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Jun 27, 2009 06:45 PM

What to buy in Italy that we can't get in Toronto?

I am traveling to Italy in September and want to purchase food or kitchen items that are not readily available in Toronto. I apologize if this post has been done before but I couldn't find it. Thank you all.

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  1. Depends on where you're going. But some of things worth bringing home are dried porcini mushrooms; bottarga; capers in salt; good Pecorino Toscano. Most of this stuff is certainly available in Toronto but at a price. You'll pay less for better quality of all this kind of thing over there. Hunt through the markets and see what looks good. I bought home a whole Pecorino cheese - they shrink-wrapped it at the cheese place for me. It was fabulous and you just can't get this kind of cheese in Toronto unless you pay a lot for it.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Nyleve

      Thank you Nyleve, I am traveling to Positano. I will be bringing back oooooodles of Bufala Mozz. A couple of years ago I brought back $500 worth of Parmesan, it didn't go to waste. I could eat this on my morning cereal. Again, thank you.

        1. re: theresah

          I would be careful with that...buffalo mozzarella wouldn't travel too well, I don't think. And I would bet the confiscate that.

          1. re: grandgourmand

            I'm not sure that I'd risk the bufala mozzarella. It might be too, er, "fresh" for the customs people here. You should check with them before leaving - THAT would be one criminal act to get confiscatedat the border! An aged cheese like pecorino or Parmagiano is fine, as far as I understand. Or, at least, they never found or took mine. I tend not to exactly LIE at customs, but accidentally-on-purpose omit mentioning certain items if I'm not absolutely sure. What I will do is check the "yes" box on food or whatever they have on the customs form before entry. Then, when they ask you what food you're bringing, begin to list things in order of certainty of legality: start with packaged items, go on to dried items, olives, olive oils, vinegars, etc., then before you ever get to the cheeses or other iffy things they'll get bored of listening to you and wave you through. If I ever got caught with anything, I'd simply say that I was sent along before I got to that item.

            So far, so good.

          2. re: theresah

            Ahhh, Positano! My fave place in the world! We are also going back in October. We always buy amazingly fresh buff mozzarella from the little grocery store on Via Pasitea. You are right about being able to eat it on your morning cereal!! But alas, when you have fresh mozza, who needs cereal?!! ;-)
            I also always stock up on the most wonderful 375 ml bottles of wine in Amalfi. There is a little shop near the square that has a fabulous selection. Ciao!

        2. I brought back some wonderful olive oils, amazing aged balsamic vinegars, an assortment of dried mushrooms and packages of dried mixes for pasta sauce, risotto mixes, pecorino cheese, limoncello, absinthe, and TONS of colourful & black pastas. One of my other favourite food-related purchases from Italy is a parmesan cheese grater with an olive wood box attachment to catch the gratings. The olive wood STILL smells amazing and I brought it back almost two years ago!

          1. How about putting a few White Alba Truffles in your pockets?!
            I once bought a couple of 'jars' of a fantastic tasting ' Red Vongole pasta sauce' Very oily and dense with loads of flavour!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Charles Yu

              The markets will have truffles by then.
              They are not cheap, but much less costly than at home.
              You can bargain a bit on the price.
              Be careful of anything in Jars, a they will need to be hand luggage.
              I always bring back quality olive oils, and buy the small tins when possible.
              The freeze dried Porcini are available at most grocers, (you usually see them in flat rectangular wicker baskets).
              I buy them every year, although unlike the good quality Chinese mushrooms, they don't hydrate well, and are nothing like the fresh.
              Some markets have little burlap bags filled with the spices and seasonings for specific Pasta dishes.
              They make nice gifts, and will have written on them "Spaghettata Al Basilico", etc.
              I bring a couple of pounds of the wonderful melt in your mouth Parma, but am aware that customs could confiscate it at any time.
              I have never attempted to bring a whole cheese for the same reason.

            2. I would splurge on canned tuna and anchovies, especially from Sicily. Some pinkish tuna in glass, as well as white anchovies, are superb and only available here for ransom rates.

              And, don't leave without fennel pollen!

              1 Reply
              1. re: jayt90

                Wow everyone, thank you. I have to be honest, I go every year, but I know I forget things. Last year I brought back some basil plants that lasted for months. Hearty stocks! The Bufala was a bit of a sweat coming through customs but when I got home and ate it all in 2 days, it was worth it. Now I am paying for it though, have been on a strict diet for 2 months so I can walk up all the stairs to our villa. I've got 2 months to become Iron Woman so that I can eat my way through Italy.

                All other suggestions are welcome. Thank you!