The Perils of Eating in Italy

You’ve come to Italy to eat all the Italian food you love in the US, you want to try how it “really is” in Italy. You get to your first restaurant and Italy and look for fettucine alfredo, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken parmigiana and salad with salami, olives, cheese and a Italian dressing. But, none of these are on the menu! These foods do not actually exist in Italy, and some are even considered sacrilegious, such as spaghetti and meatballs or chicken parmigiana. Fettucine Alfredo is essentially a food for when you’re sick, so though not completely outlawed, you won’t find it on a menu. After finally ordering your food and eating, you want to order a cappuccino to finish off the meal, but once again it’s 2pm and you can’t have a cappuccino at that hour! Who knew all these rules existed? Read and learn more about the perils of eating in Italy.

  1. Spaghetti and meatballs do not go together. Meatballs are an antipasto (appetizer) or secondo (second dish) and they will not be found anywhere neat a plate of spaghetti. Spaghetti, a long pasta, does not go anywhere near a meatball, a large round object. How do you manage to get both on your fork in the same bite? Each pasta has its designated sauce and there are no exceptions. Spaghetti goes with pomodorini (cherry tomatoes), but no onions in the sauce if you are make pasta con pomodorini with spaghetti, the onions do not work with the spaghetti, only with short pasta. I would need to write a thesis on all the types of pasta and their designated sauces, so let’s leave it at that. Don’t mix spaghetti with meatballs. Ever.
  2. Fettucine Alfredo is not real. Yes, this dish was first served in a restaurant in Rome, but for American guests who loved it so much they brought it back to California with them and served it at their restaurant, taking the name of the restaurant they first ate it, Alfredo’s. It is basically a glorified version of what you serve to someone under the weather, pasta with olive oil or cream. This is my picky kids favorite meal, but once again the olive oil or cream sauce is usually “better” with short pasta, like penne.
  3. Cappuccino after 11:30 is unacceptable, in fact all milk is unacceptable after 11:30 am. Your body simply can not digest milk in the afternoon. It’s that simple, don’t ask more questions. If you NEED milk in your coffee, cafĂ© macchiato is acceptable (espresso with a TINY splash of milk).
  4. Chicken parmigiana isn’t a food in Italy. I don’t know the history of Chicken Parmigiana, but I do know that Eggplant Parmigiana is the best food ever and you should order it wherever you see it, especially at my mother-in-laws (she makes the best!) Take out the chicken and add fried and breaded slices of tender eggplant topped with mozzarella (sometimes it doesn’t have mozzarella), tomato sauce, basil and parmesan cheese. Avoid fights with Italians if parmigiana is from Sicily or Naples.
  5. Seafood, especially fish, doesn’t go with cheese. Do not top your grilled fish or pasta with seafood with any form of cheese, it is sacrilegious and you may die from bad digestion.
  6. You will be asked to leave the country if you put pineapple on your pizza. It is not ok though, to top your pizza with French fries and hot dogs, so no worries, you’ve got stranger combinations you can try! On the same not pepperoni does not mean spicy salami, it means bell peppers, so if you order a pepperoni pizza you are getting pizza with bell peppers. “Pizza alla Diavola”, is the closest to pepperoni, it’s spicy salami.
  7. Eggs have no place at breakfast. Just because. Only at lunch or dinner.
  8. Salad dressings do not exist, only olive oil, vinegar, salt and a little lemon (if you’re the adventurous type).
  9. Bread isn’t for eating before the meal, it is meant to be eaten with the meal or used at the end of the meal to scoop up all that remaining delicious tomato sauce aka “fare la scarpetta”.

Buon Appetito!

Chicken Scallopine with Lemon and Capers

I first had this dish on the island of Capri and wanted to recreate it at home especially since the lemon trees outside our house are overflowing with lemons this time of year. It’s simple and requires ingredients you probably already have at home!

4 thin chicken breasts (or 2 cut in half)

1/2 cup white wine

Tablespoon of capers

1 lemon, zest and juice

Fresh basil leaves, chopped

salt and pepper

2 Tablespoons of olive oil



Place chicken breasts in a baking dish and cover with milk, then cover dish with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 25-30 minutes. Do not skip this step, it makes the chicken tender. Juice and zest one lemon, set aside. Once chicken is ready, dredge chicken breasts in flour, enough to lightly cover both sides. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Place chicken breasts, season with salt and pepper, and cook for a few minutes on each side until they are browned but not completely cooked through.

Add wine and cook until evaporated. Add lemon juice, capers, sprinkle half of the lemon zest on the chicken breasts, basil leaves (as much as you would like), and a cup of warm water. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat to simmer and simmer for 10 minutes. Check to see that chicken has cooked through.

The sauce should have reduced and be creamy. Add the rest of the lemon zest to the top of the chicken and serve.

