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An Italian Truck Stop

When it comes to road trips, one of my absolute favorite things about hitting the road is stopping at truck stops. Each stop just has so much character—and I’m not just talking about the interesting people you see inside. Maybe it’s because we went on a lot of road trips when I was younger, but truck stops just make me excited to travel. I love knowing that I’ve been somewhere and I’m still continuing on our journey after our quick break. I get to stretch my legs and wander around the store; scouring the shelves for off-limit junk food to keep me awake for the next stretch is like a vacation in and of itself. (My favorite truck stop snacks are: sour cream & onion chips, jalapeno-flavored sunflower seeds, water, and vanilla flavored coffee…but I digress.)

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Living in Italy is drastically different than America in so many ways, which made me a little nervous about the truck stop situation. Luckily, I’m happy to report that it’s just as great as in the good ol’ US of A…if not a little bit cooler. Inside most AutoGrills you’ll find a bar (with coffee), little trinkets,
magazines, movies, a food section, and a few snacks.

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Our favorite AutoGrills are the ones like in the picture above with a “restaurant” at the top. It’s more like cafeteria-style Italian food, but it’s actually not half bad.

I thought I was being sneaky by using my iPhone to take pictures, but I wasn’t stealthy enough, because I got yelled at…in Italian, which is never any fun. I didn’t take pictures of the wine selection (the cases were taller than me!), salad bar, or dessert, sorry!

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a wall of olive oil, bread selection, and antipasta (prosciutto and cheese)

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a pasta bar, fresh fruit, and the grill with a choice of meets

For lunch we split grilled chicken kabobs, roast beef with a delicious rosemary sauce, focaccia, penne with ragu, spinach, peas and carrots, and potatoes. We also had a pretty fun view! 

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Traveling with a newborn wasn’t nearly as stressful as I thought it’d be, and having a place like this to stop right off the highway helped. Sometimes you can drive around Italy for quite awhile looking for a restaurant that’s open, so being able to stop here and feed her AND ourselves was very nice. 

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Another cool thing AutoGrills is their wine, meat, cheese, and pasta selections to take home with you. It’s awesome and makes me hungry whenever I walk by it. Since we were on our way home with an empty fridge awaiting us, we decided to make a truck stop dinner later that night. We bought everything we needed (wine, antipasta and cheese for an appetizer, fun-shaped pasta, a sauce mix, and bread), and headed on our way home.

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So how did our Truck Stop Dinner turn out? Honestly? It’s the first Italian meal we didn’t eat. I thought this post would go a different route and I’d be sharing how awesome it was to get our food from the truck stop, but it turns out that I wish we just got pizza from next door instead. The baguette had an overly-processed, rubbery taste to it and the wine was way too sweet for our liking. (To be fair, the last time I had Lambrusco was when I was in college…and this one was 30% off, so we figured we’d just give it a shot. Bad idea.)

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The pasta itself was awesome. I love the funky shapes and tri-colored pasta is always fun, but the sauce mix was horrible. My husband and I love spicy food and eat pretty hot stuff most of the time, so when we both cursed the second we tasted this sauce gives you an indication of how hot this was. We both had a second bite, figuring maybe we just got a spicy bit, but when the third and fourth bites had us scooping out cream cheese with our fingers, just to get rid of the burn, we knew we probably weren’t going to finish our dinner. I’ve never had anything so spicy in my entire life. We dumped the pasta and ended up toasting some bagels and slathering them with cream cheese. So much for our awesome truck stop dinner!

Truck stops: do you love ’em or hate ’em?

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7 Comments

  1. Hi Jessica!

    I just love your blog. It's so fun following along with your travels. 🙂

    My husband and I were in Italy back in 2011 and have 'tentative' plans to live there for a few (or several) years- and possibly with a baby. So as you can imagine, it's nice to hear that it 'IS' possible.

    Keep writing!

    Melissa @
    thebeesknees-mel.com

  2. YUMMM that food makes me so jealous of living in Italy!!! I wish I had stocked up on that bagged pasta when I came back from my summer in Sicily, it's just not the same when you buy it here!

  3. I have always loved the homestyle cooking vibe that the Truck stop restaurants in Maine have. Growing up, my mom and I would all drive to meet up with some of my aunts and have a slice of homemade fresh pie — the tollhouse pie is still haunting my dreams at night!

  4. I kind of hate truck stops because they smell and I usually smell just as bad from being in the car but i think that an AutoGrill sounds great!

    Too bad your dinner didn't work, but good to know I guess right?

  5. I had an AMAZING prosciutto sandwich at the bar at an AutoGrill. I forget what kind of sandwich my husband got, but his was really good too. Everyone was looking at us weird because they were all stopping in for their mid-morning coffees and we were the only ones eating sandwiches. Whatever, we're American. We do weird things.

  6. Love truck stops!! Same as you, probably because of all the road trips we took when I was a kid. Stopping at a truck stop was like the opportunity for finding a great treasure, although it was mostly junk. But I still check all the aisles thinking I'll find something great. Sorry your dinner didn't turn out so well, but at least you lunch was good. 😉

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