I wrote this piece for my Travel CloseUp Website, where I do restaurant reviews, but I felt it was also relevant to this website, so I decided to post it in both places. Something I don’t normally do. Hope you enjoy it.

This is also my submission for the
W is for Writing Challenge
Jeff has put forth on C is for Cooking

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Isn’t it amazing how a taste of something can bring you back to the past? One minute you are sitting enjoying a sweet treat at the end of a pizza and pasta dinner wondering what your angle should be for yet another Italian restaurant review and in the next moment you are an eight year old child sitting in the Italian hall enjoying the same sweet treat with your Pap-Pap. Sometimes, it has been so long since you had that particular taste that you forgot that it even existed. In that same moment that you are tasting this long-forgotten delight, moments in your life you had also forgotten come flooding back, now full of emotion because they had been forgotten for so long you did not realize how much you missed those simple, wonderful moments that you had no idea you would miss so much later at the original time you experienced them.

When I was young, visiting my grandparents in Western Pennsylvania, on those occasions that we went out to eat it was usually either to Santoni’s or the Italian hall. My grandparents lived in a very small town in the hills so there really wasn’t a lot of choice when it came to dining out. However, dining options were ethnically diverse, the towns were full of immigrant families from all over Europe. Of course, there were lots of Italians. But there were also Poles, French, Greeks and Germans -it was kind of like a much scaled down version of New York City – all different ethnic groups living in their own neighborhoods, close to one another, sharing the foods of their home countries.
Each of these immigrant groups had their “halls” – little gathering places where they served the foods of the various Mother countries, where people came to eat, relax and socialize. Whenever we went to the Italian hall or Santoni’s, one of the mom and pop Italian restaurants in town, my Pap would always order me Spumoni for dessert.

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Spumoni is an Italian Ice cream treat that originates in Naples. However as I have learned, most Italian immigrants to America have been from the South of Italy. Therefore, most of what we think of as “Italian food” in America is mostly Southern Italian cuisine that has been adapted to the American kitchen. Then these dishes are served in all the Italian restaurants with perhaps some regional favorites from the owner’s family. Spumoni is no different –  it is Napoletan however, it can be found in many Italian restaurants throughout North America. It usually is comprised of three different ice cream flavors – Pistachio, Chocolate and Strawberry that is swirled with maraschino cherries and pistachios and laced with rum. Many times it has layers of whipped cream as well. It is sweet and delicious -a symphony of flavors in the mouth. It was not recently, having had it as an adult again that I realized what that characteristic flavor was the rum!

Now, let’s get back to the present day. We are still on our search for the perfect Italian style pizza in Ocala. This has taken us to many Italian restaurants, but we have yet to find the perfect pie. Sometimes the crust is good- nice and flaky, but then there are too many toppings and it drags down the crust, but more often than not, the toppings – cheese and sauce are great, but the crust is all too New York style- big and floppy.

So we asked around and heard a lot of good things about Lorenzo’s Pizza and Pasta at Quail Meadow. The restaurant is owned by Sicilians from Sicily which is a good start. It is a laid back, informal, mom and pop kind of restaurant, which is another good point – reminding me a lot of being back at the Italian hall and on the night we went, it was packed. So clearly, it has quite a following. This night we decided to try their Napoletana Pizza- being this is a famous pizza choice in Italy and since pizza originated in Naples, it is the oldest type of pizza in the world. The pizza was described on the menu as round, thin and hand-tossed which sounded perfect! We also ordered a Clams Marinara to compare to the one we had at Sammy’s Italian Restaurant a few months back.

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Immediately when the pizza was brought out, we could see that it had the famous New York style crust. However, the cheese and sauce were delicious. So all in all, it was a good choice.

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The Clams Marinara was also good – I prefer a chunkier sauce with clams but the flavor was good and rich and the pasta al dente. So after dinner we are feeling like something sweet. I check out the menu and notice that they have Spumoni, a dessert I hadn’t thought about in years and since I am already feeling like I am at the Italian hall, I figure we should go all the way! It was incredible. The presentation was beautiful- the three layers lay out on the plate, big cherries poking out of it, sprinkled with powdered sugar! The taste was even better, during the first bite, everything about being at the Italian hall came back to me all these years later. Immediately I was brought back to that childhood feeling of being safe, secure, full belly, no worries too big to handle and I was again fascinated at how a taste can really bring you back. I am a “professional foodie” so I understand how a taste or smell can take you back to a place you associate with that sensory perception, but it had been a long time since I had thought about Santoni’s or the Italian hall, and in that moment, it was all there like yesterday- the sights, the sounds, the smells, my grandparents, everything. So I know just where to go when I am missing the good old days, right out to Highway 27 and Lorenzo’s and I am really looking forward to unlocking other sensory triggers that I know are buried in there somewhere.