Travelling kosher in Italy can be either frustrating or fun, depending on how you decide to look at it. Outside of the cities of Venice, Milan, Florence and Rome where one can find kosher restaurants, there is virtually no ready made kosher food to be had. That can leave one on the outside looking in on diners enjoying their wine and pasta or pizza at sidewalk cafes or classy restaurants. Alternatively, if you plan it right, kosher eating can be an adventure indeed that leaves you feeling both satisfied and right in the swing of things.
Our last trip to Southern Italy was a perfect example of the latter. We chose to stay in apartments with fully outfitted kitchens and our clothing shared space in our suitcases with kosher wine, cheese, crackers, tortillas, coffee, tea, one frying pan, one pot, a knife and some disposable dishes and cutlery. Thus when we arrived in the early evening at our first apartment in rural Saint Agate high above the Amalfi Coast with a bird’s eye view of Sorrento, we were ready to hit the local shops and start preparing dinner. By the time we set out the only store that was open was a fruit and vegetable market that had some basic groceries as well.
What fun it was to explore the local produce, some of which looked vaguely familiar, while other items were totally new. We picked some of each, and enjoyed in particular the red raddicio which added beautiful color and crunch to our salads. We of course purchased local virgin olive oil, and olives, as well as coffee for the espresso machine (non-electric) that we found in the kitchen. Eggs, lentils and barley rounded out the shopping list.
Coming home that first night we enjoyed wine, cheese and olives while the spinach frittata was cooking. The next morning following my friend Sara’s advice, we made a hearty lentil/vegetable soup that cooked while we were eating breakfast and getting ready for departure. What a treat to have supper waiting for us at the end of our long day of touring the Amalfi Coast.
We made sure to eat hearty breakfasts each morning that would hold us for most of the day. One day it was omelettes, another day quesadillas using the tortillas and cheese from home with sauteed onions and mushrooms. Yum.
When the local market opened we were able to find Barilla pasta, and buffalo mozarella (made from cow’s milk) and these both enriched our menus and made us feel like we were eating Italian fare along with millions of tourists and locals.
We spent Shabbat in Naples in a beautiful apartment with views to Mount Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples and we arrived on Friday afternoon just in time to kasher the oven, bake challah, and cook the pasta and fresh salmon that we had bought along the way. Friday night was a feast!
When we realized on Saturday night that the “kosher” pizza we were hoping for wasn’t going to happen in Naples, we made our own, using the leftover challa, tomato sauce and … buffalo mozzarella. It was an okay substitute but the pizza the following night in Rome’s Jewish Ghetto was far better.
In addition to pizaa we enjoyed eating the local Jewish specialty of fried artichokes at BaGhetto restaurant. It’s what I would call an “interesting” experience that need not be repeated, but the food there was very tasty and the waitress was lovely. We enjoyed kosher Italian chianti with our dinner but were happy that most of the wine we had imbibed during the week came from Israel. While it was lots of fun to eat out and celebrate the end of our trip, to my estimation, our home cooked food was at least as good, if not better!
Some additional information you may find useful: