I have a controversial confession: I get tired of pasta. Not just tired of it meal after meal – I can get tired of it mid-meal. I like it, but when faced with a whole plate of noodles, I’m likely to get bored and leave half of it behind even if I’m still hungry. Now that more than a month has passed since the trip, it’s hard for me to look back over my photos and only find a few photos of pasta, because I feel like it’s all I ate.
Upon first arriving at our hotel in Italy, after a long overnight plane ride and a long drive, eating pasta took precedence over rest, face-washing, and probably even over hand-washing. Here we are in the mid-afternoon soon, with a plate of pasta plopped on the table. At the hotel restaurant, there were never any choices, for us, at least.
Honestly, I have no idea why we got a fresh long pepper alongside a bowl of cheese. I cemented my status as an outsider early in the week by eating half the pepper and none of the cheese. None of my travel companions knew why we got the pepper, and none ate any. I thought it was just hot enough, and it was a fresh addition to the plate.
After the pasta, we’d have some salad, and eventually we began ordering side dishes. We were presented with large portions to share of well-oiled, well-cooked, vegetables. For example, the broccoli below was really good, in a decadent way, cooked beyond tenderness with lots of oil and garlic.
All the above photos are from the two meals we enjoyed at our hotel restaurant. The restaurant was generally packed even with folks who weren’t guests at the hotel, and the food was good. We kept seeing enormous calzones leaving the kitchen, although we were never presented a menu to order from and only had plates of pasta. I’m not sure if anyone out there reading would ever make it to this place, but it was one of my favorite parts of the trip and I’ll share the recommendation: Il Quadrifoglio.
After a few days there, we hit the road by car. Many of our meals were at the Autogrille or other service-plaza style eateries. Below is a pasta arriabiata (I was trying to get them to put in the spice for me) at one roadside restaurant. You see, as I had no interest in finishing the whole plate, it didn’t matter that there are four un-sauced noodles sticking together.
At this service plaza, I took a tip from a fellow traveler that didn’t work out so well for me. Apparently, in order to stomach a full plate of penne, you need to pile at least eight noodles on your fork and continually pop forkloads into your mouth. I could do this for about two bites before I would have to stop and chew.
It was also at this service plaza that I realized that not all side dishes are served warm. That delicious plate of spinach was cold, cold, cold. I eventually tried to enjoy the chilled vegetables, which is not a problem with raw veg, but I can’t really stomach too much cold cooked veg. In the upper right, there are cold cooked cauliflower, cold cooked broccoli, and cold cooked green beans, along with the lettuce, tomato, and carrot salad. Maybe it’s just familiarity, but I enjoyed the cold green beans, but not the others.
I recognize that this post sounds a little negative. I ate enough in Italy, promise – but maybe this is just proof that even someone who spends a lot of time cooking, shopping for food, trying to grow it, reading about it, writing about it, taking photos of all of it, can eat just to eat and it’s not a big deal. On our third or fourth day, I don’t remember, I expressed a desire to eat at someplace other than the hotel restaurant or at rest stops, and that seemed like an unacceptable wish. If we were to veer off course, we needed to be sure to follow the advice of Rick Steves. I am a self-proclaimed NPR junkie, but I’m not a Rick Steves disciple, but just you wait – he will make an appearance in my next Italy post, whenever I get around to it.