Perugia: My Food Haven
Updated: Aug 29, 2022
After five months abroad in Europe, I have a couple of things to show for it, ranging from thousands of photos to lots of negative signs on my bank statements. But as my time has ended, let’s return to my Italian home, Perugia. During my time in Italy, I gained adventurous tastebuds, new cultural experiences, and, inevitably, weight. Some of this was of my own doing. My roommates and I destroyed our kitchen cooking everything from my absolutely favorite pistachio pasta to chocolate chip tahini cookies. But outside the kitchen, where were my favorite bites to eat in my home away from home? Well, read the rest to find out.
Just meters away from Piazza Novembre IV and my apartment, I’d head to Pasticceria Sandri for breakfast, lunch, dessert, or anytime the cafe was open. I must admit, I can’t speak to the quality of the coffee or cocktails, but if their hot chocolate speaks to the quality of their beverages, they are divine. Imagine warm hot cocoa on a cold or rainy Italian day; there’s nothing better. Unfortunately, Sandri had ruined hot chocolate for me as no chocolate powder can ever replicate the hot cocoa made from actual chocolate. But that’s not where the chocolate stops; the cafe crafts mouth-watering cakes. And outside the chocolate realm, they bake superb croissants and delightful doughnuts. But back to le torte, or the cakes. My favorite cake was this moist, rich dark chocolate cake. The cake was filled with raspberries every now and again, making it unforgettable. While those were often individually sliced, they also had larger party-size cakes. While my roommates and I eventually ordered five different types of cakes, I only remember the chocolate raspberry, as I’m a woman with priorities. My first fun fact about croissants don’t exist in Italy. Before you start yelling, saying, “But Faith, I’ve been to Italy; they have croissants. Trust me, my waistband knows.” And you’d be sort of right. They have a variant of croissants called cornettos. The most significant difference between the two is that croissants have more butter, no egg, and less sugar, but they are both delicious. Whether I was consuming a plain or pistachio cornetto, saliva dripped from the corner of my mouth as I watched the server select, bag, and hand it to me. This salivating continued as I devoured the cornetto whole. Lastly, the graffa or doughnut as you English speakers know them. Now, this isn’t a processed icing cover doughnut. Never. Visually, graffe (the plural) are often handmade deep-fried doughnuts covered in sugar. But when done right, these doughnuts have a tinge of orange. The zesty flavoring contrasts the sweetness of the sugar, expanding the flavor palate of the pastry. While I am a big fan of Sandri, I must warn that the prices for pastries and non-alcoholic beverages seem average. But, they do overcharge for cocktails. For example, Aperol Spritz is usually €4-5, but at Sandri, they charge €8. Despite this, I’d definitely recommend Sandri’s for a morning, afternoon, or evening pastry.
Before living in Italy, I was never a sandwich person. I only liked salami sandwiches, despising all other cold-cut related sandwiches, and boy did that change. It would have changed much sooner if my parents had taken me to Antica Porchetta Granieri 1916. While there isn’t any online information about Antica Porchetta’s history, I learned from my study abroad school that the stand had been in Perugia since 1916. After I realized this, I HAD to try their 1916 sandwich. This sandwich comprises porchetta, caramelized pear, mustard, walnuts, and raisins. Alone this meal is hypnotizing, making it nearly impossible to not order ten more. But one afternoon, I brought my 1916 back to my apartment. I added parmesan cheese and a pomegranate-balsamic glaze, creating THE ultimate sandwich. While I’ve primarily focused on the 1916, I’d easily hope on a plane to Rome or Florence, take a 2 hour train to Perugia, get a couple of any of their panini and go right back home. If you are ever in Perugia or Italy, it’s a must.
Suppose you are in a big group, on a budget, or want to devour some scrumptious authentic Italian food. In that case, Dal Mi Coco is an absolute must. Sadly, I only went once; it was my last family dinner with my four roommates. For €15, you get a three-course meal with more food than you could ever finish. With a different menu every day of the week, the same restaurant introduces you to a week’s worth of authentic Italian food, expanding your tastebuds but not your budget. They also will cater to your dietary needs. My vegetarian roommate requested meat-free food, and boy did they deliver. They treated it as if we all needed vegetarian food but also gave us the meat option, leaving us with heaps of food we could not finish. I would describe the food more, but we had a lot of wine. Thankfully, wine comes in its own takeaway container, so what we didn’t finish safely made it home. To all those Black Aunties and Uncles, this is the time to take the 1lb Countryside Crock container out of the stove and bring it to Italy. It will be instrumental at Dal Mi Coco.
While carbs are addictive (hi, I’m Faith, and I’m a carb-oholic), even in Italy, you need a break from pastries, pizza, and pasta. I got that well-needed break at Ristorante del Sole without sacrificing spectacular Italian food. I only visited Ristorante del Sole once, as it was a higher-class dining experience. Still, I’d definitely want to go again between the food and the view. But make sure to make a reservation to secure a spectacular table. Here, I had a salmon-avocado tartare salad. They supplied me with bread before I started to lick the plate—this saved the restaurant and me much embarrassment. And for dessert, I had juicy lamb chops with lemon-olive oil drizzle. While the menu didn’t include the drizzle, the opportunity presented itself, and I took it, showing me the power of citrus and fresh Italian oil. In all seriousness, my dessert was the bread I shoved in my pocket as I left.
Lastly, my favorite non-Italy food restaurant, Gusto. In Italian, “gusto” means taste, and everything tasted amazing. I discovered this restaurant on my arrival. But before we get to the food, let’s travel back to January 31st. That day, I had a spinal tap. And if you don’t know, that’s when a big needle jabs your back and steals your fluid. Ultimately, alternating your equilibrium, the doctor puts you on 1-2 weeks of bed rest. Personally, I made the mistake of doing this three days before going to Italy. On the 3rd, I went to Newark, and between walking and being vertical, I became nauseous, dehydrated, dizzy, and violently ill. But none of this would deter me from getting on my flight. Italy, however, disagreed. Sitting on the bathroom floor, my face in the toilet, I heard, “United Flight 45 to Rome FCO airport has been canceled.” I signed with relief and immediately updated my mother. After receiving more information, I learned that flight attendants were no longer because the Italian government had updated COVID-19 guidelines. I hopped in a cab and headed towards the hospital, leaving my previously digested food all over the New Jersey Turnpike. But I still ended up in Italy by the 5th. And the night of my first arrival, I walked the cobblestone streets of Perugia, trying to find food quickly as my symptoms progressed, and that’s where I found Gusto. That first night I got the best Caesar salad of my life. I am at a loss for words on how to explain the robust flavors of this simple yet staple salad. The salad was highlighted by how they used croutons made from homemade bread. Over my weeks, Gusto became a staple in my diet, whether I was getting a caesar salad or a glorious hamburger or sometimes both. But more on the burgers, in the burger blog.
Note: I am ashamed to say that I inhaled these Ceasar salads too quickly to ever get a photo, despite eating the salad countless times.