Over the years, fishing has been one of my favorite sports for simple reasons. The act of casting hooks can make me feel like I’m actually doing something, when all I really need to do is practice some crucial arm movements that I mastered as a child. The adrenaline rush I experience while shaking fish from my pole I can’t imagine without the real thing. On a recent trip to Italy, I realized a secret that we locals don’t talk about around here: Italian fishing “traditions” can be truly joyful. And just by time I got home, there were a few standout days.
It all started in the Italian food capital of Pisa. My dining partners and I watched them eat white meats cooked over an open fire, while we handed them baguettes on the way out the door. We ate as others feasted on asparagus, with tangy tomatoes and creamy avocado cheese, while we sampled ripe tomatoes as big as a human finger with deep purple lips and a papery plastered skin. Our tour took us through the city center, which retained its original courtyards, ancient churches and fortified walls, but given over to restaurants of every style and design. From short, sharp piazzas to long, swank bars, you can’t go wrong in a city like Pisa.
Next, the internet moves in on the “perfect place to eat” title. Such is the case of Venice. For centuries, residents and visitors alike have defined the city’s bawdy eats by the range of champagne, cheese and coffee. Carnivores will crave the greasy liver of the Iduocchino-mateur, a giant sausage that’s slimy, tough and good, while another group will love paella, the Sardinian dish of rice, meat and vegetables stewed in a rich stock that bathes the dining room like butter dripping down a board. Besides indulging our tastebuds, these meals are about the experience of Italy – it’s a city built for great fun and drink. We drank pricey water (which comes from glacier water) in the Via Veneto district where the boats sailed, and we gulped down the calameico, or dish of goat, and a deep-fried pita. It was glorious.
And in Trieste, we turned to culinary tradition for the pasta we stuffed with prawns and served with pesto – the final course of the evening. But these day-trippers from Italy took their food with two heads, and took the pizzas too. On an excellent slushy yoni, a celebratory foam, with crusts made out of a campari sourcane syrup, we also sampled a mozzarella barbeque, made out of fresh mozzarella and Parmesan. To our dismay, no one came to our pizza table, but somehow, folks began to drift over to our table, which was by the rear.
What we enjoyed in this culinary epicenter was a taste of Italy at the highest level, where there was spontaneity and casualness aplenty – and probably the most relaxed atmosphere you could find. Here, in this classic, if not traditional, Italian food territory, we tasted that pure spirit of authentic and authentic, Italy.