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Food on the Move

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June 19, 2014 / Italian / By
Anna

It was about 10 years ago, the tall guy (TTG) and I were traveling in Italy, when struck by a sudden need for coffee, we pulled off the road at a truck stop. We didn’t realize it at the time, but this was the beginning of a gastronomic adventure. The food looked good, so we had a panino each and went on our way. Unlike my first encounter with cured pork meat, which took place in Spain, I was not alarmed by the rather raw looking prosciutto. In Spain I had eaten only the bread fearing food poisoning. However, I had learned a thing or two.

Jumping forward a few years, we bought a small house in Umbria, and now, one of the first thoughts when we return to Italy and set out from Fiumicino Airport in Rome is how long we can last until we need to visit an Autogrill.

There is so much to the average Autogrill. Early in the morning, the coffee is strong and the cornetti con crema, basically croissants with custard inside, are crisp on the outside and gooey inside.

In the middle of the day, there is always a selection of salads, panini, fresh fruit and cakes. More substantial meals such as lasagna and roast meats are also available. Probably, the one food to avoid, unless it is clearly fresh from the oven, is the pizza as it has usually been sitting a while. You will be asked if you want your panino warmed. Caldo? is the expression, and yes it does sound more like the English for cold than warm.

Autogrills also sell delicious foods of the kind people buy when they are on route to visit family and friends, such as gift packed pastas in a variety of colors. They also sell olive oil and wine, which can be offered at a substantial discount.

Initially, I was shocked to see that along with excellent coffee, the bar sold beer and shots of various top shelf items. Remember, this is a roadside café we are talking about. In many countries in the world this would represent a health and safety issue. Not in Italy. But I have seldom seen a truck driver have a beer. Of course, many of them could be having a café corretto (espresso corrected through the addition of a shot of liqueur). It is unwise to drink too many espressos without this digestive precaution. Also, as I seldom see an Italian drink to excess, I no longer worry about the availability of alcohol at the Autogrill.

From the outside, Autogrills tend not to look very stylish, but aesthetics are not as important to the ordinary Italian as the quality of the food. Negotiating the system at an Autogrill can be confusing. For the first time traveler the trick is to make your choice from the cabinet, then go to the cashier, who may be on the other side of the room. Pay up, get your ticket, and then go back to the food display to order. It is a little tedious, but just draw on the culture shock mantra, it is not wrong; it is just different, right?

Don't dismiss this unexpected culinary delight. One thing you can be sure of, if there are Italians, there will be a need for good food. And Autogrills meet that need on all the motorways of Italy.


Autogrill

Country: Italy

Province/State: Umbria

City: N/A

Address: N/A

Zip/Post Code: N/A

Location Tips: N/A

Phone: N/A

Website:N/A

Price Guide:$ (What's this?) N/A = home cooked meal,etc
$ = street food, fast food,etc
$$ = bistro, cafe, pub, bar,etc
$$$ = fine dining,etc

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