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Jun 21, 2000 12:21 PM

How Italians (in Italy) Eat:

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Our friend Maria, from a mountain-town in the Abruzzi now doing time as an architect in Bologna (where the local food is beneath its repute) sent us an email describing the brithday feast she is preparing: read on and drool (as we did and sent very enraged emails at being informed but left out):

polpettine di formaggio abruzzese {fried balls with Abruzzese cheese]
torta alle melanzane sarda [Sardinian eggplant tarte], panzanella toscana [salad of Tuscan bread, vegetables herbs and olive oil],
pasta con le zucchine maria di donato [her own pasta with zucchini],
agnello del mio babbo [lamb, butchered by her father and grilled with mountain herbs],
lardo di colonnata toscano/ligure [am checking this one, but with lard, bacon and Italian pork, one can't go wrong)
wines: montepulciano d'abruzzo, brunello toscano, trebbiano d'abruzzo.

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  1. lardo isn't lard as we know it, but cured pork back fat...I first tasted it in Tuscany at a small restaurant where, because of the incredibly loud rock DJ that was part of the town's annual strawberry festival, we were the only customers...everyone else knew better and left the adjacent piazza to the teen-agers....anyway, we were sent with the instructions to just let the chef prepare whatever he wanted, and my antipasto was grilled bread with paper-thin slices of creamy white lardo draped over it....incredible

    when I got home I did a little searching and found Faith Willinger's column on Epicurious...the link is below.



    4 Replies
    1. re: Jim Dixon

      Thanks, Jim. I had lardo as part of a boiled meat dinner in Bologna a few years ago, didn't get the name at the time, and have had a devil of a time explaining it ever since then. I went crazy over it, and have been craving it ever since.

      And thanks to you, Allan, for posting the menu. Sort of cruel, though, since now I REALLY want to go back to Italy, and eat lardo and all the other amazing things there are to enjoy there.

      1. re: Tom Armitage

        Lardo is also a specialty in the Val d'Aosta, that mountainous area between Piedmont and France, where it is also served melted into freshly toasted, garlic-rubbed country bread. Unbelievable.

        1. re: Pepper

          We were served lardo on wonderful bread as one of many antipasti at a wonderful restaurant in Fiuggi. We found it quite tasty but the years of being pounded about fat in our diet diminished the pleasure of this unique (for us) snack. The restaurant, La Torre, is in the old section of this town famous for its water and mineral baths. It is about an hour or so south of Roma.

          1. re: Peter

            During my first encounter with lardo di colanatta, as I realized that those silky white sheets draped across the bread were indeed pure pork fat, I had a moment of doubt, too. But since I write about food and consider myself a true chowhound, I knew it was my duty to eat anything at least once, and after the first bite I forgot all about LDL or triglycerides (when we go to Italy I eat everything, including cheese every day, and I still end up losing weight...probably because we end up walking so much).

            While diet is connected to health, I’m convinced that it’s possible to eat well without draconian restrictions on any given foodstuff and still live a long and satisfying life. (NOTE: I’m NOT a doctor...but mine tells me I’m in great shape and I still eat cheese every day).

            With the recent FDA action on trans fats (fatty acids formed during the industrial production of vegetable oils and margarine), it seems that the safest fats are those that haven’t been messed with too much. So I’ll take butter, olive oil, schmaltz (hard to find out here in goy-land), cheese, and, yes, lardo, whenever I can get it.

            Just remember to eat your vegetables, too


    2. Funny you should mention the food in Abruzzo. My grandfather was also from a hilltown in that region, which is not especially known for food, and considered a backwater. But the first time I had a meal at my cousins' farmhouse, I was totally blown away, and will never look at food the same way. I had never eaten fresh pasta, butter or meat before, and I felt like I was activating certain tastebuds for the first time. Even the restaurants in Florence and Rome weren't quite as good (in my mind!).

      Eating Italian in New York is, of course, usually disappointment. Let's face it, NY chefs just can't get the same farm-fresh ingredients.

      Reading your friend's menu brings back some great memories!

      Joe O'Brien