It’s hard to believe that it was already 5 years ago that I spent a semester in Italy. The University of Alberta has a campus in Cortona, a small hill town in Tuscany, at which they offer various Arts courses. I spent the winter semester of 2008 in Cortona and it was such an amazing experience. Not only was it a great way to take some interesting electives, but we were immersed in real, day-to-day Italian life and had the opportunity to travel all over Italy on the weekends. I’ve always really liked Italian food, but I really fell in love with it there. Whether it was a slice of pizza from the little store on the square for a quick lunch between classes, an amazing meal of spaghetti and tiramisu at Mario’s or the delicious meats, cheeses and breads we’d get from the Despar for a lunch back at the hostel or in the park, it was all so good. Sometimes I wish I could travel back in time and relive that experience all over again. I think I would appreciate it even more now that I am in the working world.
There are a lot of great Italian restaurants in Edmonton from Piccolino to Corso 32 to Café Amore. However, my favourite place in Edmonton for Italian, without a doubt, is the Italian Centre Shop. I love walking through the aisles and discovering all of the different brands of tomato sauce and the interesting shaped pastas. And my absolute favourite thing to do is to get all sorts of delicious meats and cheeses to eat with a great loaf of crusty Italian bread and a nice, full-bodied red wine. That just brings me right back to Italy.
Over the Christmas break Nick, Lauren and I headed over to the Italian Centre Shop on 51st avenue. Lauren was actually in Cortona at the same time as me, but amazingly she has never been to the Italian Centre Shop in Edmonton before! Clearly, we had to fix this. We decided to get a variety of different items to sample for dinner.
Then we headed over to the deli, my favourite part. We opted for prosciutto de parma, which is somehow so much better than prosciutto de anywhere else, and some sopressata. There is something about the flavor and the texture of prosciutto de parma that just makes is so good, which is a little unfortunate as it costs so much more than the local stuff!
Last summer when I was at one of the Italian markets in Calgary I discovered a delicious cheese that I used to make the best sandwich ever and I was sure that I took a picture of the label on my phone. But, alas, the picture is nowhere to be found… so instead I asked the lady helping us if she could recommend a cheese for us to try with the only parameter being that we liked something that was a little aged. The cheese we ended up getting is called Prima Donna and it’s described as being a Dutch cheese that thinks it’s Italian (sounds kinda like me). It’s an aged gouda that has a little bit of the same kick that a parmesan or mature cheddar has. In short, it was super good and I can’t wait to have it again.
We browsed through the rest of the shop and picked up some olives stuffed with almonds for Nick and then some interesting shaped pasta and tomato sauce imported from Italy for me for later. There is a whole aisle just filled with different types of pasta, so I always find it fun to pick out the most random shape I can find.
As usual, shopping at the Italian Centre was a success. A lot of my favourite items, such as the speciality cheeses and meats, are of course, a little pricy, but I think it’s worth it every once in a while. I just love going there, it makes me so happy and fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your point of view) it’s dangerously close to my work.
Ciao and Happy Tuesday!