The lighting was dimmed. The tables were set. The Italian opera music was playing. Friends were gathered to share a delicious Italian meal… in HoCo. Nope, you read that right. On Wednesday, March 19th, HoCo was transformed into a classic Italian bistro for a delicious, traditional Italian feast. Any opportunity to eat lots of carbs and cheese is a night I’m excited about. However, my mom’s side of the family is Italian, so I’m a little spoiled when it comes to Italian cuisine.
Before my family even sits down for Christmas Eve dinner, we always chow down on a huge antipasto. We all pick out our favorites, decide whether this year’s cheese selection is better than last years, and wash it all down with enough bread to feed a small village. After we’ve finished, we complain we won’t have room for dinner (but we always do) and next year we will make a smaller antipasto (we never do). So imagine my excitement when I saw a huge table set up with tons of different kinds of meat, fruit, breads, and the all-important cheese. Wheels of Gorgonzola and Fontina, fresh balls of mozzarella, and trays of salami and pepperoni covered every inch. It was a masterpiece of food, and it certainly took up the majority of my plate!
But, as always, UNH Dining didn’t stop there. The main course included grilled haddock with lemon herb oil, mussels tarentina, chicken carbonara, and pork with peppers. Definitely restaurant quality and delicious! Some classic add-ons included margarita pizza, the all-important garlic bread, and fried mozzarella sticks. To be honest, all I really cared about was the cheese risotto. Now, as any contestant on an episode of Top Chef would tell you, risotto is a difficult dish to prepare for the masses. When I saw it on the menu, I was admittedly hesitant. Never have I been so excited to be wrong. It was creamy and just the right texture. If I could have filled a whole to-go box with risotto, I would have (come to think of it, I should have). To satisfy your pasta needs, there was also a shrimp scampi bar (which is always a fan favorite) and butternut squash ravioli. It was easy to leave room for vegetables with such great choices as Caesar, Italian, and Caprese salads.
What could you possibly need after a meal like that (besides perhaps stretchy pants)? Dessert of course! Hazelnut truffles, classic Italian cookies, and pistachio ice cream were perfect complements to the meal. I enjoyed some biscotti with coffee myself! Other more decadent options included a Limoncello cheesecake and Napoleon pastry. The pastry chefs also did a beautiful job with the decorated sheet cakes resembling an Italian villa and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed my culinary trip to Italy. The food was just as good as I remember enjoying growing up. Even some of my more picky relatives would have appreciated the meal as well (and trust me, they’re tough critics). Sitting in HoCo brought me back to my favorite childhood memories of Christmas Eve, with my Uncle Larry sitting at the end of the table, commenting on where he got the fish that year with my grandfather. I thought of my cousins updating each other about their lives and my Auntie Chris enjoying her once-a-year plate of spaghetti with crab sauce. For me, that is what Italian food is all about: enjoying great food surrounded by your loved ones. UNH is definitely a second home to me, and I couldn’t think of a better place to enjoy some of my favorites.
Written by Samantha Friedman, UNH Class of 2015.