While Italian cuisine is delicious, I’ve always liked variety when it comes to food – something that was completely normal growing up in San Francisco as the area is famous for its diversity (not only in terms of people, but restaurants as well). Anyone who’s been there knows you can find anything you’re in the mood for: sushi, Thai food, Chinese food, Korean BBQ, Greek, French and Italian cuisine, Mediterranean restaurants, Steakhouses, Salad Bars, Brazilian Churrascaria’s, Dim Sum, great Mexican food, Lebanese and Indian food… and the list goes on. We even have Little Italy (Italian quarter), Chinatown and Japantown in San Francisco.
Here in Italy the cuisine is a lot less diverse, although Milan is starting to move in that direction. Still, you can’t find Mexican food, and Thai is really limited as sushi is still the big thing (which means Thai will probably become trendy in the next 5+ years since they’re about a decade or two behind in that realm).
All that to say, I’ve found an excellent alternative in the local “Comune Mercato” (they are actually in most of the neighborhood’s throughout Milan) which has a huge variety of foods and ingredients from around the world. Literally everything you need in one market-type shop (a small version of the big open market on Las Ramblas in Barcelona if you’ve been there). It’s where I get my *ripe* avocados (imported from Peru and elsewhere), Thai Tom Yum soup paste, Thai sweet and spicy chili sauce, huge bags of jasmine rice, a variety of coconut milk, spicy picante sauces and salsas, fish sauce, egg roll wraps, curry powders and pastes, edamame and it’s the only place I’ve ever been able to find cilantro (which I need for all my Thai and Mexican dishes), old-fashioned peanut butter (the healthier kind, not Skippy) and cheddar cheese! That’s right people, cheddar cheese.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Italian cheeses – they are excellent – but there are certain non-Italian dishes (Mexican, for example) or tuna melts with avocado and tomatoes that just need a slice of cheddar to make it perfect 🙂 Of course, there is a ton of local fresh produce (just look at home vibrant and beautiful the veggies below look), fresh seafood, all kinds of salami and cheese (yum!) and fresh bread… if you live in Italy (and especially Milan) and you’re looking to spice things up a bit in the kitchen, I definitely recommend checking out your local Comune Mercato. You won’t be disappointed.
(And, as usual, try to avoid venturing out to the market around 12:00-3:30 as in most cases it’ll be closed for the long lunch hour). Welcome to Italy.