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Italy Grocery Shopping Trip


sundaysupper
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Hello! I'm an American going to Italy for three weeks in March/April, and this is... basically a grocery shopping trip. I have a small suitcase for clothes, and I'm bringing a large suitcase to fill with food. I'd love to hear recommendations for particular items to pick up that I may not think of immediately.

I'm spending a week in Rome (with a day in Naples), a week in Sicily (based in Palermo, taking day trips in the northwest), and a week in Alghero, Sardinia.

I'm a longtime food nerd, and I love looking for new-to-me flavors and foods that are not just marketed to tourists. My Italian language skills are basic but courageous.

What should I buy in Italy that I can't get easily in the US? The more specific, the better. Which brand, which olive oil producer, which cheese shop, etc. When I travel anywhere, I often ask folks there what foods they miss when they're away from home, so I'm looking for anything from comfort foods to artisanal treats. I have a small but growing list (enclosed for funsies) and I'd love to add to it. Thank you in advance.

I'm so excited for this trip! I spent a university semester near Bolzano, but I've never been south of Florence, so I'm really looking forward to see Italy farther south.

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The things that come to mind can't be packed in a suitcase, but I think I would bring back pane carasau, fregola and Vernaccia di Oristano, I use the latter as an alternative to Marsala in many recipes. Can you bring bottarga or would that be off limits? 

That said, GOOD Marsala (Not grocery store crap) from Sicily as well as anchovies from Sicily. And tuna, oregano, pistacchios, almonds, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, torrone. 

The things I would say from Rome are all to be eaten fresh. :) 

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Thanks ambra! I've been wondering about bottarga myself. I'm reading up a lot on the Customs/FDA site about what's allowed in and what's not -- I'm in the Global Entry program so if I try to bring in contraband, I'll get fined *and* kicked out of the program, so stakes are higher. The rules for seafood seem more vague, so I'm planning on calling the 800 number provided to ask about specifics when I have a better idea of what I'll be keeping an eye out for. I love salty cured fishy fishes and can't wait to eat all of them on this trip!

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I believe bottarga is allowed, as are most (if not all) salty cured and or canned fish. No meat.

 

Many cheese are allowed, and I always get them vacuum packed.  Roscioli is my favorite place in Rome, right on the Campo for that.

 

I like bringing back super high-quality anchovies in tins, tuna in tins, etc. etc. and exploring one or two groceries' canned and  packaged food aisles.  I always try to find a half pound of high quality dried porcini at like 1/4 of the price here.

 

Explore the Testaccio Market for some goodies for your suitcase.

 

But  - may I ask where you're located?  Cause everything on your list is pretty much available here in the US. 

 

This page may be helpful to you...Customs and Border Protection

 

Quote

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service does not regulate the importation of most seafood items. We only regulate breaded seafood products, and only if the breading contains animal-origin ingredients (milk, eggs). Please contact us directly about breaded seafood items

 

 

And I'll add - No fruits or vegetables. No live chickens.

If you drink, stop in duty free on your way out and pick up a bottle of Campari cheap. 

If you smoke cigars, the Cubans at the duty free are generally considered to be real.

Edited by weinoo (log)

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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Will definitely check out Roscioli, thank you! I'm asking folks for more specific recommendations because while I can get all the ingredients here, it's not always as easy to find such high quality. And as I posted earlier in my replies, I've been reading the CPB site intently and plan to call directly to ask about seafood products.

 

I live in Portland OR and know the grocery scene here very well -- anything that goes on my shopping list, I keep an eye out for here first to make sure I can't get it (or get as good quality).

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6 hours ago, ambra said:

The things that come to mind can't be packed in a suitcase, but I think I would bring back pane carasau, fregola and Vernaccia di Oristano, I use the latter as an alternative to Marsala in many recipes. Can you bring bottarga or would that be off limits? 

That said, GOOD Marsala (Not grocery store crap) from Sicily as well as anchovies from Sicily. And tuna, oregano, pistacchios, almonds, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, torrone. 

The things I would say from Rome are all to be eaten fresh. :) 

 

Agreed, I think most italian dry goods are easily accessible these days at specialty stores

 

That being said, I'd pick up some white balsamic, it seems to be pretty trendy right now.

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I can't think of anything specific that has not been mentioned already. But the hunt will be a hoot and a half. I think bottarga is forbidden even though many brands are available on-line in the US. No, I think I'm wrong. Nduja is forbidden in any form even in a jar as a paste I think. Because it is meat. The one available in the US may be made in the US.  

I've been happy with on-line or locally sourced Italian favorites. 

On my bucket list is a stay at an Italian olive/grape-wine farm with a barnyard full of meats and homemade charcuterie. Cheeses and such. The NYTimes had an article a few years ago about Italian farms with a few or a dozen rooms to stay and one had an open kitchen stocked with coffee, cheese, wine, and late night tid-bits included in the room cost. Gardens with fresh seasonal produce and a chef to cook with or teach and work along/with. 

 

You might be hitting the first of the fresh artichoke harvest depending on the spring weather. So jealous of that!

 

A cute couple on Y-tube, 'pasta grammer', just returned from Italy with favorite treats in their luggage. I think it is 2012 recent. A bit different being an Italian living in the US for three years. Mostly hometown Italian treats and cheeses she misses and fills her extra suitcase. 

 

I think quality and price will be a factor. I'm happy with grade B dried porcini locally. Called often 'kibble'. 25$ for a pound. We go through about a pound a year so I just want the intoxicatingly fragrant flavor---not the whole grade A perfect slice. 

 

Having a few online suppliers in a bookmark to check and cross-post will help. A shame to bring back a tin and find it is cheaper US On-line. Many buy bulk and can offer cheaper prices than a boutique shop in Italy. 

Like SuperMarketItaly

 

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