Italy food and drink. A lighthearted quiz to test your knowledge of this beautiful country’s gastronomy…….


What is ‘panna cotta’?


a) a deep pan pizza invented by Pizza Hut, Italia S.a.

b) malted wholemeal bread

c) cooked cream

d) pasta with cottage cheese and rocket


Which of these is a type of rice?


a) arborio

b) rizzi

c) farfalle

d) garganelli


Which of these is a vegetable?


a) cannellini

b) canditi

c) colifiori

d) cappriccio



Where does chianti come from?


a) Superiore

b) Toscana

c) Reggio Chiantini Rosso, Sicily

d) between Secco and Asti spumante


What is the famous dessert from Sicily called?


a) canneloni

b) canoli

c) canola

d) candelabra


What alcoholic drink is a translation of ‘witch’?


A) morticia

b) grappa

c) strega

d) amaretti


What is Mozzarella cheese made from?


a) ewe’s milk

b) buffalo’s milk

c) goat’s milk

d) milk of human kindness


What is the name of the Sardinian cheese crawling with maggots?


a) dragoncello

b) azzuro grigetti

c) casu marzu

d) maggerotti


An ‘osteria’ is a what?


a) an oyster/seafood bar

b) a wine bar with food

c) a McDonald’s in Ostia serving ‘ostra panini’

d) a hostel without restaurant


What is the name for ‘bolognese’ sauce in Bologna?


a) bolognese

b) ragu

c) sugo bollicine

d) pomodoro con carne


UK Queen Elizabeth’s favourite dessert?


a) zuccine

b) zafferano

c) zabaglione

d) zuccero


Tiramisu was invented when?


a) 1780’s

b) 1920’s

c) 1870’s

d) 1960’s





(no cheating now….)

cookedcream/arborio/cannellini/Toscana/canoli/strega/buffalo’s milk/casu marzu/a wine bar with food/ragu/zabaglione/1960’s



Given you a taste for Italy (oooops, sorry for the dreadful pun)?) Why not discover the best of Italy this year by having a look at:



‘God’s Kitchen’.

With a population of more than five million people, Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean (it’s more than 4 hours by car from Taormina to Palermo). Not much by world standards but, in Europe, pretty big indeed.

god1 God’s kitchen? With a rich and unique culture, in many ways different to mainland Italy, especially with regard to the arts, cuisine, architecture and even language, Sicily is possibly Europe’s most historically cosmopolitan region. It has a ‘potpourri’ of a kitchen with influences left on its cuisine by a history of conquest and culinary influences from Greece, Rome, Byzantium, North Africa, Spain, Normandy and Germany. For instance apricots, sugar, citrus, rice, cinnamon, saffron, raisins, nutmeg, clove, pepper and pine nuts all came from the Arabs while cocoa, maize, peppers, turkey, and tomatoes were introduced by the Spanish from the Americas.

godfoodTraditionally the grain store of Rome, Sicily is an agriculturally rich, sunny island ranging from temperate coastal areas to the sub tropical heat of of the interior in summer. It’s not surprising that Sicily offers some of the most diverse and mouth-watering food in Europe.

godgelLet’s look at a few of uniquely Sicilian dishes. However, before we continue, be warned…… If you are planning a diet, do it after your holiday in Sicily!

godcaponPossibly the most popular salad is Caponata, made with aubergines, olives, capers and celery.

godpizSfincione is a local ‘pizza’ variant but usually found in a bakery rather than a pizzeria. It’s made with tomatoes, onions and occasionally anchovies, baked on a thick bread base and great as a snack. Also don’t miss ‘gatò di patate’, a potato and cheese pie.


 Starters include ‘panelle’, a pastry of chick peas (ceci) which are deep-fried or ‘maccu’, a creamy soup, also made with a chick pea base. ‘Crocché’ are potato dumplings or croquettes made with cheese, parsley and eggs and ‘arancine’ are fried balls of rice filled with cheese or meat.

godfishSicily, as you would expect with such an extensive coast, has a great range of fish and seafood. Various types of cuttlefish, octopus and squid are often served with pasta (in the Trapani area, they use couscous). A local variant is cuttlefish and pasta cooked in its natural black ink, a similar dish is popular my part of Spain but made with rice, ‘arroz negro’. Snapper, tuna, bream, bass and swordfish are particularly good while sardines are a mainstay, one delicious Sicilian variant being ‘finnochio con sarde’, sardines cooked with fennel. My personal favourite is ‘spaghetti ai ricci’, spaghetti with sea urchin, which has become widely known in neighbouring Malta.godrici

godvitello‘Vitello al marsala’ (veal cooked in sweet marsala wine), or its chicken alternative, is probably the most popular dish for tourists. Goat and lamb, often served of flavoured with citrus fruit are generally very good but you might like to try ‘milza’ a sandwich made with calves spleen. This is actually very tasty but, for most of us, one particular dish only for the brave-hearted and adventurous…..

