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Cry for Help...Food in Italy

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Night 4 in Chantillon, Aosta Valley, Italy. Here for 8 nights.

Great skiing so far (albeit above 1800/2000m) at Courmayeur plus the unheard of (in UK) areas of Torgnon and Chamois. Only me, Mrs MA and five others on the pistes of Chamois today - virtually our own private ski area!

Anyway, I digress. We ski loads in Austria and France, where we understand everything on the menu and love all the local mountain food specialities...but we are really struggling for evening meals here in Italy Confused .

It's not a British abroad thing - we'd really love to try stuff and embrace the local food but:
- Next to no speaks English - we're in a proper mountain town, not a tourist hotspot. I can get by in French & German...but not Italian.
- Our phrasebook menu guide is rubbish - hardly anything on any menus is in there.
- Pasta dishes don't seem to be a main course...what's with this prima and secondi pianti lark??

Help!! Any tips or pointers on anything?? We've already had to resort to 2 pizzas in 4 nights... Confused
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Pasta is normally a starter. And you may have an even smaller starter before that as an appetiser. Prima and second pianti is first and second plate, so would probably be the appetiser then the pasta dish. Then you would have a main course.

I actually speak very little Italian, but I understand a fair bit of written Italian (I work across all manner of languages). You're correct that English is not widely spoken in Aosta valley when you get away from the main tourist areas, but French is reasonably common.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Just order anything - it's Italy so it's probably good. Don't be surprised if your main courase of meat is just meat with some garnish though. You'll have had your carbs and salad earlier.


Failing that Google Translate
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Some local dishes for you to try (I'm vegetarian so I've only tried the first one):

Risotto all valdostana, made with fontina, toma and Parmigiano Reggiano cheeses and rice.

Seupa de grip, barley soup made with seasonal vegetables and potatoes, seasoned with onions and salt pork.

Polenta all rascard, corn meal chilled and sliced, then layered with a thick beef and sausage ragout and Fontina cheese.

Capriolo all valdostana, venison and vegetables stewed in an herb flavored cream and grappa sauce.

Carbondale, a beef stew made with salt preserved beef, onions and red wine and served with polenta.

Jamon de bosses, a ham spiced with herbs and dried beef.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
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@mountainaddict, download google translate and the Italian dictionary while you're in the hotel. You can use it offline if you don't have a data connection.

Can't really help with the translation without seeing some of it though. If you take a photo and post it up, we'll probably be able to decipher it between us!
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A little help from Wikipedia!!

