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Food and Drink: Did You Know?

Slow Food

Italians do not eat on the go. To-go cups of coffee are exceedingly rare, and while pizza is portable, it is never eaten while walking. Italians prefer to efficiently eat panini and drink coffee al banco, rather than trying to multitask. In Florence, where street stalls sell lampredotto tripe sandwiches, buying food and eating it in a city square is common. The practice of eating and moving is anathema to Italian food culture, although the exception to the rule is gelato, which can be eaten by families strolling around town. In 1986, the Slow Food movement was founded in Italy as a response to the incursion of industrial and fast-food businesses—mostly from the United States. The slow food movement promotes local and sustainable agricultural practices, economy, and culinary traditions.

Risotto and Pasta

Italian cuisine is divided north and south by risotto and pasta, respectively. Rice is commonly cultivated in the North, while durum wheat crops define agriculture in the South. Risotto is made from short grain rice simmered in broth until thick; it is typically flavored with rich cheeses and savory vegetables. Pasta is associated with southern Italy, where it is made from high-gluten semolina wheat flour. Gluten is a protein that creates elasticity and strength in pasta, so that it can be enjoyed al dente—simultaneously firm and tender. There are approximately 300 shapes and styles of pasta in Italy, but only around 50 are regularly used. Each pasta is optimally designed for particular sauces, soups, and preparations. Risotto and pasta are typical primi piatti (first course) options.