When I went to Greece, a typical restaurant menu often included traditional Greek food and a good variety of pasta. After you’ve had feta and olive everything for a few days, you eventually stray. So we ordered pasta, and to our surprise, found that it was absolutely amazing. And this wasn’t a fluke. After having pasta at several different places in Athens and the Greek Islands, we realized that their pasta dishes were consistently amazing. At the time, I chalked it up to their proximity to Italy. But then, I had never been to Italy, so I was basing that entirely on the stereotype.
Last year, I finally visited Italy, and frankly, I can’t remember a single pasta dish that blew me away. I tried all my favorites, from carbonara to ravioli, and nothing really sticks out in my mind as a great meal. Some of them were downright mediocre. That being said, the pizza here is amazing and I specifically remember several awesome pizza places. But the pasta is unremarkable. I think, in part, it’s because Italians consider pasta a first course, and not their main meal, which usually consists of meat or fish. But as I am not a star of My 600 Pound Life, a plate of pasta is enough dinner for me. However, I have to admit, the pasta is often bland and uninspired so maybe I should just opt for steak.
I always thought it was blasphemous that I didn’t love Italian pasta. But having just left Croatia, I had the same experience I did in Greece. Croatians know how to make pasta. Their gnocchi and tagliatelle are exquisite and flavorful and somehow not too heavy. And once again Croatia proved that other countries do pasta better than Italy. I’ve been traveling with a friend that happens to live in Italy. She agrees that the pasta in Croatia was all superior to pasta she has in Italy. In fact, she’s grown so sick of Italian food that she almost never wants to eat it. According to her, the only reason Italy is known for pasta is because it’s all they make. But just like I told my pathologically dishonest ex about his lying before I left him: just because you do it a lot, doesn’t mean you’re good at it.
Pasta is amazing; it’s one of my favorite foods. But the good pasta you’re used to having at your high-end Italian bistro back home is probably better than the plain plate you should expect to get in Rome. So maybe it’s time we stop worshipping Italy for its pasta. It ain’t all that. Even Italians don’t seem to think so, as they consider it only a first course to a “real” meal. You can get better pasta literally everywhere but Italy, where most of the pasta you’ll find is generic and mediocre. And who wants to settle for that?
The wine, though… I have no complaints about Italian wine.