Is there anything more depressing for the modern traveler than, when hunger strikes its primeval punch, to be forced to choose between waiting in line for a dry overpriced pastry at Starbucks or a McDonalds’ food product inside the crowded airport terminal? If some airports have improved their food game lately, across the board, no amount of Cinnabons or Sbarros is a match for the “fast” Italian food you will find in abbondanza at Italy’s major airports (and some of its secret ones, too). By way of example, let’s take Rome’s Aeroporto di Fiumicino.
No matter how late you may be running for your flight, do not skip the chance to grab a bite at Rustichelli & Mangione, the self-described “boutique of the oven.” The pastries are great and the pizza outshines Pizza Hut by a long shot, but what truly shines here are the delicate rectangular sandwiches prepared with thinly, almost provocatively sliced and also delicately salted foccacia. When it’s freshly prepared like this and 100 percent Italian, you’ll be amazed how something as simple as salami and arugula can send your taste buds soaring higher than 30,000 feet. Rustichelli & Mangione also has locations at Venice’s Marco Polo Airport and the train station in Padova.
Have kids? They’re going to love Spizzico. You would think that Italy has so much good pizza they wouldn’t need an actual chain, but this family-friendly one turns out quality pizza that by default raises the bar higher than any airport Pizza Hut. We’re not saying it’s Italy’s best, but it’s still pretty darn good. There is Spizzicos at Fiumicino as well as at many other airports, trains stations and city locations throughout Italy.
What do areas 1B, 3C and 3H at Fiumicino have in common? They are all home to a Wine Bar dei Frescobaldi, and that makes three chances to prolong your culinary memory of Italy before taking to the skies. Delicious antipasti and terrific Tuscan wines are yours for the sampling, so slow down a bit and enjoy as many of the cheese, cured meats, marinated fish and fresh vegetables in olive oil as you can prior to boarding. (By the way, there’s also a dei Frescobaldi Ristorante & Wine Bar in Florence, at the Piazza Signoria).
It’s reassuring to know that in this hectic age, slow food makes such a strong showing at Italian airports. But it’s more reassuring to know that no matter what the weather’s like outside, inside the terminal in Rome you can count on the presence of that ultimate “protagonist of taste,” Venchi chocolates. More to the point, their gelato counters. Dark chocolate (56%), cuor di cacao (75%), gianduja, milk chocolate and more…it’s a delirio of frozen chocolate delight!
Speaking of things frozen, we’re going to tell you about an Italian company called Eraclea, which specializes in gourmet frozen beverages. They make a product called Crema al Caffè that uses a proprietary ingredient to maintain optimum hydration of ice crystals to create a creamy frozen coffee drink that will send you to the stars. If you see one of their machines delicately churning away on the countertop of any airport bar, in Rome or elsewhere, stop and try it. Definitely worth missing a flight for.
And you? What’s your favorite snack when traveling? Let us know!