Culinary Post #1: Roman Culture
Coming to Rome, I knew I needed to ready myself for the boatload of carbs I would partake in especially pizza and pasta.When my roommate and I first arrived, we walked to the nearest pizzeria to buy the cheapest yet the most fulfilling meal on the menu: pizza. The pizza options were bizarre. As American’s we’re used to seeing pepperoni, sausage or supreme as the more prominent pizza choices but on the menu we had the peculiar options of choosing tuna with onion, salami (which is essentially pepperoni) with artichokes, and mushroom with sausage. (In case you were wondering, we picked the mushroom with sausage to share) Before the main course arrived, we were given a tall glass of water to share and a basket of sliced (what seemed like stale sourdough) bread. We emulated how the other Romans ate and dipped the bread (which is bruschetta just without the tomatoes) with the olive oil and red wine vinegar. However, the restaurant waiters did not bring us a plate to dip the bread in, instead they brought us a dish that looked like it was made for discarding cigarette butts. So, with an engineers mind, I dumped the water into my water bottle (which by the way is totally against the Italian virtues) and used my emptied glass for dipping bread — which looked as unappealing as it sounded. When the 33cm wide pizza finally arrived, we noticed the pizza was awfully oily (of which I presume is olive oil) but the crust was naturally thin and crispy.
After we were done eating, we waited a long while until I realized that we should be asking for our check instead of waiting for our check to arrive. This is probably because Italians thinks the check means that you’re ready to leave, so if they gave you the check it would symbolize that they were kicking you out. When the check arrived, we were astonished. It was scribbled on a piece of graphing paper but what was more astounding was the dramatic increase in the price of our pizza:
With the lack of understanding in the Italian vernacular were couldn’t decipher what we were charged for, but one other thing was for sure: we had to pay to sit down (yes sitting at a table is more expensive than standing at a bar). It’s the Italian’s way of paying for gratuity/service fee because the waiters had to serve us. Additionally, we were also paying for the tall glass of water we ordered earlier (American’s are nicer in this case because they care that water is a crucial source to sustain life and thus it should be free–but Italians well, not so much because their government is more laissez-faire so they can charge you for whatever they deem as necessary and profitable). Note to self: nothing here is free–Europeans charge for water, sitting and even using the bathroom (that’s a story for another day)!
Italian word of the day: Buonasera (sounds like bone-ah-sarah) = good evening