Italy staycation

Bring a healthy appetite for gelato, pasta-making classes and hot Italian men.

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As delicious as American ice cream is, you’ll think you’ve been eating perforated cardboard after you get a lick of true Italian gelato. Though poorly executed imitations abound, the most authentic scoops we’ve tasted this side of the Atlantic come from Grom (233 Bleecker St at Carmine St; 212-206-1738, grom.it * 2165 Broadway at 76th St, 212-362-1837), a gelateria chain based in Turin. Order a cone of nutty nocciola ($5.25), made with tonda gentile hazelnuts from Piedmont, then fare una passeggiata (take a stroll) as you devour your rich, creamy treat.

When Italian bakers Simone Bertini, Camilla Battri and Lorenzo Palombo opened Il Cantuccio (91 Christopher St at Bleecker St; 212-647-8787, ilcantuccionyc.com) in April, they introduced New Yorkers to cantucci, the soft, anise-flavored biscotti typical to their native city of Prato, just outside Florence. The biscuits are traditionally served with a glass of vin santo for dipping, but until the caf gets its liquor license, you’ll have to dunk the chocolate-, apricot- and prune-filled pastries ($29.90/lb) in a caffe latte ($3). Alternatively, nibble brutti ma buoni almond cookies ($29.90/lb) in the back garden under the Tuscan sun—hey, we all share the same sky, right?

New York certainly has no shortage of red-sauce joints, but for superior Puglian cuisine, I Trulli (122 E 27th St between Park and Lexington Aves; 212-481-7372, itrulli.com) is pretty much the only game in town. You won’t want to miss any of the pastas handmade daily by mama Dora Marzovilla (we drool for the orrecchiette in rabbit rag, $24), nor the 450-strong all-Italian wine list. If you love what you’re sipping at dinner, chances are you can buy a bottle to take home at Vino Wine & Spirits, the restaurant’s wineshop across the street.

“The most authentic area that still retains its Italian identity is Arthur Avenue in the Bronx,” says Louis Calvelli, executive director of Casa Belvedere (casa-belvedere.org), an Italian cultural foundation housed in a Staten Island mansion that’s slated to open in September 2011. “You go from one specialty shop to the other, whether it’s Casa Della Mozzarella for cheese, Borgatti’s for pasta—everybody has their little traditions.” Among Calvelli’s rituals: hitting family-run Madonia Brothers Bakery (2348 Arthur Ave between Crescent Ave and 186th St, 718-295-5573) for “things that are no good for me,” like a loaf of olive-studded bread ($5). He also picks up the occasional rabbit or baby lamb from Vincent’s Meat Market (2374 Arthur Ave between 186th and 187th Sts, 718-295-9048), the same butcher that his grandfather once frequented.

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Mi scappa la pip literally translates to “my pee is escaping me” and is a phrase that bambini utter when they have to go to the bathroom.

Live the Italian dolce vita | Eat like an Italian | Be cultured like an Italian

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