Yesterday we felt the warm hospitality of Italy at the Ospitalita'Italiana: The Authentic Italian Table. The event was hosted by the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce at the Metropolitan Pavilion. We had an amazing and classy evening and we got to witness all the best of Italian culture all in one room without having to hop on a plane.
When we entered, the first thing I saw was a dimly lit room full of beautiful and beautifully dressed people. Certainly check the box off for handsome Italian men in suits. I wasn't too badly under-dressed, but it had been raining and I looked so silly clomping around in my rainboots. People were clinking glasses and double-cheek-kissing all around. It all felt so Italian!
I got to sit on a Vespa, so that was fun!
Then, we quickly made a beeline for the food, of course! Imagine if you will all your favorite dishes in Italian cuisine, and chances were they were served at The Authentic Italian Table (albeit small versions that fit on little plates). Don Antonio / Keste were serving a truffle cream pizza (yay!); unfortunately it's probably hard to warm up pizza on these small hot plates, but we've been to the actual restaurant and can attest that they make a very good pie.
We had several different ages of prosciutto at Cibo Italia - a prosciutto cotto, almost like a ham, probably aged for a very short amount of time, if any; a 18-month prosciutto, and a 24-month prosciutto. All were delicious, but I could definitely taste the deeper savoriness/sweetness in the more aged versions. Of course, that was paired with a big chunk of Parmigiano cheese carved straight out of an enormous wheel. There was a very fun almost-crystalline texture interspersed through the salty cheese.
We also had our share of pasta (oh the carbs!) all around. One that I enjoyed and reminded me of one of my most favorite meals in Florence (a mushroom truffle tagliatelle in Al Vecchio Carlino) was a casserole of thick wide pasta noodles covered in a mushroom truffle cream. Ohhh boy! Unfortunately I wasn't able to enjoy it as much because I mostly felt guilty at ingesting so many carbs and cream sauces and cheeses, but it was objectively very good.
The highlight of the night, however, was the orecchiette that was being handmade right on the spot at I Trulli. Not only was the pasta being handmade, but it was literally someone's nonna sitting at a wooden board and rolling, cutting, and shaping the little nubbins of dough. It was served in a simple tomato sauce that was the real deal: didn't have a funny pucker-y cloying taste from the sugar that canned sauces use. It was like someone picked the ripest tomatoes, boiled that down into a sauce, and pureed it ever so gently. Buonissimo!!
There were also some unique dishes that actually aren't what come to mind immediately when I think of Italian food. First was a basil puree shooter, with some tomato and cream foam as well (tricolore, of course). It was not my favorite thing, but it was pretty interesting how these creams and foams held onto that very strong basil flavor. Another booth was serving a shot glass full of a braised beef ragu (delicious, and super Italian) along with a shot glass full of...salmon tartare? Think more Hawaiian poke than Italian, unless there's some part of Italy that I'm unaware of that loves salmon tartare or sashimi. It was undoubtedly tasty, but I was scratching my head at that one!
Finally, we also had the chance to sample the potent potables. I had two very pleasant proseccos that I would definitely go out of my way to find in the liquor store if I ever need prosecco, but if there's anything that I've learned about Italian booze (actually one drunken night in Rome), it's limoncello all the way. Actually the best liquor there wasn't a true limoncello but a lemon gin. Italy is famous for large and sweet lemons, and I suppose Malfy Gin (a lemony twist on Amalfi Coast perhaps?) mixes in these pungent lemons with gin to add an extra citrusy kick to the juniper flavor. We had a gin and tonic that was fantastic, and might be reminiscent of that one drunken night in Rome if I had too much.
We are so thankful for the hospitality of the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce for inviting us to The Authentic Italian Table and showing us the beauty of their country, one that already has wonderful memories for us.