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An Italian in Philly: best and worst foods

I don’t think I’ll shock anyone by saying that, as an Italian born and raised in Italy, food is a very sensitive and important topic for me. In this post I’ll list my top three best and worst foods I’ve tried so far in the United States. I’ve only been here for two months so naturally it won’t be an exhaustive list. Moreover, everything here is my very personal opinion so you’re welcome to disagree. With that being said, let’s start with the best ones.

#3 Food trucks

When I say “food trucks” I literally mean anything from a food truck. You can’t go wrong with any of those around the university campus. I’ve tried all the main dishes from the halal carts and I’ve also experimented with some of the Asian ones and I can confidently say that the absolute best option you can choose is lamb over rice. The lamb is incredibly soft and its flavour is delicate and well-balanced with the rest of the dish.

#2 Mac and Cheese

I was on a school trip to England the first time I tried mac and cheese and I remember it as a surprisingly positive experience. When I knew I was going to America I also knew that I had to try it again. Safe to say, I wasn’t disappointed. I went to a tiny restaurant in Center City specializing in mac and cheese where I ordered one with bacon and crispy onion on top and it was one of the best things I’ve had! The cheese was actually a mix of seven different cheeses and it was super creamy, while the bacon and onion added the perfect crispy side to it.

#1 Poke

Okay, this is probably not what you’d expect to find in the first place, but hear me out. When I was in Italy I tried dozens of poke restaurants, most of them were great, some of them were average, but overall they were pretty similar. Not having tried any poke outside of Italy and being quite satisfied with what I’ve had, I never thought I could find anything better. And boy was I wrong. Poke restaurants here have so many more options for vegetables and toppings and they don’t have a limit for how many of them you can add! I strongly encourage you to try poke with shrimp tempura, you’ll thank me later.

Now, let’s jump to my top three worst foods I’ve had so far. I already know some of them are going to be extremely controversial.

#3 Ice Cream

Ice cream has always been one of my favourite desserts and snacks, both in summer and winter. From the most basic flavours like strawberry and pistachio to the most extravagant ones like peanut butter and cheesecake, I’ve tried almost everything. Of course, there are bad ice-cream shops in Italy too (especially the very touristy places), but here I still have to find a good one. All the ice creams I’ve tried tasted very artificial and were inexplicably heavy, nothing to compare with the silky texture of Italian gelato.

#2 Pizza

I said what I said. Pizza in the US can’t be trusted. Sure, if you like your pizza to be gummy and have a strange sweet aftertaste, this is perfect place to order one, but I personally don’t. Unfortunately, I’ve come across American pizza on many occasions, especially during informal university events. However, I haven’t tried it yet in a proper Italian restaurant, so maybe in that case it could be salvageable, but I doubt it. My advice is just to avoid it as best as you can.

#1 Philly Cheesesteak

I believe this point deserves a bit of explanation (after all, I don’t want my visa revoked). The Philly Cheesesteak is probably the most famous dish from Philadelphia and for that reason alone I believe you should give it a try. Nevertheless, I’d like to express my disappointment when I first had it. A Philly Cheesesteak is nothing more than bread with shredded beef and cheese on top. If they use an average bread, the only real flavour comes from the cheese and if you order it with American cheese then you can say goodbye to all the flavour. It ends up being a plain dry beef sandwich, not worth the hype.

Hopefully, my visa is still valid and I didn’t offend anyone with this blog post. At the end of the day, everyone has a different taste and there are so many food places here it’s hard to generalise. My advice for you is don’t be scared to try out new things and enjoy as many foods as you can while you’re here!

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