Formal meal structure

Aperitivo
The aperitivo opens a meal, and it is similar to an appetizer. Most people gather around standing up and have alcoholic/non-alcoholic drinks such as wine, prosecco, spritz , vermouth, gingerino . Occasionally small amounts of food are consumed, such as olives, crisps, nuts, cheese, sauce dips, little quiches or similar snacks.
Antipasto
The antipasto is a slightly heavier starter. It is usually cold and lighter than the first course. Examples of foods eaten are salumi (such as salame, mortadella, prosciutto, bresaola and other charcuterie products), cheeses, sandwich-like foods (panino, bruschetta, tramezzino, crostino), vegetables, cold salmon or prawn cocktails; more elaborate dishes are occasionally prepared.
Primo
A primo is the first course. It consists of hot food and is usually heavier than the antipasto, but lighter than the second course. Non-meat dishes are the staple of any primo: examples are risotto, pasta, soup and broth, gnocchi, polenta, crespelle, casseroles, or lasagne.
Secondo
This course may include different meats and types of fish, including turkey, sausage, pork, steak, stew, beef, zampone, salt cod, stockfish, salmon, lobster, lamb, chicken, or a roast. The primo or the secondo may be considered more important depending on the locality and the situation.
Contorno (side dish)
A contorno is a side dish and it's commonly served alongside a secondo. These usually consist of vegetables, raw or cooked, hot or cold. They are usually served in a separate dish, not on the same plate as the meat.[2]
Insalata
If the contorno contained many leafy vegetables, the salad might be omitted. Otherwise, a fresh garden salad would be served at this point.
Formaggi e frutta
An entire course is dedicated to local cheeses and fresh seasonal fruit. The cheeses will be whatever is typical of the region (see List of Italian cheeses).
Dolce
Next follows the dolce, or dessert. Frequent dishes include tiramisu, zuppa inglese, panna cotta, cake or pie, panettone or pandoro (the last two are mainly served at Christmas time) and the Colomba Pasquale (an Easter cake). A gelato or a sorbetto can be eaten too. Though there are nationwide desserts, popular across Italy, many regions and cities have local specialities. In Naples, for instance, zeppole and rum baba are popular; in Sicily, cassata and cannoli are commonly consumed; mostarda, on the other hand, is more of a Northern dish.
Caffè
Coffee is often drank at the end of a meal, even after the digestivo. Italians, unlike many countries, do not have milky coffees or drinks after meals (such as cappucino or caffè macchiato), but strong coffee such as espresso, which is often drunk very quickly in small cups at very high temperatures.
Digestivo
The digestivo, also called ammazzacaffè if served after the coffee, is the drink to conclude the meal. Drinks such as grappa, amaro, limoncello or other fruit/herbal drinks are drunk. Digestivo indicates that the drinks served at this time are meant to ease digestion of a long meal.
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^ and therein lies the explanation of how the Italians can spend the entire day eating and none of it skiing Laughing
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@mountainaddict, If you see Cotoletta alla Milanese on the menu then that's the same as Wienerschnitzel (in fact some people reckon that the Wienerschitzel originated from the Italian version).
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@letsgetpiste, Excellent description, often I will only have the antipasto and the pasta course (incidently this is why there is no point in comparing the price of spag bol in Italy and France where it often the main course). My favourite pasta course is spaghetti vongole or a bit behind simply spaghetti aglio et olio, but some of the ravioli dishes filled simply with beetroot ot spinach are equally delicious.[

b]@mountainaddict[/b], It took me months working in Rome to figure out Italian menus. Unlike the Britsh or French custom the Italian menus are not written as a meat dish accompanied by a sauce but often given completely different name. I remember one evening just having a meal of Capon. Relax and enjoy
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Google Goggles, It scans text and translates.
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You're getting plenty good advice here, so I'll just mention that "prima and secondi pianti" would more or less mean "first and second plants"

Pianti = plants
Piatti = plates/dishes/courses

Very Happy
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
@MountainAddict : do not ever visit China!
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@Scrumpy, Laughing Laughing
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You know it makes sense.
I do be?I've That You have just revealed one of those hidden gem secrets....
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Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Good advice so far but if all else fails... Stick a pin in the menu and order whatever it falls on. It's Italy; It will be good.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Scrumpy wrote:
@MountainAddict : do not ever visit China!


Happy

At least they have pictures Happy

Mind you. Getting about on the train etc can be a nightmare. Hmmm what queue to join Happy
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@mountainaddict,
If you speak French, go for it. You stand a good chance of being understood.

Polenta alla valdostana is delicious. Plenty of fontina cheese in it.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
SkiingDad wrote:
@mountainaddict,
If you speak French, go for it. You stand a good chance of being understood.

Polenta alla valdostana is delicious. Plenty of fontina cheese in it.



First part - +1 the AO valley is very French speaking.
Second part - only the top few cm, the bottom half of the dish is sometimes/often/usually plain polenta and fairly tasteless. In my experience, anyway. Smile
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vfr4 wrote:
You're getting plenty good advice here, so I'll just mention that "prima and secondi pianti" would more or less mean "first and second plants"

Pianti = plants
Piatti = plates/dishes/courses

Very Happy


Maybe it was a vegetarian restaurant Very Happy (If so, it would be the only one in Italy!)
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Quote:

Polenta alla valdostana is delicious.


Oooh no! Polenta is one of the few utterly repulsive things to come out of Italy.
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foxtrotzulu wrote:
Quote:

Polenta alla valdostana is delicious.


