Beautifully written, evocative and informative.
Witty and good for hotels and eating.
Travel writing’s greatest double act… their Rome, Venice Florence [is] passionate, informative, amusing and inspiring.
An entertaining read.
Croton and Sybaris, among other Greek cities of the Ionian Sea, take the credit for introducing the Italians to their future hearts’ delight. A small, cylindrical form of pasta called makaria – perhaps the original macaroni – was a ritual food eaten at funeral banquets; by 600 bc, the Sybarites, always on the hunt for new culinary experiences, had invented the rolling pin and were turning out tagliatelle and maybe even lasagne. Not yet having tomatoes, they were unable to perfect the concept, but, in a nation that often has trouble baking a decent loaf of bread, this delicious, aesthetically stimulating and eminently practical new staple found a warm welcome everywhere. Pasta’s triumphal march northwards finally slowed to a halt in the rice paddies and treacherous polenta morasses of Lombardy, but everywhere else it remains in firm control.
Pasta does have its cultural ramifications. The artists of the Futurist movement wanted to declare war on spaghetti, and many of today’s Italian nouveaux riches wouldn’t be caught dead ordering any form of pasta in a restaurant (this, ironically, at a time when their counterparts in northern Europe and America wax ever more enthusiastic about it). Do you think that pasta is all the same? Well, so do millions of Italians, though an equal number revel in the incredible variety of pasta forms and fashions; in your travels you’ll find the same flour and water turned into broad pappardelle and narrow linguini (‘tiny tongues’), stuffed delights like ravioli and tortellini, regional specialities like Puglian orecchietti (‘little ears’) and Sardinia’s malorreddus, that resemble miniature trilobites. Other inviting forms, among the 400 or so known shapes, include vermicelli (‘little worms’), lumacconi (‘slugs’), bavette (‘dribbles’) and strangolopreti (‘priest chokers’). But even these fail to satisfy the nation’s culinary whims, and every so often one of the big pasta companies will commission a big-name fashion designer to come up with a new form.
© Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls