Sometimes, dinner in Italy seems like an afterthought. I mentioned yesterday how lunch is the star of Italian meals. As a result, sometimes people are so full that they barely even think about what to eat for dinner. Unlike those of us in the United States who eat dinner around 6 or 7 in the evening, Italians won’t even consider sitting down for a bite before 8 or 9 at night. Those young folks, who go out to restaurants for dinner, might not even make it there until 10 o’clock. I, an American, never did get used to this schedule. I still find myself starving at 7, unable to wait that other hour, for the nightly meal. Back when I was dating my husband and we’d go out to eat in Ischia, I would be falling asleep over my mussels in white wine sauce.
Now, the photo above features bruschetta, which is toasted Italian bread with olive oil (and sometimes cut garlic has been swiped across the toast for flavor) and is topped with toppings, most commonly tomatoes with basil, salt, and olive oil. This is basically the same thing as tomatoes and bread (just swap toasted bread for fresh), which I’ve mentioned my people, who work the land, eat for breakfast often. Well, Italians also eat this for dinner. The reason is that it’s light and refreshing. And the bread makes it filling. They might pair it with some fresh mozzarella or prosciutto di Parma. Or they will have a panini – a pressed sandwich – and a light salad for their meal. Still, there’s always bread.
If you haven’t noticed, Italians are carb-a-holics. Bread is always on the table. If you didn’t have pasta as your primo at lunch, you’ll probably have a dish of some sort of pasta for dinner. It’s usually something simple to make and a little lighter than what you would eat at lunch. You’ll skip the secondo, unless you’re going out to eat or it’s a holiday of some sort. Another favorite at dinner is pizza. In Ischia, right outside of Naples, which is pizza’s birthplace, you can get individual pies that have been cooked in a wood-burning stove that taste nothing like you’ve ever had before. Each bite of that thin, crunchy, perfectly charred crust is pure Paradiso. Pizza is the one meal that Italians believe calls for beer or Coca-Cola instead of wine, by the way. So, whip out the Peroni or Nastro Azzurro (depending on your preference) and chow down. Buon appetito!