Pasta with Trapanese pesto

This is a recipe typically from Sicily, I wanted to try it when we visited but never had the chance. It is a simple and delicious pesto bursting with flavor from the sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and toasted almonds. We served it with short pasta but it would go well also with spaghetti.

Trapanese Pesto

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 cup sundried tomatoes in oil

400 grams of tinned chopped tomatoes

1/2 cup of blanched almonds

1/3 cup fresh basil leaves

1/3 cup olive oil

red pepper flakes to taste

salt to taste

pepper to taste

Grated Parmesan

Heat oven to 170C/350F and toast almonds for 8 minutes, they should be just beginning to brown. Boil water and cook pasta until “al dente” as indicated on the package. Once toased, add almonds, garlic, sundried tomatoes, tinned tomatoes, basil, olive oil and red pepper in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is creamy and there no chunks of almonds or tomatoes.

Once pasta is ready, mix with hot pasta and served topped with freshly grated Parmesan.

Lemony Lentil Soup

We have been hit by a cold spell here in Naples and I was craving something warm and nourishing. I’ve been trying to clean out fridge and pantry this week, which is why we’ve put a hold on our around the world recipes for this week, so I wanted to use what we already have at home. We have many citrus trees around our house and I am always looking for creative ways to use the citrus fruit abundance we have in this period.

This soup is simple to make with ingredients you probably have in your pantry, it requires around 30-35 minutes cooking time for the lentils but besides that is very easy to make. The lemon adds a special extra touch to make this soup a little different than typical lentil soup.


50 g or 3-4 tablespoons of Olive Oil

1 large carrot

1/2 of a medium sized onion

2 cloves of minced garlic

1 cup of brown lentils

1/3 cup of brown rice

1 lemon

32oz/900 grams of vegetable broth

Salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 bay leaves

1 Teaspoon of dry oregano

Fresh parsley

Start by heating olive oil over medium heat in a large soup pan. Add chopped onions and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add carrots, cook for another 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and cook until fragrant (around one minute). Add lentils and rice, stir to mix with vegetables, add vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add bay leaves, oregano and salt and pepper to taste.

Cook covered for 25-35 minutes, checking to see if the lentils and rice are cooked. Halfway through cooking, add lemon juice of half of the lemon and taste. Add more lemon if you would like more of a lemon flavor (we liked it with juice of the whole lemon). At the end of cooking, chop around 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley, add it the soup and stir to mix. Serve hot with a drizzle of fresh olive oil.

It is also great topped with bread crumbs! We made ours from day old bread drizzled with olive oil, some salt and garlic and cooked in the air fryer at 180 C for 7 minutes.

Simple Pumpkin Pasta Sauce

Simple Pumpkin Pasta Sauce

This is a sauce for pasta we make often in the fall and winter months. We usually have an abundance of pumpkins from my in-law’s garden.


600g of Fresh Pumpkin or Butternut Squash

50g of Olive Oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

30 g of walnuts, chopped

Dash of nutmeg

Salt to taste

Red chili peppers flakes to taste

Parmesan Cheese

Short pasta (we used whole wheat fusili)

Cut the pumpkin or squash into cubes around 1 cm. Heat olive oil in a pan, when warm, add pumpkin and garlic. Season with salt. Stir and cover with a lid for 20-25 minutes until pumpkin is soft. Meanwhile, boil salted water and cook pasta according to the package. Crush or chop the walnuts and toast over low heat in a small pan until fragrant. When the pumpkin is ready, take an immersion blender and blend the pumpkin until smooth and creamy (there should be some water in the pan from the cooked pumpkin). Add cooked pasta to the pumpkin cream, mix to cover all the pasta until the pasta has taken on the color of the sauce.

Serve topped with crushed walnuts, top with Parmesan and red pepper flakes to taste.

A Dish a Day, 195 countries

We started on this crazy journey to try a dish from EVERY country in the world, 6 weeks ago. Cooking is something Umberto and I both love but we had fallen into a rut of cooking things we knew and dishes that were quick and simple. That all changed one evening when I had some eggplant to use up and needed a change from our usual so I did a search for “Russian” eggplant recipes and quickly found a recipe for “spicy Russian eggplant”. We were so impressed by the way the eggplant turned out, we decided to try a dish from every country around the world.

6 weeks in, we’ve tried recipes from 21 countries. Our favorite has been Thailand and Indonesia. Some recipes have been fails (Canada!). The recipes have to follow some guidelines:

1. Nothing too complicated or too many steps, the most complicated recipe is saved for Sunday evening.

2. Ingredients must be available here (Naples, Italy)

3. Seafood is usually a no (but we have run into some exceptions, Iceland for example).

Welcome to our journey through the world through cooking!

Vietnamese Beef Pho
Columbian Arroz con Pollo
Mauritian Stir Fried Pickled Cabbage & Carrots