Fast Food Is Just Not A Thing In Italy
Fast food is almost non existent in Italy. They do have Autogrill which is basically a rest stop. But Autogrill is no Stop-N-Go. Autogrill has delicious panini, brioche, espresso, wine, cheese and bathrooms. And other than the occasional McDonald’s, you don’t see fast food in Italy. The reason is simple. Food is an experience here. Food is not to be hurried. Food is not to be artificial. Food is to be enjoyed, slowly at a table.
Even drinking water is to be enjoyed. Slowly. At a table. When we first arrived it was so hot and humid that I walked to and from school with an ice water in a reusable hard plastic glass with a lid and straw. I noticed people were staring at me. Really staring and giving me side eye. I could not figure out what possible affront I had inflicted on the Italians with the simple act of walking my kids to school. Finally, an Italian mom explained to me that you simply do not walk and drink in Italy. Nor do you walk and eat. It is simply not done. Not even water on an incredibly hot day. When you want to enjoy a meal or a drink, you must sit and enjoy it. Oh my. I had some things to learn.
Now we were all for tasting all the new wonderful foods we encountered in Italy, but our son was really unhappy about moving. He was down and missing home. He wanted “American food.” He wanted McDonalds. We acquiesed. If a crappy hamburger would bring him a smile, it was worth ingesting the crap.
This Ain’t Your Mama’s Cooking
The first thing we noticed was that Italian McDonalds served beer on tap. They even served it at the drive through window. The corner of Aleks’ mouth lifted slighty. He had cracked a small grin. Progress.
The next thing we noticed was that the menu was different. The burgers had names like Manhatten Classic, Chicago Supreme, California Melt and the Mythic Chicken burger. They also served pizzarotto (little pizza pockets), zucchini bites, Las Vegas fries (basket weaved fries), fried shrimp, Parmesan cheese snacks, baby carrots and kiwi (who knew that Italy is a large kiwi producer?).
Aleks immediately detected something was different about his hamburger. The meat was not as juicy. Not as greasy. We later learned there are strict rules about beef production in Italy that McDonalds adheres to. Thus, the burgers at Italian McDonalds are healthier for you. Unfortunately, Aleks was craving good old American crap quality beef. He was disappointed.
The kids next noticed that something tasted funny about their milkshakes. I did a taste test. “That is a real ice cream product” I say. Lena was happy. Aleks was disappointed in the real food.
Aleks did enjoy one thing about Italian McDonald’s though. They have an entire dessert case with really nice desserts. Desserts like profiteroles, crème caramel, cheesecake, panna cotta and eclairs.
The most Italian thing, though about Italian McDonalds is the ever present, very large, espresso machines. You cannot end your meal in Italy without an espresso – not even a meal at McDonald’s.