In Italy, especially Tuscany, it is okay to eat a lot.One of the great disappointments for me when I visited Italy was finding the same kind of eating going on as we did in our house in Massapequa, Long Island, but I could not find native Italians of my girth.This proved true in Rome and Sorrento, too.What gives?Can they digest better than me, only a partial Italian?Well, it was good to know they liked to eat, even if they were thin.In fact, in the wonderful city of Florence you can find Ristorante Pane e Olio (Bread and Oil) where you can not order.They feed you what they have.Five or six courses later, no one ever leaves unhappy.Remember Chianti is the wine of the Tuscan hills.Drink some with this meal for true authenticity.
Pasto is the Italian term for meal.Full meals may range through three to six courses or sometimes more and can take hours to eat.Curiously, though, antipasto, before the meal (appetizer) does not rate a course number, even if the range of appetizers offered in some places would constitute a feast like it did in my house.So, for our five course meal (darn, it would have been six or seven if they let me count the appetizers) tonight here is a primer on the Italian names for the parts of the meal you will eat.
The first course, primo piatto generally consists of pasta, risotto, polenta, gnocchi or soup.You can have more than one primo which is primi.We will have two, due primi, pasta and soup! The second or main course--secondo piatto or piatto di mezzo--may be seafood, meat, poultry, game, omelets or other hearty vegetable dishes.We will have one, un secondo!A straight numbering system for the courses stops working when meals include two or more primi or secondi, say when a fish course precedes a poultry course which precedes a meat course or like our meal with two firsts, due primi.MAMA MIA!With the main course will come a contorno (literally, I surround).This is a side dish or garnish of cooked vegetables, salad, rice, noodles or polenta.Since we will have two, a garnish of vegetables and a side salad and they will surround the main course (they surround), we will have circondono.These do not count as courses at all!Courses may continue with formaggio (cheese), frutta (fresh fruit), dolce (sweet also called dessert), cafe (espresso, of course) and digestivo (grappa, brandy or liqueurs, such as amaro or sambuca).We will have a third course, terzo, of cheese and fruit, but since we had two first courses this is really our fourth course (oh boy!).Confused?Our last course, really the fifth not counting the antipasto, will simply be dolce.I suggest you have a digestivo like sambuca as well to make the meal truly authentic.Remember, you dont have to know any of this, just follow the Preparation Plan and eat.Thats enough.It should also be nice to know that if you are, in spirit, truly 100% Italian, you wont care in what order the food comes and you wont gain any weight from eating this meal.Fortuna buona!Enjoy!