Oooh no! Polenta is one of the few utterly repulsive things to come out of Italy.

+1
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foxtrotzulu - my thoughts exactly but I have to say that when in the Aosta valley we had utterly delicious food, we stayed in a little hamlet at the top of the valley up from Champoluc in a small locally owned and run hotel where grandma did the cooking and her pasta was amazing, it was always a first course unless we specifically asked for it as a main which we did quite often as it was soo good.
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foxtrotzulu wrote:
Quote:

Polenta alla valdostana is delicious.


Oooh no! Polenta is one of the few utterly repulsive things to come out of Italy.


The meat part is delicious, but the polenta is an acquired taste that neither of us has acquired.


Last edited by After all it is free Go on u know u want to! on Tue 10-01-17 15:46; edited 1 time in total
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If you can get hold of decent genepi (e.g. not green but a golden colour), that's definitely worth a try. There's some very good ones available in the AO valley.
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An easy (temporary) solution would be to download the Google Translate App.
Download the Italian library so you can use it off-line.
Point your camera phone at the menu then press the little camera icon.
The menu will be translated (almost) for you.

The app will also be a good idea if you really need some help, such as in the event of a slope accident, as you can just talk into your phone and it will speak out the translation (and Italian to English). But to do this don’t forget to download the Italian library. To do this set Italian as the language you mostly use on the app settings.
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Very good polenta is very good. All else is devil's spawn.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
I'm not sold on polenta, few bites and I'm stuffed!
Any pasta is good
Most of the food is amazing but some stinkers too.
I had a pasta with what I can only describe as the taste of an old trout fishing bag, each bite was like eating fish eyes, I don't think the Chinese would eat this! Apparently it was roe from some river fish, all the rage in foodie circles.
Never again, ill stick to my trusty Google translate app
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@mountainaddict, Anything you order in Italy will be 10 times better than anything in the UK Happy Italians have a palate !
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
All I'd say is, don't get too hung up on how the menu is laid out. You don't have to have every course, so if you just fancy a bowl of pasta, just have that.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
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.....and 100 times better than in the culinary desert know as the Netherlands
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Italy makes the best food on Earth.

Use Google Translate in app or browser.

Or shout and point.
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Frosty the Snowman wrote:
.....and 100 times better than in the culinary desert know as the Netherlands


How can you say that about the nation that gave us cheese & ham toasties and caramel stroopwaffeln? It's not as if they're the home of bland cheese ..... oh ..... hang on
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
@mountainaddict, if you see it try Stinko, it's pork shank in sauce, (well it was when we had it last year )
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Quote:

.....and 100 times better than in the culinary desert know as the Netherlands

Where else can you get really good pickled herring. I try and change planes in Amsterdam purely to have pickled herring
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the lard from ard with walnuts and honey is just that...not good.
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@mountainaddict, We are off to Pila again in a couple of weeks and there is a Restaurant we have been in numerous time over the years still confuses us too. However, we still seem to get fed in there and they just bring whatever we order without blinking.
As said above I am surprised French does not work though as just about everyone in Pila does so we can muddle through.
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johnE wrote:
Quote:

.....and 100 times better than in the culinary desert know as the Netherlands

Where else can you get really good pickled herring. I try and change planes in Amsterdam purely to have pickled herring


Sweden is good for pickled herring. I have never heard of dutch herring so I must investigate. Thanks for the tip
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johnE wrote:
Quote:

.....and 100 times better than in the culinary desert know as the Netherlands

Where else can you get really good pickled herring. I try and change planes in Amsterdam purely to have pickled herring


Northern Finland. Loads of stuff like that. I love it but my wife almost reaches at the mention of it!
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Netherland, where they bring you milk to drink with your sandwiches at lunchtime! Hello we're not school kids, mind you at least they bring it cold, not some little bottle that's been left out in the sun until morning break.
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Where's the update? Hopefully no starvation yet.
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