12/04/2012 05:43 EST | Updated 02/03/2013 05:12 EST

Eating My Way Through Italy -- With Braces

UIG via Getty Images

I entered the years-long journey into adult braces in 2011. After months of consultations, x-rays and other minor tortures, I finally received a set of brackets on my lower teeth. 

A coworker sympathized and tried to prepare me. "Say goodbye to sandwiches," she said. Bull, Nazli! I thought. But dear sweet Nazli was right. My dentist also warned me that biting into solids would be challenging and could possibly RIP OFF a bracket or two that were cemented to my disfigured teeth.

Amongst the list of banned foods were: hard fruits and vegetables, pizza, crusty bread... Pizza?! I was going to Italy in two weeks.

I vowed not to let my new disability impede my eating odyssey through Rome, Florence and Venice. Without having a juicer for two weeks, I was concerned about getting nutrition and not passing out from the heat (and copious amounts of wine) from an empty stomach.


Around the corner from our flat in Rome, each morning my sisters would buy fresh fruit from the corner market and I would angrily sip my coffee. I longed to bite into the plump and crispy cornetti pastry that my one sister would eat daily. After one bite, I realized that the pressure of delicately mashing this treat into my mouth without smearing it onto my face or choking was not worth the hassle.

I switched to a late morning glass of wine.

Lunch proved to be easier. I soon discovered that Italians have created the most magical sandwich called a tramenzzini. This skinny delight is basically pressed triangles of white bread and of course, being in Italy, it is filled with bresola, arugla, tomatoes, cheese. You know, not bologna and cheese slices.

My sister dubbed these the "children's sandwiches." Not when paired with a cold Peroni, dude.

Things were looking up in Florence where fruit markets were packed with fresh figs, grapes, soft peaches and apricots which I greedily crammed into my tender yet, calloused mouth. Gelato and granita shops lined the streets and filled my gut. I rationalized the nutritional value in these desserts by ordering the fruit variety.

Dinner was easy. Pizza was thankfully quite thin and plentiful. Pastas were always dressed with one chewable ingredient (Italians are king of the mushroom).

Italians also love their leafy green vegetables some of which I didn't know existed (looking at you, cavolo nero). Lightly sautéed, these greens quickly worked their way around each bracket in my mouth and stayed there. No amount of wine swishing would loosen them. Luckily, there are random free flowing water pumps and fountains scattered everywhere in the cities. I would discretely whip out my toothpick and go to flossing town by these pumps. No wonder the locals didn't talk to me.

The ever present jugs of chilled red wine seemed to dull the daily ache of masticating. As did the midnight prosecco by the fountain in our local piazza.

Really, my eating fears were not fully realized and I made out like a bandit. Moral of the story? If you have braces, move to Italy. 

Ah, just move to Italy anyway.

Adult Braces