FLORENCE, Italy— In the spirit of adventure and discovery that aided me throughout the MU study abroad group’s second day in Florence, I ordered the “strozzapreti dello chef” for dinner. The Italian waiter asked if I knew what the Italian words meant, and embarrassingly, I had to admit that I didn’t have a clue. The strozzapreti is a type of noodle and the “dello chef” meant it was the chef’s choice, which at the Trattoria San Lorenzo restaurant that night entailed a shrimp, calamari, and shredded vegetable pasta in a light sauce with fresh herbs.
The strozzapreti noodles were cooked al dente to add to the perfectly steamed crunch of the zucchini and carrots and smothered in a light olive oil cream sauce. The noodles are two strips twisted together in a rope-like shape, which may hint at the origin of the word strozzapreti, meaning “priest-choker” or “priest strangler.” One legend claims that some priests were so delighted by this pasta that they ate it too quickly and choked on it.
Another legend suggests that during the times when the Catholic Church owned a great deal of the land and rented it out to the farmers, the wives would customarily make them a strozzapreti pasta dish as a form of rent payment. The husbands would be so mad at the priests for taking their land and eating their food, they would wish the priests would choke as they stuffed their mouths with it.
Luckily I didn’t experience the same ill will and savored every last bite of the seafood and vegetable pasta. At the end of the meal, I realized that my blind pick of the strangest-sounding item on the menu actually opened my eyes to the rich history of Florence that seeps into every aspect of their culture—even a simple noodle.