Italian breakfast food - mostly for kids or just coffee.
Waffles, scrambled eggs, sausage, home fries, toast and orange juice. These are just a few of the items we consume as Americans, at breakfast time.
But Italian breakfast food is far different. In fact, sometimes it is non-existent.
Let me explain.
Italians don't rely on breakfast to start their day off on the right foot.
Their meal structure is completely different than ours, and therefore, logically they eat different types and quantities of food at each meal.
Coffee is an essential. Whether Italians eat or not, they must have their morning espresso.
If you are having breakfast at a caffè you might even get a cappuccino or a latte, as these are both morning drinks.
(Want everyone to know you are a tourist? Order a cappuccino after mid-morning, or *gasp* ANYTIME after lunch!)
Accompanying this coffee is sometimes any of a variety of cookies, small cakes or toast-type crackers. Biscotti are popular as are cornetti, croissant-like pastries often filled with marmalade, cream or even chocolate.
Ever heard of Nutella? A few years ago it was impossible to refer to this chocolatey hazelnut spread without getting back raised eyebrows or a mystified expression, but now it seems that everyone knows what it is. I've even seen a commercial for it on TV...
(Of course, Nutella is only one brand, but for this site's sake, it's the word I'll use when referring to that particular type of product.)
When I was a child I was often made toast with Nutella spread on it, and it makes an excellent topping for crackers. Children in Italy are no different. In fact, Italian breakfast food is mostly consumed by little ones.
Cereal is one of the few things we may have in common with Italians here in America. But it's not a standard by any means, although it is becoming more popular. And it may be surprising to many Americans, but it is one of the rare times you will see milk being used in its natural state.
(Italians actually reserve eggs for later-in-the-day meals), but soft boiled, also usually consumed by children.
If you have no time to soft-boil eggs, fruit is always an option. An orange, a pear, a fig or all three. In Italy there is never a wrong time for fruit. Or fruit juice.
Fruit juice or sugo di frutta, is vastly different in Italian culture. They do produce orange juice (in regular and blood orange flavors, yum!), but more popular are the tiny glass six-packs of natural pear or apricot juices. These little bottles contain juice so thick that even their short time on grocery shelves requires consumers to shake and shake and shake...
But it is worth it, because the flavor is so fresh and true to the original fruit that you feel as satisfied as having eaten the real thing. They are a quick and easy way to hold you over until the mid-day meal or "pranzo".
Yogurt (also called "yogurt" in Italy) is also a common breakfast food item. Banana, strawberry and coffee are three of the most popular flavors found in most Italian homes.
And because Italians tend to eat their dinners late in the evenings (usually past 8pm, sometimes as late as 11pm), it's no wonder that most choose to eat light, or not at all, for their first meal of the day.