Three years ago I embarked on one of the most challenging, eye opening and rewarding experiences of my life; I went abroad. I was given the opportunity to live and breathe my dreams. I got to live in Europe but not Munich and not London and not Paris, but Florence. I was raised in a large Italian family and Italian food easily made up most of my favorite dishes. However, I failed to realize my version of Italian food wasn’t exactly Italian food. What I mean is, American Italian cuisine, such as chicken parmesan, did not exist in Italy. Despite my initial surprise and over-all culture shock, I discovered what authentic Italian food tasted like and I fell even deeper in love with Italian food, wine and culture.
Although I went to many cities in many countries over my six month stay, nothing compared to the food I found in Florence, Rome, the Almalfi coast and even Naples. I simply could not get enough. However, one experience of a thousand happy memories still leaves me with chills. It was late April, I was about halfway through my semester abroad and everyone’s parents were in town for spring break. Since my parents were not able to make it, my friend Melanie’s parents invited my roommate’s and I to one of the best restaurants in Florence, Bucca del’Orafo. It was a small quaint restaurant, nestled right under the back end of the frequently photographed Ponte Vecchio. We arrived and were seated at one of the five tightly knit tables. There was only one waiter working and for the first time everyone else in the restaurant was Italian. I immediately realized that I felt, after two months of living in Florence, that I belonged and that I was truly an authentic Italian. The strangest thing about the restaurant was that there was no menu; everyone would be eating the same three courses. We started out with beef carpaccio, followed by sweet pea pasta and finished with an authentic Florentine steak.
I cannot tell you exactly how the dishes were prepared, that part of my memory serves me, but I do remember the taste; I remember the flavor. The carpaccio melted in my mouth and blended with the arugula and balsamic in a way that was so perfect, I never wanted it to end. The second course, pea pasta, was the strangest I’ve seen. It was Kelly green and served with merely peas and spaghetti. Needless to say I was skeptical until I tried that first bite; looking back I wish I licked the bowl. The final course was steak, a filet Mignon native to Florence. However, this steak wasn’t just steak, it is indescribable even to a writer and to this day I have dreams about it. The food was paired with the most heavenly pinot noir or chianti, I cannot remember exactly, but what I do remember is how for the first time, I understood what my pairing food and wine professor was talking about; some things just complemented each other. Some things just worked. Everyone swooned over the amazing meal we were enjoying together and to our surprise; the pasta chef was actually an American woman, a student once herself. She fell in love with Italy and its food and decided to never leave the magical city of Florence. As the evening wore on and our cheeks grew rosy, our comic waiter put on his iPod and all the Italians in the restaurant started singing what must be their version of a Bruce Springsteen song. They went at the lyrics with such abandon as our table joined in. We were dancing and singing with the five or so other tables like we were all one family. We all sang, danced and drank Sambuca with real Florentines and to this day it is one of the most memorable and fond experiences of my life and the reason why I applied to DZ a few weeks ago before a job was even posted.
I believe that nothing brings people together like good food and good wine and even though I am no longer in Italy, I enjoyed a similar experience at Pasta Pane last November. My mom had been raving about the ‘new chianti’ in Clifton Park, specifically of a gambari appetizer and how it was so fresh and authentic that I had to go try it for myself. I believed her, I knew it would be good; however, could it be truly Tuscan? I went to Pasta Pane with a few good friends and ordered an eggplant scallop appetizer to start followed by a prosciutto and arugula pizza and was floored by not only how delicious it was, but how truly authentic and Tuscan the food and entire menu was. I fully believe in your brand and want to be a part of creating lasting culinary impressions on patrons, allowing them to feel and try the authenticity of real Italian food and culture that I felt nearly two years ago. I believe in what you’re doing as a company and I would love the opportunity to learn and grow in your marketing of a product that I am truly passionate about. I hope I was able to convey my passion for food, the written word, and Italian culture, because even though there’s no place like Italy, it doesn’t mean we can’t all be authentic Italians.
By: Lauren Clemente ( all right reserved copyrighted 2012)