Fast food is almost non existent in Italy. They do have Autogrill which is basically a rest stop with food, espresso, wine, cheese and bathrooms, but other than the occasional McDonald’s, you don’t see fast food. Food is an experience here. It is not to be hurried. Food is to be enjoyed.
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. I was stared at over and over again. I could not figure out why. 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.
We have broken down a few times (especially at the beginning) and gone to a McDonald’s here. The first thing we noticed was that beer was available on tap. And it was available at the drive through window. They have since stopped that practice though.
The next thing we noticed was that the menu was different. The burgers have names like Manhatten Classic, Chicago Supreme, California Melt and the Mythic Chicken burger. They also serve 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?) The kids 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.
Italian McDonald’s also has an entire dessert case with really nice desserts. Desserts like profiteroles, crème caramel, cheesecake, panna cotta and eclairs.
The most Italian thing, though 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.