Written by Nolan Deja, (The University of Virginia) Student Correspondent CET Siena Spring 2022
Coming to Italy one expects the food to be amazing, but upon arrival and eating everything from pici, a thick noodle, to the gelato… was out of this world spectacular. Italians pride themselves on their food that they have created and after trying dishes up and down Italy I can attest to it – it truly is some of the best food in the world. I get to look forward to each meal here because I know it is going to be amazing… and frankly my life revolves around food here (and school of course).
I have grown up cooking with my father and grandmother as it is one of my favorite things to do. Trying to create new recipes and spending time perfecting a new dish or just going into the kitchen with no agenda and cooking aimlessly. Cooking is very meaningful to me and I love sharing it with my family and friends, it is truly a great way to gather with good company and have a good time sharing delicious food and I was eagerly looking forward to that before coming here.
The first week I was here I was exuberantly overwhelmed with all of the new dishes I was trying and the quality of the ingredients. CET provided a lunch the first week I was here including an antipasto, primo, secondo and dolce. Each dish that came out I ate all of it, eager for more and wondering how someone could make something this delicious. Luckily following that dinner in a month, we would have a cooking class at the same restaurant. Anxiously awaiting this cooking class, I would cook at home with my Italian roommate, Federica, making cacio e pepe, carbonara and so much more. Getting to cook with my roommate and be able to share a meal with the rest of my roommates and gather around after a long day of class or traveling or exploring the city is a memory I will forever cherish.
Cooking here and going to the grocery store here is a different experience than in the states. Italians take a lot of pride in their ingredients and almost exclusively buy products from Italy. One of my professors told me a story about looking for zucchini in an Italian grocery store and they asked the grocery clerk and they responded that they did not have any. After searching around for themselves they found zucchini but quickly noticed that it was not grown in Italy and that is why the clerk said there was no zucchini. While this is extreme to us it is normal here… almost everything I buy without even noticing is from Italy. The products are fresh and clean and so tasty. So tasty that almost every day for lunch that I have been here I make a sandwich with bread, salame, prosciutto, mozzarella, parmigiano, arugula, tomatoes, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Taking every bite hoping it never ends, it is just so tasty.
After many sandwiches and homemade dinners, along with a number of dinners out in Verona, Venice, Florence, and Rome the long-awaited cooking class has arrived. After a long day of classes, we went to Fonte Giusta which is the same restaurant that we attended for our first meal here as a group. Since that meal was so delicious and memorable, I immediately wanted to recreate it. We all walked in and received aprons and chef hats and got to creating the sauces. There were three different sauces – a ragu sauce, a cheese sauce and then a traditional tomato sauce. Each sauce was paired with a different pasta that we hand rolled and prepared which were a pici (a long, thicker noodle), gnocchi, and a ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach. After two hours of making the sauces and rolling out pastas and stuffing them it was time to eat it! Sitting down at the table and watching what you made come out of a professional kitchen is so rewarding. We all cleaned our plate each time the new pasta came out.
Thus far the cooking class for me was surreal. I have cooked in professional kitchens and beside many people who are important to me but being in Italy where the passion for the food is in the air… it is a different feeling. I hope in the near future you can experience the love for food here. Ciao, tutti e buon appetito.
Order of Bruschetta while at dinner in Rome