Probably Not the Beef

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So you’re standing outside a restaurant in Italy. Its PR machine has been humming for months, no, make that years. The restaurant has been featured on Chef’s Table, in Food and Wine, who knows where else.  

You’re standing outside enjoying a glass of their Tuscan wine, actually a third or fourth glass. It’s a small glass, of a light swill, and it’s free! While you wait for the starting gun at 1:00 p.m. you enjoy crostini with lard, crostini with olive oil, slices of house salami, and all the free wine you can drink.  Continue reading “Probably Not the Beef”

Required Eating

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I remember a distinction professors made on their course reading lists: required reading vs suggested reading.  

Put Gennaro down as required eating.

That’s Da Genarro.

It’s on a hillside high above the Adriatic, on a two lane road called “la panoramica,” through a national park called San Bartolo. I wouldn’t say the restaurant is in a village. It’s not a village so much as a brief deviation. If you don’t deviate, you’ll miss it.  And trust me: you do not want to miss it.   Continue reading “Required Eating”

Into the Mix

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One of the delights in eating in Romagna (and I hazard to guess all over Italy) is the “misto.” 

The mix. 

Where I come from, eating fish you usually get one thing. Your appetizer is one thing–a tartar, half a dozen oysters, a bowl of mussels. And your main course is usually one thing–fillet of whitefish, fillets of perch, a chunk of salmon or tuna or swordfish, some crab legs or a lobster tail. Want to taste something besides what’s on your plate? Poach a bite from your wife’s when she’s not looking.   Continue reading “Into the Mix”

Romagna Food Notes, Part IV

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This post is not exactly Romagna food notes. 

Tizi’s family on her mother’s side is from le Marches, a contiguous region known for white truffles. There are truffles in Romagna, too, any Romagnolo will tell you. We’ve been to eat, for example, in Sant’Agata in Feltria, which, as far as I can tell, is a truffle capital in Romagna. Truffles are on the menu in all restaurants we like around here. But we save ourselves for days like yesterday. Because in le Marches, we have a huge advantage.   Continue reading “Romagna Food Notes, Part IV”

Romagna Food Notes, Part III

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“This chicken has barbecue sauce on it,” I say to my wife.

We’re eating take-out for lunch, a few chicken legs, roasted potatoes, some bietole, and grilled zucchini. All this for 20 euro from a place in Santarcangelo. I also picked up a bottle of Sangiovese for 5 euro from a street vendor. This weekend is Festa di San Martino. The whole town is an outdoor market. I love this place. Continue reading “Romagna Food Notes, Part III”

Romagna Food Notes, Part II

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Where I come from, the wine I drink comes from somewhere else. Around here, the wine they drink comes from around here. Vineyards everywhere. Wine production is local, in small batches and large batches, quaffing wine, slurping wine, sipping wine, wines that go with your food just right, wines you want to contemplate and appreciate and gently guzzle. 

Local legend has it that the Sangiovese wine (meaning “blood of Jove”) got its name from some monks in Santarcangelo di Romagna. Tuscans might take issue, referring to first mention of the wine in the 1590 writings of Giovanvettorio Soderini. It’s a quibble. Who cares? I love the idea of monks getting tipsy, and I love the ceramic billboard (shown above, “Sangiovese was born in Santarcangelo”) you’ll see when you walk around Santarcangelo di Romagna. Mostly, I love the pour. 

A word about pronunciation: Sangiovese, san-joe-VAY-zay.   

A few days ago in Santarcangelo we had lunch at Trattoria del Passatore. Our server offered us new Sangiovese, a young wine; not the novello, Italy’s version of the nouveau, this was a wine just a few months older than novello. He said in a few more months the wine would grow up and become the restaurant’s regular table wine–what comes by the glass or in a pitcher or carafe in quarter or half liter quantities–at a ridiculously low price. 

Among other things, among MANY other things, we come to Italy for the wine.

We come to Passatore for the food. 

The pasta, in particular. This day we ordered ravioli con le rosole. Rosole are leaves from very young poppy plants. Inside these delightful little ravioli pillows: ricotta, grated parmigiano, and nutmeg. The sauce consists of a little butter and a gentle saute of the greens. The grated cheese you see, formaggio di fosse, a sheep or cows milk cheese aged in a cave.

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Also on the table, passatelli con crema di porcini e tartufo nero (passatelli with porcini mushroom cream sauce with black truffle).  Like cappelletti, passatelli are served dry (asciutti) and in broth.  Delicious either way.

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So much variety. We swing both ways–pasta asciutta and pasta in brodo. You can look forward to a soup meal or two on the October 2020 trip.  

Yesterday we chanced on a new place in Rimini, Osteria Io e Simone. How charming is that? Osteria me and Simon. We’ve walked past this corner many times in the past, noticing the wine bar and crowds of gioventu (young people) outside. As chance would have it, our wine bar of choice is closed and changing ownership, so we needed a new place. Inside, we had a long chat with the fellow in charge of the pour. A glass of local, for 4 euros. Very satisfying. And a restaurant recommendation, right next door. That would be Osteria Io e Simone. 

Staying with the current theme, showing you “primi piatti” (dishes you start with) here are two more pastas we might find on the menu when we travel.  First up, cappellacci di zucca al burro e salvia and second, tagliatelle al ragu di coniglio. 

