ARCHIVES: What an Italian eats at home

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Damiano Verzulli, 46, Italian, father of two young boys (..and ICT specialist)

Here is the table where I got my breakfast, 30 minutes ago:

You can see:

  • 1: then tiny cup of espresso coffee: actually it’s more brown than black… ‘cause I don’t like too much the taste of “raw” coffee and I prefer to “smooth” it with some milk (milk is “3”). Close to the cup of coffee, there’s the “sugar” (I prefer “raw” sugar, so, again, it’s more “brown” than white);
  • 2: that’s the espresso machine that I use… since I got married, on 2002. It’s quite small, useful for up to “two” cups (for me and my wife) or, if I need more caffeine, enough for one single cup;
  • Sometimes (with no particular reasoning) I prefer to have more-milk-than-coffee instead of more-coffee-than-milk. In those cases I would use a bigger cup (you can see two of them on top of the table), fill it with milk and adding some biscuits or cereals (you can see them in 4).

Probably you noted that I’m a proud father of two young boys so….:

  • I just prepared two cups for them. When awake they’ll have milk in their cups, filled with cereals (absolutely NO coffee!);
  • sometimes they prefer “yogurt” (again: with no particular reasoning). You can see the 8-yogurt-pack in 5. Each yogurt counts 125g of weight. Two of them will be enough (one for each boy).

After above description, let me add a couple of things:

  1. Is the above “common”, for me and my family? No.
  2. Have I written it specifically to answer this very Quora question? No.

Let me explain:

  • The above is “common” (for my family) for a Saturday or Sunday morning. During this two days, we have no “job” or “school” constraint so we have time (30 minutes or so) to prepare the whole stuff and take some time to enjoy the breakfast;
  • In working days (Monday to Friday) we have lots of hurry (due to our jobs (me+my wife) and school (two children)) so we oftenlimits ourselves to quick cup of coffee (me and my wife) and quick cup of simple milk (boys) without bothering in carefully preparing all the stuff. It’s a 5 minutes task (at most!);
  • Actually you should note that my wife’s cup of coffe is missing! You’re right! She got working, this morning, quite early so… she simply prepared her own cup of coffe and went working, without preparing the table for our breakfast.

And me? Why I’m not working, as today’s is thursday?

  • Here, in Italy, we are fully in summer-time, with august 15th that is a very important/crucial timeframe: all of the country (well…. 90%, actually) is “on vacation”. “Summer holidays”. And I’m exactly on summer holidays so… don’t need to phisically go working. That’s why I had time, this morning, to stay home and spend time with breakfast;

OK but… why the hell you have the breakfast at 10 am? Isn’t it too-late ?

  • You’re right! But yesterday evening we spent a nice evening with a group of friends in a nice (and, indeed, quite expensive!) restaurant, in Francavilla Al Mare: remember! It’s August: it’s “vacation time”. So we started having dinner at 9:30 pm and got back home at 01:00 am. So my boys are still sleeping (btw: one of them just woke up right after I started writing this answer). And obviously this has been possible as school is closed (for vacation). So boys can woke up… whener they prefer 🙂


  • when there’s not enough time to have breakfast at home, it’s common to have a “cappuccino” in a bar, just before entering the job (here it’s mostly full of bars; we even have one of them _inside_ our job offices!);
  • I really think that my “breakfast life-style” is quite different than the one that are common in bigger cities (like Rome or Milan). I cannot explain exactly “why”, but it should be more clear when I’ll describe details about “lunch” and “dinner”, later on.

That’s all… as for the breakfast, I plan to add details (updating this answer) later on, as for lunch, and dinner: they are much more complex things (as for me and my family) ’cause they depends from _LOTS_ of factors (as an example, today we’ll have lunch in my parent’s house and… you can bet that we’ll have much more food then we’re used to have! remember: it’s “holiday time” so… it’s not common).

Update 1: lunch

Here is the table where I lust got lunch:

(Please pardon a not-so-perfect “settlment”… but we were not in a restaurant nor in a sort of “formal” context. We were just at home.)

This is the main courses. What we call “pasta”. The specific kind/shape of pasta isn’t really important, as there are plenty of them (most commons and well-known are “spaghetti”, “rigatoni”, “penne”. But there are tens) and preferring one over the other is a matter of personal taste.

As you can see, today we had “pasta al sugo” (pasta with tomato juice) or “red pasta”. While enjoying such main course, thare are little more on the table: a bottle of water (missing in the photo), maybe some bread (someone —like me— is used to eat some bread while eating pasta, but this is not common).

Please note that the meal that we enjoyed today, is made up of two distinct tasks:

  1. preparing the “raw pasta”
  2. cooking it and adding condiments/seasoning.

