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Authentic Southern Italian Cuisine
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Making Lunchtime Special

July 2, 2013 Carlino's Restaurant no comments

"For many Italians, lunch is the most important meal of the day, and it's treated as a feast"

“For many Italians, lunch is the most important meal of the day, and it’s treated as a feast”

Lunch, or pranzo as it’s known in Italy, is far from the hastily eaten midday meals that some Americans tend to eat. For many Italians, it’s the most important meal of the day, and it’s treated as a feast.

Traditionally, Italian businesses closed for a few hours for lunch. The pausa pranzo was long enough to let workers go home to their families or get together with friends for a leisurely meal rather than a quick bite grabbed between stacks of paperwork. In rural villages and towns, long lunches are still common, but in Rome, Milan and Naples, the pace of business has made a two- or three-hour lunch break impractical.

That doesn’t mean Italians have given up the pleasure of delicious, fresh food, though. A typical lunch, even if it lasts only half an hour or so, still consists of two courses followed by fruit or coffee. Working lunches are rare; instead, people move out of the office and into local piazzas and parks to enjoy some fresh air with their food. Convivial groups of co-workers and friends make the meal a social event, a hold-over from the old-fashioned, hours-long pausa pranzo that Italians are rightly unwilling to sacrifice.

Although they don’t have time to get home for lunch unless they live nearby, many Italian workers still enjoy home-cooked food for their mid-day meals. Local pizzerias and cafes know that they have to offer outstanding food to compete with Mama’s homemade bolognese sauce or ravioli, so they prepare pizzas in wood-fired ovens, panini with delectable salumi and other delicacies to tempt the lunch crowd.

Eating Italian in New York

Your workload might preclude a leisurely three-hour lunch, but by taking your cue from Italian diners, you can still make lunchtime something special.

Sometimes, people are reluctant to spend a little time away from their desks because they feel that working through lunch is more efficient. The truth is that taking a real break and getting out of the office, even if it’s for just a few minutes, refreshes you and makes you more able to concentrate. Instead of eating at your desk, take your lunch at a nearby park or somewhere away from the office. You’ll feel refreshed and enjoy your food more when you’re in the moment, not immersed in work.

Everyone who has a day job feels the time crunch around lunchtime. Traffic, long lines at fast food places and the time it takes to prepare your lunch can compress an hour-long lunch period into a scant ten minutes or so of eating time. If time is short, delivery is a great option. You’ll spend more time enjoying a leisurely meal and less time driving or walking to get it. Calling or faxing your order and picking it up is another great option, especially if you’re close to the restaurant; you get a chance to get out of the office and don’t have to wait around for your food.

We tend to be solitary diners for lunch in this country, but in Italy, lunch is meant to be shared. Take a page from the Italian way of eating and invite a co-worker or three to go in with you on a lunch order. It’s a great way to ingratiate yourself in a new office or reaffirm ties of friendship when you’ve been with your company a while. Getting together with friends from outside your office can also be a good plan; if you have a friend who works nearby, why not make time to reconnect by getting together over a slice of pizza or a sandwich?

While finding time for a true Italian-style pranzo may not be practical during the work week, you can make any lunch a little more special when you treat it as a reason to celebrate. Make your next lunch an occasion with good food and good company by coming in to Carlino’s or enjoying a lunchtime delivery special.

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