godpastieriSicily really gets into its own with desserts and this is why you will certainly need to either diet after your vacations or buy a larger trouser or dress size!

godfrutaSONY DSC

‘Cannoli’ are wonderful tubes of light pastry stuffed with a creamy, sweetened ewe’s milk filling, ‘cassata’ being similar but in the form of a cake. A feast for your eyes as well as your tastebuds are ‘frutta di martorana’, marzipan moulded, flavoured and coloured to resemble real fruit.

GODGRAN‘Granita’ a kind of sorbet usually flavoured with orange, lemon or strawberry is renowned worldwide but the true ‘king’ of Sicilian dessert is the ice-cream, ‘gelato’. With a truly stunning selection of flavours, gelato can probably be described as the world’s first ice-cream, dating back to when fleets of runners were despatched from the icy peaks of Mount Etna with their precious parcels of snow to produce the gelato with which liven up jaded Roman palates. Interestingly, India has a similar history with ‘kulfi’ being produced in the same way with ice from the Himalayas. In the limited space we have here it’s impossible to really do justice to the Sicilian kitchen and we haven’t even started on the wines! Do try to visit this fantastic, enchanting and bewitching island this year, it’s as different from Venice or Milan as London is from Moscow….

Choose your tour operator well as some holiday companies do not specialise. My personal recommendation is a holiday which also combines the fascination of nearby Malta:

Many thanks to my Sicilian friend, Davide Reale, for his corrections here (he’s a great cook too). Passati na buona iurnata.


Rotten stew, prostitute´s spaghetti, old clothes, English soup and maggotty cheese…..


Italy and Spain have one major thing in common, great food. However, in a lighthearted way, let’s take a look at five food dishes with strange or rather unsavoury names.




From Italy, the ‘puttanesca’ sauce, usually made from tomatoes, olive oil, anchovies, capers, chilli, garlic and black olives is known throughout the world, but puttanesca? The translation is literally ‘in the style of the prostitute’….. There are many and varied opinions as to the origin of the name. One is that a Signor Petti, the owner of a restaurant on the island of Ischia was, late at night, just about out of ingredients. Some friends were still waiting to dine and, realising his predicament, shouted out “Facci una puttanata qualsiasi” (Chuck in any old rubbish). My own favourite, and probably correct, version is that it was a cheap, quick and easy meal for the Neapolitan prostitutes to prepare between clients. The added benefit being that the lovely smell would waft out to the street and attract even more business.




Ollia podrida (literally rotten stew) originates from the Burgos area of Spain, A hearty dish of beans, lentils, meat, vegetables, quail, lamb, beef, sausage etc., the name is probably a corruption of olla poderida (casserole for the powerful), which, because of its varied and expensive ingredients, only the rich could afford.




Ropa vieja, again from Spain, means ‘old clothes’, a dish of shredded beef in a tomato sauce, is popular in the Cadiz area but now more well known in Latin America. The really rather charming origin of this dish´s name is that a poor Spaniard returned home to his family one night with no money and no food. In despair he took some old clothes out of the wardrobe, kissed them and cooked them with a prayer of love for his starving children. Miraculously the old clothes changed into a delicious beef stew….




Many of the most popular dishes enjoyed in England have Italian origins partly due the the large numbers of Italian immigrants over the past couple of centuries. However, it wasn’t only a one-way street. Zuppa Inglese, translating as ‘English soup‘, is actually a version of sherry trifle and very popular in Italy, although Marsala wine is used instead of sherry (the Brits didn´t have the same relationship with Sicily as they had with Jerez de la Frontera in Spain which like Oporto, became a ‘little England’). Again, there are multiple explanations as to the origin of the name. My own theory was that most rich British families sent their children on the ‘Grand Tour of Europe’. These rich kids, missing home comforts and cuisine, surely persuaded obliging Sicilian hoteliers to whip up a rough copy of a beloved dessert..




Staying with Italy, or more precisely Sardinia, we come to the truly awful (although I have Italian friends who swear by its viagra like properties), Casu Marzu, maggot cheese…. This is like something out of a horror film. Flies are encourages to lay their eggs in the cheese-making process, they then hatch making a truly original stink bomb which tastes worse than decomposing meat. If trying this cheese, remember to wear spectacles as, if you can stop the cheese from running around the plate, the nasty little things can jump up to six inches!Thankfully illegal now, it is still obtainable. Try it if you must but purchase a good supply of toilet paper for the next day.