As for step 1), 99% of time you simply buy it at a local shop. There are plenty of companies preparing “pasta” and selling/distributing it in little bags or boxes (with tipical weight of 500g or 1 kg). As an Italian living in Abruzzo region, I’m really proud that De Cecco, ranked 3rd among worlwide pasta producers [ref. wikipedia] has its headquarter 60 km away from my house :-). Actually I really think that they produce a really high-quality pasta, BTW.

Also, as for step 1), nothing prevent you in preparing the “raw pasta” by yourself! Actually it’s really… really simple. I saw my mother in doing this at least once a month, tipical on sunday, when the whole family (my parents, me and my family and sometime my brother family as well) meets together and enjoy a calm/relaxed lunch. My wife, also, is perfectly able to prepare “raw pasta” herself. It’s only a matter of time.
There’s also a little manual/mechanical machine, quite famous among “grandmothers” (in my area, at least). You can see it “in action” here:

(note: that’s the “original” IMPERIAL pasta-machine, that even my grandmother used when I was really young!)

Should you be interested in the whole process, feel free to search for “Pasta fatta in casa” on your preferred video search engine.

As for step 2), it’s “only” a matter of boiling the “raw pasta” and, afterwards, adding condiments/seasoning. This:

  • can be as easy as adding:
    • a can of tuna on top of it… and nothing more;
    • a little bottle of “raw” tomato jouce, maybe with a little stream of olive-oil;
  • can be as complex as shown by lots of master-chefs, who are able to bring you some incredible tastes that are really difficult to describe (“truffle”, just to give you one example)

After all of the above, let me add that:

  • it was literally shocking, for me, the first time that I went abroad (1996, Liverpool, BTW. I was 25) to recognize that lots of people have their lunch, abroad, WITHOUT pasta. Sounded really incredible! “How the hell is possible?” I asked myself…. And even now, I really spend some time, when abroad, in thinking how lucky we are, as Italians, in having our relationship with “pasta”. I really can’t imagine my life as well as the one of my sons/family without it;
  • during working days, quite often I “jump” my lunch (and this is bad habits; I know!). But when I have lunch, even a “quick” lunch, I always have a dish of “pasta”;
  • for reasons that I still have to clearly understand, even if my wifes really like “pasta”, she does her best in limiting, strongly limiting, its assumption (need to be related to “weight”/”line” problems, I guess).

And this…. only for “pasta”. Details about other food… will follow 🙂

Update 2: lunch, Aug. 25th 2017

Today has been a more “normal” day: a common working day for me. Unfortunately I got back home quite late (2:30 pm) so my family already had lunch. They were kind enough to keep me some food on the table. This table:

Here you can clearly see:

  • my main course (bottom, center): guess what? Pasta 🙂 Actually, it was “Pasta alle cozze” (Pasta with mussels). It’s not common to have seafood with pasta (it’s quite expensive), but we were lucky as a friend of mine gave us some mussels, yesterday, so my wife took the chance to prepare them with pasta. Very very good, BTW. That’s why you see the pot (center, right): I had two additional portions (for a total of three) 🙂
  • my second course (center): a simple omelette. In addition to eggs, there where some vegetables inside (“sliced” zucchina);
  • mussels where also “cooked” in the owen, to be served alone, without any other food: you can see them in the little aluminium pot (top, left);
  • There were also bread (top, right), and water (top, center). Actually some “wine” is missing… as in my family we don’t really like wine. So it’s not often (for us) to have it on the table. But when we have guests, a bottle of local wine is surely present as well.
  • You can see, also, some fruit, that we use to “close” the lunch: in this case, there is a small pear (top, center, the green one), and an half of a melon. I left the pear and got mostly all of the melon (it has been an hot day, here [36°], so having a fresh melon is delicious!).

You can also see another dish (center, left). I left it for the photo, just to show that sometime pasta can be eaten _alone_. Without anything else. Some people, sometime, for whatever reason, prefer not to have any condiment. Pure pasta, 100%. Maybe with only the addition of some fresh (not-cooked) olive-oil. That’s exactly what’s inside such dish.

That’s for my today’s lunch.

Have you noted that today has been a “working day” for me? So.. this morning, at home, a very quick cup of coffee (without even preparing the table). Then, just before entering office, 10 minutes before, I got to a “bar” and had this breakfast:

A cappuccino (a normal-size cup of milk with the addition of the equivalent of a small-cup of espresso coffee, prepared so to have some cream) and a “cornetto” (croassant). This is slightly off-topic for the answer (as I had them “out” of home), but I think is relevant as well.

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