Tasty Tangents

Food, life and other morsels

Flavours of Italy – Week One, Part One

Here’s the first installment of our food adventures in Italy. Hope you enjoy it! And if you too, come on back for more very soon.

Fresh bread
Sept. 3, 2009.

Is there anything better than the smell of freshly baked bread? First thing in the morning here, as you pass each bakery, the smell of freshly baked bread and sweets wafts through the air. I swear it’s a way better wake-up call than a rooster.

Osteria degli Artisti's Penne with Zucchini and Pancetta

Osteria degli Artisti's Penne with Zucchini and Pancetta

Osteria degli Artisti
Sept. 2, 2009.

A new “pub” opened up around the corner from my grandmother’s house over the summer. It’s a place that seems to have a story. Gianni, who was serving, appeared to be doing some of the food prep, and was also the owner, seemed like a man with a past. It’s the kind of place you only hear about by word of mouth, but attracts a loyal clientele. My cousin’s family chose the locale, so we could walk home after sampling the region’s best vino. There’s no menu per se, just a couple of selections for each course depending on what’s fresh. We started with a simple appetizer of cured meats and aged cheese alongside a basket of fresh bread. The first course was a choice between penne with zucchini and sausage in a fresh tomato sauce or a bean soup full of Romano beans, lentils and barley. They were both delicious, both hearty and fresh. Our second course was “spezzatino,” chunks of beef with peas in a hearty broth. It was accompanied by a big bowl of tomato and basil salad was served family style for the whole table. Plus there was some fried Scamorza cheese that melted in your mouth. The meal was accompanied by two delicious bottles of wine, my favourite though was a regional delicacy called “Testarossa” (yes, like the Ferrari). The food was delicious, the locale was a lovely open air terrace, the weather was cool and clear and the company couldn’t have been better. It had all the trademarks of a meal to remember for a lifetime.

Gelato makes a meal
Sept. 1, 2009.

We bought our first gelato at a little place in the main square of a town called Avezzano. I ordered a cone with chocolate and bacio (a hazelnut chocolate flavour), and the server suggested some whipped cream. I was in heaven. We opted for gelato instead of lunch and I think it was the right call. It turned out it would set a pattern for the rest of our trip.

Later we decided to stay in for dinner. I made a quick tomato sauce with sausages on spaghetti. I don’t know if it was the sausages we picked up from the butcher that afternoon or the freshly grated parmesan cheese, but it was pretty good if I do say so myself. Maybe it’s the mountain air, but everything just seems to ‘pop’ a little bit more in Italy. I guess it could be the excitement of being on vacation, but whatever it is, I’ll take it.

Osteria Perrotta's 'Ne ‘nente' and 'Al Diavolo'

Osteria Perrotta's 'Ne ‘nente' and 'Al Diavolo'

Il Diavolo Ne ‘nente
Aug. 31, 2009.

Big meal number two. Osteria Perrotta, a local pizzeria with a smokin’ hot wood-fired oven. We started with a mixed antipasto, a platter with cheese, salami, prosciutto, melon, grilled veggies, potato dumplings, rice dumplings and a frittata (a type of omelette) with truffle. That followed by individual pizza, “Al Diavolo” (Devil’s style) for hubby and “Ne ‘nente” (slang for it’s nothing) for me. The former had tomato sauce, mozzarella, spicy salami and aged cheese. The latter was a white pizza with pancetta (cured bacon), green olives, mozzarella and onion. It ‘s like I forgot how sweet onions can be. If they’d rolled the dough any thinner it would have been like paper. I love a crispy, wafer-thin crust with fun and flavourful toppings. And it went down even easier alongside a cool blonde…beer, that is.

First meal on the ground
Aug. 30, 2009.

A friend met us at the airport in Rome to help guide us, and the rental car, out to the small town where my dad grew up. About an hour’s drive later we had arrived at his home, where lunch had been kept warm for us, despite the fact that it was nearly 5pm. (Of course in Italy, lunch, the biggest meal of the day is usually served around 2-3pm, and dinner around 9pm, so it was far too early for dinner.) More on that later. We sat down to an amazing plate of homemade fettuccine in fresh tomato sauce with just a sprinkle of grated truffle on top. That was quickly followed by meatballs cooked in the sauce and stewed beef, plus golden potatoes done in fresh tomato. We insisted on skipping the salad, so two kinds of cheese and bread appeared. One was a fabulous, tangy, aged sheep and cow’s milk cheese. I’d share the name with you, but it doesn’t exist, it’s just cheese made by somebody locally and sold at the weekly market. Immediately afterwards, several kinds of fruit from the backyard appeared, including peaches and melons grown just outside the window where we were sitting. Dessert was a light ice cream cake coupled with a quick espresso. So for a first meal that was supposed to be no big deal, it ended up being a way to kick off this trip in style.

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