Indulging in Cultural Cuisine

Coming from and constantly celebrating Italian heritage, I was thrilled when our coach bus pulled up outside of our hotel in Verona, Italy. I tried to avoid telling everyone I came across that my last name was ‘Pellegrini’ and I had been dreaming of traveling to Italy for my entire life, but the excitement was too much. On our city tour, I noticed how Verona had a calm and friendly feel to it, just like how I imagined Italy would be. In my opinion, Italy’s cuisine is one of the most universally known, and I could not wait to experience it first-hand.

Eating My Way Through Verona

cannelloni from Cangrande Ristorante & Enoteca in veronaDinner in Italy is incredibly relaxed. Food is a large part of Italian culture, and I could not wait to dig in. My family makes Italian cuisine a lot, but I could not wait for the authentic experience. During the first night, I dined at Cangrande Ristorante & Enoteca. This was a classier restaurant and a top-rated pick on many travel websites. I ordered cannelloni which was filled with spinach and ricotta. The presentation was almost as good as the food tasted. The ricotta was the freshest I have ever had; I could have eaten that meal nonstop for hours. After dinner, we stopped at a gelato shop, Pretto Gelato Arte Italiana. I had a mix of dark chocolate and vanilla and the world does not lie when it says Italian gelato is the best there is.

When I went down for breakfast the next morning, I was so excited to see a platter of prosciutto and quickly texted my parents to brag about eating authentic prosciutto. While on our day trip to Venice, my friends and I spotted a vendor stand selling slices of pizza. I actually teared up when I spotted the shop because it felt like all my travel dreams were coming true; ever since I was a little kid, I dreamed of buying a slice of pizza on the streets of Italy and I was finally doing it. The slice of Margherita pizza was huge and tasted amazing. The same vendor also sold gelato, so we grabbed some after eating lunch.

prosciutto pizza from street vendor in VeronaSince it was a hot day, I chose a fruity flavor, mango. I was once again blown away by how delicious this was. Returning to Verona for dinner, I had prosciutto pizza at a restaurant along the stretch across from the Arena di Verona (talk about a scenery for dinner). Our food was brought to us fairly quickly which is quite different from America where you wait at least half an hour, usually more, for your food to be delivered to you. Receiving my food faster was enjoyable for me because I did not feel the need to eat fast due to hunger, so I was able to relax and enjoy my pizza.

My friends and I also ordered a few bottles of wine to enjoy with dinner and it was a perfect night filled with superior food, great wine, and a lot of laughs. It felt like a true Italian dinner because we spent about three hours at our table. Following the tradition set, we went to a new gelato shop, Patagonia, and I enjoyed a scoop of coffee gelato.

Visiting Redoro

The next day saw an authentic Italian meal for lunch as we were guests of Daniele Salvagno, president of Redoro. Our lunch included risotto, pork with a side of roasted potatoes, side salad, and a traditional Italian pannacotta for dessert. I was grateful to see the effort that Salvagno and the wait staff put into this lunch; it meant a lot to know how excited they were to have us as guests and I hope they understood how appreciative I was.

real gnocchi from ItalyFor our last night in Italy, I had to make the tough decision of what to order as my last meal. We dined on the strip by the Arena di Verona again and I ordered gnocchi. My meal was so fresh, and the gnocchi was so soft and savory; it was a great last dinner in Verona. We went back to Pretto for one final gelato and I ordered strawberry. I wish we could have stayed in Italy longer and dined more, but a future vacation can always be scheduled.

Italy has always been the number one country I wanted to visit, and I am so proud to say I have finally been there. Seeing it for the first time with my own two eyes has only made me prouder of my Italian heritage. Dabbling in the cuisine was even more enjoyable than I could have imagined, and we were only in Italy for about two and a half days. Italy’s cuisine defines much of its culture, and I was glad I tried a variety of foods.

Jaime Pellegrini

School: Northern Illinois University

In the future, I am open to working abroad and feel more comfortable than I would have if I did not travel with IBS.

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