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Passaporto Italia Kicks Off at Central Market: Buon Appetito!

Italy has arrived at Central Market. Passaporto Italia kicked off on Wednesday, April 30, with a Prosecco tasting, followed by the "Italy Meets Texas" Sip and Stroll event on Thursday, May 1. For the next 11 days, Central Market will be filled with authentic Italian products, wine, coffee, cheese, pasta and everything else in between.

Walking into Central Market, customers are greeted with accordions over loud speakers as an attempt to make you feel as though you are walking through the streets of Venice or Rome. Although this Americanized version of Italian music is more reminiscent of walking through the Italy portion of Epcot at Disney World, the food and drink offerings at Central Market for this year's festival are the real deal.

During the sip and stroll on Thursday, the specialty grocery store was filled with tables serving samples of wine from the various regions of Italy, including Tuscany and Piedmont, as well as chef-prepared pasta dishes, such as truffled pasta and lasagna. The Chef's Case will be filled with these savory dishes for customers to purchase and take home.

The pastry case is also filled with a multitude of Italian sweets. Beautiful cannoli sit alongside sweet olive oil cakes with mascarpone and lemon curd, plus cornetto, a flaky croissant filled with Nutella -- you can't have Italian desserts without a little hazelnut spread.

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While it's always nice to sample chocolates, gelato, wine and bread, the stars of this year's Passport Festival are cheese and craft beer. In fact, during the Italy Meets Texas Sip and Stroll, Central Market cracked open a giant wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano imported from Italy. The crumbly, hard cheese was paired with a rich red wine from Piedmont, which also goes well with a brick-oven pizza.

Along with the Italian wine, Central Market also has imported craft beer, including a beer-wine hybrid creating a cross between a sparkling wine and a Pilsner. Wine lovers and beer novices will definitely enjoy this product as it is light, bubbly and refreshing.

Stroll around Central Market until Tuesday, May 13, to sample a variety of cheeses, meats, wines, olive oils and cannoli. Attend events like this Sunday's cooking class focusing on dishes from Tuscany paired with Chianti, or the brunch from the Amalfi Coast on Saturday, May 10. For the rest of the Passaporto Italia Festival you can visit a little piece of Italy inside Central Market.

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