If I've learned anything fromEat, Pray, Love—other than when you were planning a comeback, Julia Roberts, what were you thinking?—it's that Italy is more than just a country to stamp in your passport or the breeding ground for the world's best cuisine. It's the kind of place that inspires a whole way of life. But, if you're anything like me, you don't have the Air Miles and your Set For Life tickets have all been scratched, so the closest we're getting to Roma is the Italian Canadian Cultural Association of Nova Scotia's annual Italian Weekend, where the people are friendly and the food is always outstanding.
ICCA's chef has been working around the clock for the past month to make the fest tastier than ever. "The meat lasagna is so good I know people that come from Truro or other places in Nova Scotia to get the lasagna and buy extra to bring home and freeze," says ICCA's Frederica Belluccini, dangerously close to lunch hour. "It's homemade, the layers are super thin and there are a million [of them]. The pasta is so thin and we make so many layers it melts in your mouth."
With homemade tomato sauce and a vegetarian option, the classics are a good place to start your journey. Belluccini also recommends the pizza "one of the best I've had, even in Italy. The pizza we serve here is similar to the pizza you buy at little stores in Italy as a snack anytime of the day." With a thicker rectangular crust, these are the slices Belluccini recommends to her travelling students if they want to eat out on a budget. If you've still got room, next on the docket is the arrosticini (lamb skewers) followed by the famous tiramisu, rounding your meal out with cannoli for a one-stop veritable feast.
So this weekend you're stuffed, but what about the other 362 days of the year? Originally from Macerata, in central Italy, Belluccini arrived in Halifax on a university exchange program, stayed to do her Ph.D and now teaches German and Italian at Dalhousie. But in some ways she's always missing home— especially the effort Italians put in to slowing it down and making time for family meals. That's why she recommends Pavia Gallery for an authentic Italian espresso when the mood strikes, and ICCA's three-course drop-in Sunday dinners (January-April, 4-6:30pm, $12-$13) to help you weather the winter.
"It's possible Italians are more aware of beauty and the fact that beauty needs to be enjoyed," says Belluccini. "Even if it's a beautiful meal you're having—take the time to savour it and the time spent preparing it."
Say it don’t slay it
Three Italian foodstuffs that you might be saying wrong
Bruschetta (pronounced bru·sketta) Top prize for most mispronounced Italian word of all time goes to the delicious appetizer nobody can seem to say correctly.
Spaghetti (pronounced spa·ghet·ti) The way you’re pronouncing this pasta right now is probably akin to slurping a noodle off a fork, which is to say, not in the best possible way. Give yourself the space to pronounce each t.
Espresso (pronounced e·spres·oh) X marks the spot where you should bury anyone who’s stubbornly expressing this word incorrectly (ex-press-oh). Like men’s rights activists on the internet, we don’t care why you’re doing it, or that someone agrees with you, you’re still wrong.