In the early days arborio rice in heavy 1 kg boxes was a favorite import item due to the uncompetitive American market for this product. In fact bob overimported the stuff compared to his actual consumption rate, leading to repeating massive outbreaks of hatched starch bugs in the kitchen. Prized arborio rice was not infrequently panhandled grain by grain like the California gold rush prospectors used to do trying to root out the pesky little intruders. Puglia pasta was a later hot ticket item due to the price differential, but as bob's back aged and income inched forward, the added luggage weight seemed less and less attractive.
When pizzoccheri disappeared from the local suppliers, this became a checked baggage item out of necessity. These actually come from Valtellina, which is a region somewhat east of Vall d'Aosta on Italy's northern border where the terrific fontina is found. Every box seems to have a similar no frills version of the traditional recipe printed on it.
The US is still way behind on the limoncello front, so this is another favorite, but we tend not to be able to use up our supply, lacking the Italian habit of taking a shot after dinner as a digestive. The limoncello cream liqueur is especially hot with us these days. Except we never remember to take it out of the fridge.
In the photo one sees a couple round red tubes of Bahlsen HIT hazelnut cream filled cookies we discovered by chance in Rome and after hoarding them for part of a year, finally saw them in a household chain store Bed Bath and Beyond in its little gourmet treats section after a web search yielded the news that two local chains ACME and Shoprite carried the product (but apparently not the store bob looked for it in).
The Leprotto 4 packs of 12mg hits of saffron we buy in lots of 50 for our Iranian friends who kindly serve us up down home Persian cooking frequently during the year. The saffron is considerably cheaper in Italy where the demand is higher. Over the years the Leprotto (big rabbit) brand seems to have become the standard dr bob choice at the supermarket big acquisition run.