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Gourmet/Eclectic Food To Bring Home

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Longtime 'hound's wife & daughter are taking a school trip with a group 3/18-4/3. They'll hit Venice, Padua, Ravenna, Rimini, Bologna, San Marino, Assisi, Perugia and Rome. Any thoughts on cool stuff they can come home with for me? I'm dying that I won't be there. Salumeria's probably a stretch. Truffles, oils, pasta, gadgets. ANYTHING? Also, any food/market recs in any of the towns are welcome. Thanks. Ciao.

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  1. Get them to bring back some mostarda. Sperlari brand is probably in almost any grocery store and is better than nothing but they should be able to find some more unique mostardas made with apples, cherry or pumpkin.

    Don't miss the market in Padova. More and more I think it's my favorite market in Italy. They have a good chocolate store in the market and that has good Italian chocolate like Amedei, L'Artigiano, Venchi and Caffarel. Ravenna has a good covered market too.

    Other good stuff that could be found in the supermarket at about half price or less than in the US-- Fabbri cherries. A big jar in Italy is the equivalent of about $9. In the US its about $20. Mutti triple concentrated tomato paste. Stuff like that. It might not be gourmet but it's still a lot better than the equivalent in the US.

    1 Reply
    1. Visit either the Tamburini food shop in Bologna or the Guisti shop in Modena and buy a bottle of aged balsamic vinegar.

      2 Replies
      1. re: DavidT

        Note that prices for balsamic are quite a bit less expensive in the main food market Mercato della Erbe, in Bologna than at Tamburini.

        If you are from a major metro area in the US, STAR brand porcini cubes are easily available. Same goes for truffle salt, mentioned below. I paid about $10US for a small jar here. I agree about bringing home mostarda; you can find house-made product in a few shops in the food streets of Bologna. This keeps a long time in the frig. Dried porcini. already mentioned, is also a great item to bring home. And farro and dried artisanal pastas, but check prices home to see if these are good values in these days of horrid exchange rates for the dollar. Ditto Italian tuna and anchovies in jars or cans.

        1. re: erica

          But does US truffle salt contain any truffle or is it synthetic truffle aroma like the one I found in a US friend's home? I always read labels carefully.

          Italian Truffle Oil does contain a sliver of white truffle and nothign synthetic, the sliver is enough enough to give truly heady aromas so a very little drop goes a long long way. And it is inexpensive.

      2. Not the truffles in this season...
        They are expensive and not as good as the early winter ones. I bought some " bianchetti" (little whites) on Sunday at the Antiques Fair in Arezzo and they are OK ( I was able to carefully choose because I knew the seller from previous encounters) but not great. The price was € 45,00 for 100 grams.
        And steer clear of " truffle oil": it's all artificial !

        3 Replies
        1. re: pietro

          Italian Truffle Oil is olive oil containing a sliver of white Truffle. That is what I find in Bologna markets and delis at least.

          I have yet to come across an Italian Truffle oil that contains synthetic aromas, perhaps they do exist. I will keep reading the small print on the labels.

          1. re: carmelita

            Carmelita,
            don't delude yourself. There is NO truffle oil made with truffles. When you get that wonderful smell approaching you as the waiter arrives with your tagliolini it's the truffle oil with synthetic aromas. Not the few slivers of (maybe) truffle....
            I can give you the recipe for home-made truffle oil: you don't actually immerse the truffle in the oil. You have to suspend it in the jar.
            The Italian law allows to say " aroma di tartufo" even if the molecule is man-made.

            1. re: pietro

              Pietro, My Bologna specialist-shop-bought Italian Truffle Oil says: "Condimento Aromatizzato al Tartufo Bianco. Ingredienti: Olio extravergine d'oliva, tartufo: Tuber Magnatum Pico." Maybe they make it like you do?

        2. When I take my students shopping in FLorence, one of the "new" products is Truffle salt!
          about 10 euro here and lovely, ground up truffles in the salt. was invented by a guy from Seattle to help his friend in Umbria , now has taken off!

          prices although the dollar is down, are still better.

          to make it easier.. stay small and no glass.
          olive oil for sure, from Assisi or Perugia, I haven't had much oil from LAzio ( rome)

          I know in Florence they can get almost anything vacuume packed at the Central Market. am not familar with other markets or shops.

          But dried porcini are much cheaper here and light.

