When the average American thinks of Italian food, the first things that might come to mind are pizza or spaghetti. The truth is, neither of those images represents the real food of Italy. Sure, Italy has some great pizza, and pasta is a household staple, but the Americanized versions hardly resemble their Italian ancestors. To be sure, Italy is famous for more than pizza and pasta. Tuscany is the home to some of the world's most intoxicating vineyard, Parma and Rome are the namesakes of two of the most common types of cheese in the world, and ice cream pales in comparison to gelato.
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Vaguely resembling its Chicago-based cousin, the Italian pizza doesn't rely on thick, spicy sauce, pounds of cheese and mountains of pepperoni. The true Italian pizza is lighter and kinder to the waistline. The term pizza was thought to originate from the Latin word, pinsa, meaning flatbread. Originally, Italian pizza crust was made from little more than flour, water and yeast, topped with olive oil and baked in a hot brick oven. The use of tomatoes didn't come about until the late 1800s. Before that, they were thought to be poisonous. Once Italian pizza maker, Rafaele Esposito, made a pizza for the Queen using the colours of the Italian flag, red tomatoes, white mozzarella cheese and green basil, all bets were off and people began adding all sorts of ingredients to their crusts. Today there are pizzas topped with everything from apples to yellowfin tuna.
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With the mention of a baked Etrusco-Roman noodle called "lagane" back in 1 A.D., pasta has been linked inextricably with Italy. Durum wheat, used to make semolina flour, the basis for most pastas, thrives in Italy and has been a staple of the country for centuries. Dried pasta became popular in the 1300s due to its long shelf life, making it handy on long sea voyages. Thus, the seafaring Italians introduced pasta to the natives around the world.
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Italy is the largest producer of wine in the world (http://www.wineonline.ie/library/atlas.htm). There are 20 wine regions in Italy, from Abruzzo to Veneto. Italy produces some of the world's finest wines from hearty red Chianti to sparking Spumante. Wine is a daily staple in Italy and a meal is rarely served without it. It is used for drinking, cooking and even bathing. Luxurious spas used wine from Italy in their Wine Sugar Scrub body treatments.
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Italy has over 400 types of cheeses: Asiago, Fontina, Marscapone, Parmesan, Romano, Ricotta--the list goes on. Order Italian food and you'll undoubtedly be asked if you'd like a sprinkling of cheese with your entrée. Alongside pasta, cheese is a basic necessity in most households in Italy. You can find Italian cheeses all over the world.
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Gelato is an Italian ice cream made with fruit, milk and sugar. Because gelato is made with milk, and sometimes low fat milk, rather than cream like ice cream, the lower fat content allows the fruit flavours to take centre stage. The Dolomites of Northern Italy are credited with the original recipe, while the Sicilians of Southern Italy are credited with the lighter and more flavourful version that has become synonymous with Italian Ice.
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Other Italian Foods
Other foods that make Italy proud are olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Italian bread, tiramisu, prosciutto, spumoni and Roma tomatoes.