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Cappellacci–the word means ugly old hats (whereas cappelletti are little hats).  These cappellacci have a sweet squash filling. Served with butter and sage. Delicate and interesting.

With those tagliatelle (pronounced tal–yah-TELL-ay), immediately above, is a rabbit ragu.  Hold on, now. I know Americans tend to recoil from rabbit as food. They’re little and cuddly and cute. You might think: It’s like eating a baby.  Think again.. At this point in our trip, we are on our sixth pasta dish, and the rabbit wins paws down. I’m joking. But I’m not joking. Tagliatelle with rabbit ragu is amazing. I won’t make anyone eat anything they don’t want. But I hope you will consider trying a rabbit roast or a hunters rabbit (cacciatore) or a rabbit ragu. 

Autumn time and the eating is easy.  Shown below, Santarcangelo.  

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Food Notes for My October 2020 Excursion, Romagna, Part I.

Last night we went to Ro e Buni, in Villa Verucchio. (That’s Boo-NEE.) It’s a pasta-meat place. I had cappelletti al ragu. Sort of like tortellini, a folded pasta with a filling, cappelletti are usually served in broth. It’s a delicious soup when there’s a chill in the air. I like cappelletti with ragu at Ro e Buni.  Here they are:

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In addition, we had passatelli in broth (another fantastic soup), swisschard, squaquerone (a soft spreadable cheese), grilled sausage, and piada. And a half liter of red wine. 

For dessert, because we’re taking it easy, we had just a tiny bit of crostata with nutella.

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Today for lunch we went to Nud e Crud, in Rimini. This place gets it done. It will definitely be on our itinerary. In the interest of sampling as many different kinds of pasta as I can (and I’m doing this for you) I had strozzopreti with salsiccia, pendolini, stridoli, e fossa.  Strozzopreti is the pasta, meaning “choke the priest,” with sausage, pear tomatos, a wild herb I don’t have a name for in English, and a local cheese that matures in a cave. This dish was mind-blowing:

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In addition, we had piada, swisschard, baby artichokes, and a half a liter of red wine. For dessert: Zuppa Inglese and Crema della Nonna. (Idiot! I didn’t take their picture).

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 Note: there will be recurring menu items in these reviews–swisschard and piada, especially.  And red wine. I’m eager for you to try to local Sangiovese.  

I’m thinking about how to organize this food adventure so you can try as many things as possible. Eat widely (without becoming wide). With your permission, I will order for the table, indicating in advance: Tonight is a great pasta place. Or today we’ll have three soups for lunch. Or next up: a seafood meal. Or at this place we’ll concentrate on meats. Always, of course, with an assortment of sides.

My preference is to order for the table–because it saves time and because I can direct you to local specialties. Often servers will have recommendations. Today’s special at Nud e Crud, for example, was the strozzopreti. I would have been a fool to miss it. 

That’s yesterday and today. We’re taking the night off.  It was a heavy lunch. Which raises an important issue.  Is he nuts? How much does he expect us to eat? Only as much as you want.  I’ll be thinking light vs heavy, when we need to take our feet off the accelerator and coast. When we need to coast and take a breather, we will.  

Tomorrow for lunch I expect to have rabbit–at another great place in the area. Also, they usually have ravioli (probably with a stridoli sauce) that are delicate and, well, exquisite.   

 

Pienza, Pinconning, Santa Monica

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“I don’t like the word cheese,” my wife says.

We’re driving home from the grocery store, where we have just bought a couple mozzarella balls to slice and lay over tomato slices at lunch today.

I am surprised and delighted. Forty-two years of marriage and I never knew this about her. I tell her cheese seems like a perfectly good word.  

She shudders just a little.

One syllable, it must have Anglo-Saxon roots, I think, also considering the ch in the word.  “Cheese,” I say out loud, testing it. In Italy, I’ve heard groups of people lined up to have a picture taken together, everyone saying “cheese,” in English.  I remind her of this. “Cheese has caught on in Italy,” I say.   Continue reading “Pienza, Pinconning, Santa Monica”

Market, Mercato

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So I had to get something.  Buy something. My wife and I were on the ninth day of a ten-day stay in Italy. She had visited her cousin’s boutique in Pesaro.  And her favorite shoe store and bookstore and her favorite herbalist in Rimini. And a great toy store in Bologna. And her scarf and headband lady in Santarcangelo. She was pretty loaded.

She asked me, “Don’t you need anything?”

“Nope.”

That Thursday morning we were walking through the mercato in Borgo Maggiore, a village ten minutes up the mountain from our apartment in San Marino. It was the end of November. In two days I would be back in the classroom. Continue reading “Market, Mercato”

Hit Me with Your Best Shot

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“Don’t tamp it this time,” my son says. 

“What?”  

“With my Gaggia,” he says, “I’ve stopped tamping.  I get better crema. Try it.”

The coffee, he means, in the filter basket.  

It’s a Saturday morning.  I’m making him an espresso in my Delonghi Dedica Deluxe Pump Stainless Steel Espresso Machine. When you make espresso with a machine, tamping is a thing. It’s part of the process, the ritual. I’ve always tamped. The pros in coffee bars tamp. Every machine I’ve owned came with a tamping tool. When I tell him with this machine I only gently tamp, just leveling the coffee off, he says I might get better crema leaving it loose.   Continue reading “Hit Me with Your Best Shot”