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Food and related things to bring home from Rome/Orvieto? Volpetti?

Last time I was in Rome, I visited Volpetti expecting to buy bags and bags of great stuff. As it happened, I bought next to nothing because I was so overwhelmed by the sheer amount and beauty of their products. As I plan my upcoming trip, I would like to hear what other hounds make a point of bringing home from Rome and from Orvieto, where we will be on a day trip. I used to shlep home pastas, cheeses, cans of tuna and just about everything else, but since I discovered stores like DiPalo, I don't feel the need..... (though do plan to buy a few bags of farro in Orvieto)

So, to those of you who have access to a good Italian store at home, what are the things you would still seek out and buy, either because you cannot find them here or because the price is so much lower in Italy? From The Man's comments on the other thread, I see that bresaola might be ok to bring back but not pork products of any kind.......I must admit that I often brought these back i the past... Also, those artichokes which have been already trimmed might be ok as well....

Also, I have heard much about the Sant Eustachio coffee. Forgive my ignorance, but would this be good to bring home and if it is ground, can it be used in my #4 filter machine at home?

So please help me devise a list to bring to Volpetti, or to any other store that you recommend as I read that the prices at Volpetti are very high.....true?? Mille grazie!

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  1. If Volpetti's prices are "high" I'm certain its because they deal only in the very best. My usual food item to bring back is dried porcini thats available all over but is very expensive in the USA.

    BTW, do not miss a meal at I Setti Consoli in Orvieto, my favorite in all of Italia. My usual method is to train from Rome, lunch at ISC and rent a car in Orvieto for the rest of my travels. This coming April I'll do this trick coming and going. Its that good.

    3 Replies
    1. re: DaleJ

      Dale, thanks. I plan to train to Orvieto for the day. One thing on my list is farro; I know the type from Lucca is famous but I believe it is also made around this area of Umbria. I always buy the porcini; it is one of the best buys, I think. ( I notice that some of the dried porcini sold here in the US are not from Italy. ) Since I am lucky enough to have DiPalo here I just wondered what else would be worth shelpping home. LAst time I bought a bottle of Frescobaldi oilio nuovo in their boutique at the airport, of all places.

      I made note of Setti Consoli, thanks. But it may be a bit on the fancy side for me, not sure. Do they specialize in Umbria food or a more pan-Italian cuisine?

      1. re: erica

        I Setti Consoli is relatively expensive but I only get to eat there a couple times a year. Usually lunch and if the weather is good eating in the courtyard under the tents ia a real treat. I have a friend in Umbria who has won the Organic Olive Oil Competition (over 3,000 entrants). Ten bucks a bottle and another ten or so shipping so I never bring any home from Italy.

        1. re: erica

          you might want to check out some of the places listed here.

          http://associazione.slowfood.it/assoc...

          there is indeed farro grown in umbria

      2. There are two things that I always bring home with me. One is some really good olive oil because it is always cheaper. Got a couple of bottles this year in Florence at the outdoor market near Santa Croce for about 6 EUR each. Also, in the Campo de Fiori in Rome, I always buy a few bags of the spice mixes they have there. It's really cheap and makes for really good homemade pasta sauces.

        1. If you are going to Orvieto, you should be able to get some nice Umbrian olive oils at a good price. (make sure you get new crop unfiltered oil) The town is just full of shops selling local food specialties, bags of porcini, etc.. There is a very good chocolate store, too.

          The St. Eustachio coffee, if packaged is likely ground for expresso machine and therefore not so good for drip. It will say.

          Try to go into Volpetti on a weekday morning - they will probably have tastes to offer, of cheeses, etc. As Ive posted before, some of the sardinian specialties, torrone, honey and cheeses can be really nice. They will know which cheeses are shippable into the US and be able to vacuum pack too.

          3 Replies
          1. re: jen kalb

            Thank you , Jen. I will put Volpetti on the list for the morning; maybe I can have lunch at Checchino (or Felice??) afterwards. (Can you recommend?) I will take a look at the Sardinian specialties since I know nothing about Sardinian food except for the tiny pasta shapes which I have now forgotten the name of....
            But shipping to the US? That has to cost a fortune, no?
            Has anyone here bought balsamico traditzionale in Rome, rather than in Modena/Bologna? I've never owned a bottle and would love to have some but unfortunately have not priced it here in NYC so have no idea of what a good price would be... Any thoughts on this?

