One of the most popular cuisines in India apart from our own food is Italian. If you pay close attention you can find a pizza, pasta, risotto or their Indianised versions on almost every menu.
These three are, of course, the first things you associate with the cuisine but it was a recent trip to Italy that made me realise there is a lot more to their food and some very interesting and somewhat unusual dishes as well.
If you find yourself in Italy and are feeling a tad bit adventurous do give the pasta and pizza a miss in order to try something completely different.
While the pasta (amatrichiana) in Rome is renowned, the city does some interesting appetiser dishes as well. The first being a suppli which is like a croquette with a fried outer covering but the inside is stuffed with rice (preferably risotto) and cheese. Once you cut into this hot steamy ball the cheese oozes out and it makes for a rather filling and tasty treat. A nice change from say the regular bruschetta.
Another interesting starter dish is their zucchini flower which comes batter fried almost like a tempura but some restaurants like to give it a little twist and will even stuff them with cheese. It isn't the zucchini plant that is wildly used but the flower instead. Both the suppli and zucchini flower are considered street food and found easily at any restaurant or vender. My favourite however are the ones served at Naumachia, a restaurant in Rome tucked away behind the coliseum.
In Florence, you can pop into any restaurant or roadside cafe and almost every single one of them will boast of offering a traditional florentine steak. This is a specialty and no regular steak as it is made only from local cattle and cooked almost rare served on the bone. When you order it is comes by itself so ordering accompaniments is advisable like roast potatoes or Swiss chard spinach. The very best place to try some of this Florentine steak is at a charming rustic Italian restaurant called Le Fonticine.
In Venice the ideal dish to eat is their famed cuttlefish ink pasta which is entirely black in colour and throws people off with its appearance but is simply delightful.
Seafood is a delight in Venice but the real treat is a Baccala Mantecata which is a popular dish of salted cod fish that has been creamed so it's served almost like a mousse and usually accompanied by a serving of creamy polenta. While the Portuguese are cod obsessed and it might seem strange to see it on an Italian menu the locals in Venice lap it up. Hidden in the old Jewish quarter, there is a lovely al fresco joint called Ristorante Pizzeria Al Faro and serves the most sinful Baccala along with creamy polenta as well as the ink pasta.
If you feel like a change of pace take a walk on the (slightly) wild side and try one of these. If not you've got a selection of pasta and pizza wherever you go and nothing will disappoint.
Better known as the Tiny Taster, Roxanne is an internationally respected blogger and expert on the Mumbai food scene. She has hosted many events, including the Upper Crust Food & Wine Show and travels the world, sharing her knowledge and gaining more experience.