          A pavoni expresso maker can be shipped and is a great deal!
          ha ha

          1. Something I've only found in Italy or specialty stores in Europe: Knorr (don't laugh, now) porcini cubes -- ya know, the ones that come in a small package and usually are just available as bouillon cubes....

            They make a great addition to any porcini dish, such as pasta or risotto.

            1. I've had pretty good luck bringing back cheese--I usually get it at the end of the trip and stick to pretty hard cheeses as they'll weather the trip better. I've always declared them at customs and never had a problem with that, but I think they forbid anything containing meat or anything like seeds or plant matter that could conceivably be sprouted.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Nettie

                the traditional balsamic vinegar - aceto balsamico TRADIZIONALE

                - special herbs if you see any (there are some interesting dried mints in Rome),

                dried funghi porcini (that, and oil, are good buys in Orvieto),

                special regional olive oils (you will never find the oil from Lake Garda except around that area/Verona/Venice, or maybe umbrian oils from around Lake Trasimeno in the US), the red cow parmigiano/reggiano. I think that all quality oils are dated with the date of the crop and possibly, with a "best by date" so check the date on any oil you buy - it should have been produced in 2007 at this point and have a best by date in 2009 at the earliest.

                A couple of bottles of REALLY GOOD wine at a reasonable price or some interesting liqueurs - for example a good artisanal limoncello once you get down to Rome (packing materials are a good thing to take)

                My favorite bring home item is a big loaf of the best country bread that I can find - in Rome I would go down to Volpetti or one of the other shops that sells the breads from Genzano, Lariano etc and buy the biggest piece you can carry - it will last well through the trip and you can cut it up, freeze and exhume in hunks for a long running pleasure. These breads last well, unwrapped, cut end down on the cutting board, or you can toast pieces and make wonderful bruschetta.

                Seeds, if you see any that interest you (markets are good places for these - they are absolutely importable)

                1. re: jen kalb

                  I wouldn't count on being able to bring seeds back. From the Customs and Border Patrol website: "Some plants, cuttings, seeds that are capable of propagation, unprocessed plant products, and certain endangered species are allowed into the United States but require import permits; some are prohibited entirely." (http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/vac...)

                  There was actually a great thread on another Chow board a few years ago where a customs person answered a bunch of questions: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/353902. Of course as this is a couple of years old the rules might have changed.

                  1. re: jen kalb

                    Jen, brillilant! I never thought of bread. It's important not to wrap it in plastic (exc to freeze), or it will get mushy. My fave from Volpetti is the filoncino di Lariano scuro, i.e., the small long loaf, not the big round pagnotta, though we buy that too. I just find the other easier to handle.

                    Your other suggestions are spot on. People ask me for oil, parmigiano, and occasionally pine nuts (pinoli), which I store in the freezer. I don't know whether it's legal to import dried mushrooms. Canned tunafish from Sardinia or Calabria or Sicily is another item I bring, for one particular discriminating friend. And gourmet lentils, such as from Castelluccio, Onano, Ventotene, and a few other spots. Balsamic vinegar, the good stuff, yes. And cheeses. Volpetti will vacuum pack and bubble wrap everything.

                2. another good thing to bring home is one or two bottles of is special liquors that are hard to find in the US. We just finished a great bottle of nocino delle streghe, a sweet, dark and spicy liquore made with green walnutsfrom near Modena, which was really good (we had picked up another artisanal nocino from near Vesuvius the prior year made by the owner of the restaurant e curti which was totally different, clear, dry with a woody, astringent quality. Other digestifs made of herbs, such as bay (laurino) or myrtle can also be found.- if you bake , a bottle of the bright red alchermes could be fun, too. Or a good limoncello.

                  A special honey that is hard to find here is corbezzelo - I had had a bottle of this (from Volpetti I think) kicking around in my closet for a couple of years. Recently we opened it -
                  it has a very interesting bitter flavor - no one much wanted it for breakfast toast but it is stupendous with cheese, blues pecorino,etc.

                  Havent been as impressed with the food souvenirs to bring home from Venice - except for the special venetian pastries from the elegant Marchini bakery in San Marco, like Torta del Dogi
                  http://www.golosessi.com/
                  or maybe an extra special wine from that region.
                  I

                  1. I like to bring back grappa since it is much cheaper and there's much more choice. I also like to bring back some of the regional dessert wines that are much harder to find in the US and cost a fraction of what they do here.