Without warning, Chef Patrick flicked his wrist and chocolate sauce flew across the table. As I and the other restaurant patrons jumped to cover the tops of our wine glasses, the chef smiled and began to throw together (literally) the night’s dessert on a white canvas, like an Italian Jackson Pollock. He sprinkled coffee cake and sunflower seed crumbs, then gently added lemon curd and cheesecake. For the finale,
I wasn’t in a restaurant. I was on New York’s Upper East Side, sitting at a backyard patio that belonged to our host for the night—the very same chef who was smashing food on our table. It might have been an unconventional way to eat dessert, but it tasted authentically Italian.
Before the dessert show, we enjoyed three courses of fresh homemade pasta while Chef Patrick told us about the food, his life in New York as a private chef, and his childhood growing up in Florence. This is what every experience at Pasta e Basta is like: a family-style dinner you can book on EatWith, one of the most popular social dining platforms travelers use to book chef-prepared meals hosted in local homes.
Social Dining in the Face of Overtourism
In big cities like Paris, Rome, and Barcelona, where overtourism is a problem, social dining can help. As travelers find their dream destinations full of large crowds and long lines, they’re starting to go off the beaten path.
Connecting with a local over an intimate meal in their home is one way to avoid the tourism noise and connect to your destination on a deeper level—even deeper than staying in someone’s empty home through Airbnb. When you’re a guest in someone’s home (even if you’re paying them for the meal), you’ll get a better sense of what it’s actually like to live in the city or country you’re in by getting to hear their point of view.
Social dining is changing the way people eat when they travel, and the trend is taking off online. VizEat, the largest social dining platform in Europe, recently acquired EatWith, which is more popular among American travelers. This team-up means VizEat now has more than 25,000 dinner hosts in 130 countries. At the time of writing the websites had not yet merged. Until they do, it’s best to check out both when searching for dining experiences.
Whether you’re in New York savoring authentic homemade pasta, or on a boat in Lisbon enjoying snacks and local wine, culinary adventure is guaranteed to offer a genuine peek into the lives of locals.
More from SmarterTravel:
- How to Invite Yourself Over for Dinner in Croatia
- Overtourism Is on the Rise: Here’s Where You Should Go Instead
- 10 Authentic Cultural Food Experiences
Jamie Ditaranto experienced Pasta e Basta courtesy of VizEat. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.