Grilled Cheese: Italian Style

WHAT YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU WANTED (and things you really didn’t)

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Photo Courtesy of Minh Tran

A few weekends ago, we had some sketching assignments, one of which was set atop the Palatine Hill.  Typical of our first two weeks of Rome, it was cold and windy and rainy.  After an hour or two, we were all ready to get out of the weather and get something delicious and warm in our bellies.  In particular, I was feeling ready to curl up in a blanket with a book and eat something warm and familiar.  Seeing as most of those options were impossible given the very obvious facts that I was in a restaurant and in a foreign country, I aimed for the last one: warm food.  Then by chance, I saw grilled cheese on the menu.  Perfect, I thought, among the collection of words that I vaguely recognized was an item that I am very familiar with: Grilled Cheese.  That wonderful toasty, buttery sandwich filled with gooey goodness.

But apparently “grilled cheese” in Italy means something very different than it does in America.  I was presented with a dish full of cheese that had simply been grilled.  Taken slightly aback by this new gastronomical development, I tore away a forkful.  And by “tore,” I mean awkwardly cut a little piece from the mass with my fork and brought it to my mouth, trying to break the string connecting the fork and the dish along the way.  Incidentally, that stretchy string of melted cheese grew to a foot and a half at one point.  That first bite was the absolute best cheese that I have ever had!  Warm and chewy with a slightly toasted top, it truly melted in my mouth.  After getting over the strangeness of eating an entire bowl of nothing but cheese, I devoured it.  It was still too foreign to just eat cheese, so I ordered a bowl of bread, not necessarily for taste, just to have something else.  At that point, I didn’t think that anything could taste better than that cheese, not that bread in Italy has the possibility of being anything less than delicious.  I was right, but the bread did make it easier to eat.  I ate that entire bowl of cheese; if you know me, that is quite an accomplishment… it was that fantastic.  So even though it sounds really strange and isn’t typical Italian fare, grilled cheese is now on the list of foods that everyone should try.  Seriously, go get some… and take me with you!

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