            1. re: erica

              the sardinian stuff I was talking about was some honey and the torrone they sometimes have made with that honey - they have some of the pecorinos of course, but also cheeses they age themselves (I believe they have roots in the Marche)like a "bone" cheese that has been buried for a while. Id let them guide you - I have no experience with asking them for shipping - Ive always carried.

              Check that slowfood link for some places in Testaccio near Volpetti there is also their tavola calda next door which is very good and offers some of their stuff. Inexpensive and quick.

              Not sure about the balsamic - good ones will be available in a place like Volpetti - it will be a significant investment wherever you buy it.

              Im sort of dubious about what you get shopping at the Rome airport and whether the deals are good or the merchandise artisanal. Ive bought there before but not enthusiastically. If there's a specialty item probably better to buy it from a vendor who is an enthusiast.

            2. re: jen kalb

              Jen, not everyone agrees on unfiltered oil. My two most expert friends are dead against it.

              Sant'Eustachio and Tazza d'Oro sell whole beans as well as ground coffee and will also grind to order. It's certainly true that anything already ground will be fine powder. Both also have American roast, tostato americano.

            3. Almost forgot. To get rid of Euros I always buy a couple of bottles of grappa at the airport.

              1. I always buy some real aceto balsamico, no comparison with the products on the shelves here at a fraction of the price.

                3 Replies
                1. re: bropaul

                  I am interested in the pricing of the traditional balsamico; I see gold label Modena traditzionale balsamic in the gold and red box listed for about $130.oo from various sources on Amazon; last time in Italy I did not think it was less expensive than that, but I am not aware of the differences, if any, between the various Modena producers. Anyone know more about this and whether is is "worth it" to shop for this product in Rome?

                  http://www.amazon.com/Acetaia-Leonard...

                  1. re: erica

                    Id suggest doing some research ahead of time (Cooks and others have done taste tests) trying some well regarded balsamicos to have a frame of reference etc. Then, go to a place like Volpetti and ask for recommendations. Cant imagine that it would be worth a price like that ($130) unless you have some connoisseurship/appreciation of traditional balsamicos ahead of time.

                    Hopefully people here with more expertise in balsamico can chime in (or you might want to post a question on the general board)

                    1. re: jen kalb

                      Good balsamic tends to sell for about 100 euros/100 ml even in Modena for the extravecchio. You may find a producer you love in Italy, but if you're buying blind, you're probably better off buying from Zingerman's online. They have a very good product, they stand behind it, and they don't overcharge for it.

                2. I'm no expert, and I certainly don't mean the top of the line balsamico, just a good quality one. I don't remember the name of the one I bought two years ago, but it cost about $20. Just a few drops were all you needed to flavor things. I also recommend you look for a shop called Innocenzi on the Piazza S. Cosimato in Trastevere. They have a wide selection of artiginal food products at much better prices than Volpetti.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: bropaul

                    Hang on a minute. "Top of the line balsamico" and "just a good quality one" are very fuzzy designations, essentially meaningless. What you definitely don't want is supermarket junk (they have it here as well as in the US). Read the ingredients and pay attention to what the product is called. Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena is aged at least 12 years and contains no vinegar (aceto -- yes, it's a paradox), only grape must (mosto d'uva). That is the good stuff. It comes in a little round bottle and will continue to age the longer you keep it. You can buy it much older, and pay more, but the 12 can be had for less than €100. I think €79 at Volpetti but I'm not sure. Aceto Balsamico di Modena and various other bottles from the area (Bologna, Reggio -- though Reggio also has a Tradizionale and a whole grading system like that of Modena), often called "condimento" instead of "aceto" can be very good, but I believe they always contain some vinegar and so are never quite as smooth and rich as the Tradizionale. Volpetti sells some good bottles, but they tend to push the mid-range even though their prices (not that I've studied the whole spectrum) for the Trad are not outrageous (considering). They do a whole song and dance having you taste different ages of a make called Dodi. You definitely want the riserva of that. And consider springing for the Trad. This is not salad dressing -- it's for savoring on parmigiano-reggiano or gelato or strawberries, very special uses.

                  2. We always stock up on St. Eustachio coffee (10 cans last time) because it is virtually impossible to get in the US without paying $17/can. It was 7 euros a can in October 2010.

                    We go to Volpetti's and buy pecorino so that we can have cacio e pepe when we need a Roman pick me up. They also sell an aged balsamic that is very thick (sorry can't remember the name, but ask Mr. Volpetti) and lovely on braised brussel sprouts or carrots, truffled honey is to die for. Some of the other products he sells I can get at home, but these are not to be missed.