If you grow up and come of age at the dinner table in Michigan, the way I did, it can be hard to fathom the variety of foods in Italy.
For 40 some years now I’ve been plumbing those depths, coming up for air with a smile on my face, then diving deeper. In these next few blog posts, I’m going to try to warm up to this subject; in words and pictures, sharing some of the food fun we have when we come to Italy.
It’s June 2018. We’ve been in Italy a few days when I realize I have eaten mostly fish. San Marino is an island, a peculiarly landlocked island, a sovereign nation island surrounded by Italy. Driving down the road from Serravalle, where the family apartment is, in two minutes we cross the border and are in Italy. Another 20 minutes and we are in Rimini, in ancient times an important Roman town, now a resort town on the Adriatic coast, also known as the Adriatic Riviera.
Hotels, beaches, umbrellas, and in the high season, a gazillion tourists. There’s fish in that sea, and a virtually timeless culinary tradition that brings seafood to the table, food so beautiful you can’t believe your eyes, food so good you can’t believe your tastebuds.
Then, Inland, other goodness. The cuisine of this area is Romagnolo, of and pertaining to Romagna, the region southeast of Bologna. From Bologna take the A14 toward Ancona, a wide stretch of autostrada that roughly parallels Via Emilia, the ancient Roman road. As you drive, to your left is the Adriatic and its enticements. To your right, the foothills of the Apennines. When we drive this way in the spring, I think of the area as one part garden, one part orchard. In the fall, when the olive trees are loaded with fruit and the vines are heavy with Sangiovese grapes, I think of the area and its luxurious harvest as a gorgeous dream.
Other goodnesses, indeed. The cured meats—prosciutto, salami, mortadella. The stews and roasts. The game. The pasta! And always and everywhere, vegetables and fruits in season. Oh, and gelato.
It is not an exaggeration to describe our visits here as culinary pilgrimages. All the 40 years we’ve come to San Marino and Italy as a couple, thanks to recommendations from Tizi’s cousins and from our wonderful niece Nicole and her husband Mirko and their friends, and thanks to constant inquiry and dumb luck on our part, we’ve acquired a long list of favorite places we revisit year after year. Where shall we eat? We ask ourselves that question every day. The interrogative moment elicits giddy pleasure and anticipation.
Herewith, in the days and weeks to come, a few notes on the pleasures of the table: fish, meats, vegetables, wines, desserts.