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  • Edible Gifts Italians Will Love
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    The holiday season is well underway, which means you're probably searching for the perfect presents for everyone on your list. If Italians or Italophiles are among your friends and family, then you probably know that food - and not money - makes their world go round. Therefore, edible gifts will be a surefire winner this holiday. Take your cues from the Italians themselves. Here are some delicious ideas:

    Gift: Limoncello

    What is it: A lemon-based liqueur that is made mostly in Ischia, Capri, and the Amalfi Coast, where lemons grow in abundance

    Cost: Depends on where you get it and what size bottle you choose. In Ischia, the souvenir shops sell dish towels and aprons with the recipe, so you could make it yourself. But it would take a few weeks, so it might not be ready in time for Christmas. If you choose to buy it, you can find it online or in some American liquor stores. It may cost anywhere from $15 to $45 per bottle.

    How to Spruce Up the Gift: You could package the bottle of limoncello with bright yellow lemons in a basket. You could also include pretty shot glasses. Or you could just get it in a funky bottle. Limoncello is often sold in bottles shaped like a star, guitar, or moon.

    Gift: Espresso

    What is it: Italian coffee. Duh!

    Cost: Depends on which brand you buy. But it tends to be affordable and conveniently sold at your local supermarket. Think illy, Medaglia d'Oro, or Kimbo.

    How to Spruce Up the Gift: This is an easy one. You could either whip up or buy a cake or biscotti to go with your bag or can of espresso. Another idea, which would be especially great as a hostess gift, is to pair the espresso with a pair of demitasse cups or spoons.

    Gift: Strufoli

    What is it: Honey covered dough balls that are a popular holiday dessert

    Cost: It could be free if you can make them yourselves. Recipes abound for strufoli on the Internet. And the Food Network recently ran a special on an Italian Christmas, in which celebrity chef Mario Batali learned how to make strufoli from a baker in Brooklyn.

    How to Spruce Up the Gift: Whether you buy or make the strufoli, you can put it in a holiday dish and wrap it up in cellophane with a lovely bow. Dessert plates could also accompany the gift.

    Gift: Panettone

    What is it: Think of it as Italian fruit cake, only it tastes delicious and people want to receive it as a gift. It's a cake that comes either plain or with raisins and citron. The latter is the typical kind and the plain one is usually reserved for children, who tend to dislike the raisins and citron.

    Cost: These usually cost no more than $10, and you can find them in your local supermarket or Italian specialty store.

    How to Spruce Up the Gift: There's no sprucing up pannetone. It usually comes in a colorful holiday box with a convenient ribbon handle. Friends and family who receive this gift are sure to invite you in to join them for a piece even if you're otherwise empty handed. It is a traditional holiday gift in Italy.

    Gift: Dried Sausage, Cheeses, Bread

    What is it: Italian deli goods and bread, of course!

    Cost: Depends on how many kinds you purchase for the gift. But you can find Italian deli items at any Italian delicatessen or specialty store.

    How to Spruce Up the Gift: Put it all in a picnic basket. My cousins love giving this kind of gift to my father. They load up a gift bag or basket with mortadella, dried sausage, prosciutto, Parmigiano Reggiano, sometimes even olive oil, and fresh bread. My father can't get enough of it, and he doesn't have to go shopping for at least a week after receiving it.

    For more information on all things Italian, you can visit www.francescadimeglio.com.

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