So, a thread on Italian food. It had occurred to me that, for Mypinchofitaly, it isn’t Italian food, it is just – food. So the reality I suppose is that what I have in mind is a discussion about the British perspective, or perhaps at least the international perspective on Italian food. Of course, the opening up of the British view on the food of other cultures is something that has been much talked about, so I don’t wish to be harping back to a past that is perhaps no longer relevant. But I just wanted to cite a conversation I recall having with a cousin of mine when, in response to something he had said I pointed out that there was a great deal more to Italian restaurants than just pizza and pasta. But he looked at me as though I had said something hopelessly naïve and stupid. Of course, if there was a time when some Italian restaurants in the UK were focussed on those foods, that in itself would only actually reflect on the market they were catering to rather than on Italian cuisine itself. But the truth is, while pizza and pasta probably does feature on the menus of the majority of Italian restaurants here in the UK, there have always been plenty of such restaurants that offered a lot more besides. Before I lived in Bolton, I used to live in Rossendale where there is an Italian restaurant, called Nino’s of some considerable repute and renown. You can tell how good it is by the fact that it is busy on any night, but at the height of a Friday or Saturday evening, it would sometimes seem that half the population of Rossendale is in there. Anyway, they used to do a starter in there (it’s a while since I ate there) that they called Insalata de Mare. It was, of course, a cold starter, with, as you might guess, lots of interesting different seafoods – including octopus – and the character of it was very sharply acidic. I loved it. It is one of my all-time favourite starters. Of course, I get the argument that restaurants, however good, are not the best way to sample the food of a particular culture. Unfortunately, my experience of eating food in Italy is very limited. I do have one such experience, but my memory of it focusses not so much on the dishes we eat that night as on the bread. Again, it is a memory from many years ago – the mid 1980s. I was on an Inter-rail tour with a friend, who knew a couple who lived near Porto Ceresio, on the South end of Lake Lugano. We stayed with them for one night, and after a couple of weeks of the normal limitations of food on youthful travels, we did have a wonderful meal that night. But, as I say, my strongest memory is of the bread. I have subsequently come to understand this point that for Italians, it is just not the done thing to cut bread with a knife, bread should be torn. So the lady of the house put this loaf in the middle of the table that was almost spherical – it was perhaps a slightly flattened sphere. The idea was that you tore off pieces of this bread. The texture was of a very large honeycomb – lots of air, and the bread was very moist – you did not need butter or oil. The taste was gorgeous and whole experience of eating it very special. I’m not sure I have ever eaten a bread quite like it since and I have eaten some lovely breads. So, I do not suppose to prohibit mention of pizza or pasta dishes, but I would be most interested to hear about Italian dishes other than pizza or pasta that people have experienced and particularly enjoyed. Of course, for this particular forum, it would be most appropriate to discuss Italian dishes that people have cooked. In the UK, do we ever cook what we would consider to be Italian food that does not involve pasta in some form? And I suppose the question underlying is what exactly it is about Italian food that makes it so good. These days, in the UK, we do have restaurants themed on a variety of different cultures, but Italian restaurants do seem to be the most widespread – there are half-a-dozen at least within a reasonable distance of my home. Personally, I do enjoy eating at a variety of different restaurants, but it does seem that most of my most memorable experiences in restaurants are usually Italian ones.