep fried prawns (shrimps) with piccante oil and lemon wedges. Piccante oil acts as the little kick you need for a small crispy bite, while lemon juice or aioli does what ranch would do…cooling down your palate.
2. Mac & Cheese. Need I say more?
Cacio e pepe is an Italian favorite amongst everyone. This translates to cheese and pepper. Typically spaghetti pasta, still hot out of the boiling water, gets various cheeses added to it: parmesan, pecorino, and cacio de roma (an Italian semi-soft cheese made using sheep’s milk) the cheese melts into the pasta, with some seasonings and a touch of EVOO-an Italian classic.
3. Meatball Sub. Garlicky, melty provolone cheese, crusty bread, all smothered in marinara sauce…what can possible compare?
Arancini di riso, of course. These little puppies originated in Sicily, Italy. Arancini are stuffed rice balls, coated with breadcrumbs, and deep fried. Arancini are typically filled with a ragu: a sausage/beef sauce (or both), tomato sauce, and mozzarella. The ball shape acts like the meatball we all love, the crunchy breadcrumbs are similar to our beloved sub rolls. Filled with meat, cheese and a dipping sauce on the side…they are the perfect substitution for a meatball sub.
4. Breakfast Bagels. Cream cheese, lox, tomatoes, or eggs, cheese, sausage… does McDonalds’ breakfast close at 10 am in Italy too? Are there even any McDonalds in Italy?? (barely…)
Okay now bear with me on this one: breakfast croissants. Ok, ok, they are no bagels I know, and for a long time, I refused to even try croissants. But I gave in! I needed cream cheese, and I needed something to soak up my fried egg and crispy pancetta. Places like Cristalli di Zucchero in Rome cut the croissant vertically, stuff it with cream cheese, smoked salmon, and dill. On the more “McDonalds-y” note: I love to cook so I went to the market, I bought croissants, pancetta (bacon more or less), eggs, and cheese. We bought mimosa ingredients obviously and enjoyed one of the tastiest breakfasts I’d had in Rome!
5. Iced coffee latte, frappuccino style with soy, no whip, grande.
You’re in Italy! The best coffee is the simple coffee! Don’t be frazzled that you cannot find a Starbucks, go explore instead. Treat yourself to a doppio espresso with extra sugar, or traditional cappuccino (they usually give you a small biscuit or cookie on the side!) You’ll learn to love the real stuff—I promise.
6. Bagel Bits! Why are these frozen snacks the most amazing things ever? I could honestly eat the 18 pack box in one sitting. These are my GUILTY pleasure.
However, pizzelles are officially the better version of this addicting snack. Pizzelle frittes use homemade dough, 500+ degree ovens, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil…and are mini!!!
These beauties are from Ristorante Napul’e in Roma.
7. Bacon Cheeseburger. This is tough. There are burgers in Italy, yes, and there is a version of American bacon. But you just have to accept that you’re going to have to wait to get a juicy-beef-yellow-American cheese-tangy pickle-sweet ketchup-salty bacon-sesame seed bun-kind of sandwich.
So, panini: substitute a beef patty for a chicken breast, American cheese for mozzarella, pickles for a zesty pesto, juicy tomatoes and basil for your sweetness rather than ketchup, and prosciutto in place of bacon. Layer it all inside a crusty ciabatta and press into the panini grill. You’ve got yourself something better than a bacon cheeseburger.
8. Donuts, twinkies, cupcakes….Hostess products? Americans have a sweet tooth…just like Europeans. But somehow we cultivated a taste for processed, boxed, half real half questionable desserts and sweets. Dunkin’ Donuts doesn’t count as “natural”.
Zeppole, bocconotti, and more. A zeppola is a pastry consisting of deep fried dough usually topped with powdered sugar and maybe filled with custard, jelly, cream, etc. A bocconotti, originally from Abruzzo (east of Rome) translates to “mouthfuls” or “bites.” This cookie consists of a cake-like texture and can be filled with jam, Nutella, nuts, fruit, etc. Wake up one day around six in the morning, and walk through your city streets. It is quiet, peaceful, the sun is coming up, and you will smell what Heaven smells like. Bakers begin to bake fresh pastries and breads at this time and its one of the most intoxicating smells of all.
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