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Looking for wood fired bread bakery in Tuscany, Umbria or Emilia-Romagna

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doctorbrown Nov 27, 2009 05:08 PM

My wife and I are heading to Italy for a two week belated honeymoon in January. We will be spending most of our time in & around San Gimignano, Tuscany but will also be passing through Bologna & an as yet undecided location in Umbria. I am, of course, doing all kinds of research on where to eat here and elsewhere. One thing that I am very interested in but am having a hard time finding is a really great baker that still uses a wood fueled oven. Any suggestions? Heck, I will also take any suggestions on general eating as well. Not looking for anything fancy just great traditional fare and any sort of delicious cured pork. Thanks!

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  1. z
    zerlina Nov 27, 2009 06:27 PM

    If the Italian Yellow Pages are to be believed, bread bakeries with wood-fired ovens are not very thick on the ground in Tuscany, Umbria or Emilia Romagna. Go to www.paginegialle.it, enter >pane legna< in the first box, the name of the region in the second box and click Trova. Then eliminate any place that is not categorized under panetterie.

    Emilia Romagna is major pork country. In addition to prosciutto di Parma, which has a consorzio (association protecting the product) with a Web site, you might also look at the culatello di Zibello consorzio.

    In Umbria, the center for porky things is Norcia, which has given its name (norcineria) to pork/sausage butchers throughout Italy.

    1. ciccia bomba Nov 28, 2009 06:59 AM

      Serious wood-fired oven breads are prevalent in southern Italy; not north of Abruzzo. There are of course pizzerie that advertise that they use wood, but that is no indication of quality.
      Trying to find great bread in central Italy is going to be difficult, in Emilia Romagna, in particular. It is not the strong suit. There are wonderful local food cultures but bread and pizza are not the best part, they're pale imported imitations. In Bologna the best bread on offer is actually brought on trucks from Puglia, a day-old at ridiculous prices. In Tuscany you will find handsome loaves of pane toscano, unsalted, which can be good alongside a salty baccalà or something, but doesn't stand up on its own, regardless of what its fans say.
      the forums are full of opinions on Tuscan, Bolognese, and Umbrian restaurants. here's a local Bologna tip: in the mercato di mezzi, little side streets of gastronomy near Piazza Maggiore, get yourself a couple of etti (100g) each of some mortadella, culatello, and whatever salumi strike your fancy, some cheese, some cipolline, and other goodies and take your purchases into Osteria del Sole, get a bottle of wine at the counter and sit down at a rustic wooden table to eat your diy feast. It's nothing fancy, but it's a fun way to try the cured pork specialties in a real osteria, in operation since 1465. strictly bring your own eats. http://www.osteriadelsole.it/

      2 Replies
      1. re: ciccia bomba
        jen kalb Nov 28, 2009 07:03 PM

        We had some decent breads in Emilia but we had to search. Depending on where you are there are breads like "mountain bread" which might appeal to you stylistically - In addition to standard yeast raised loaves there are also fried breads and griddle breads in this region, breads like piadina and gnocco frite (goes by several names). We found that the breads partner well with the cured meats. A piece of culatello layered over a hot piece of gnocco frito is divine.
        We have always enjoyed the tuscan saltness loaves - they partner very well with the (salty) regional cuisine - just make sure to eat them fresh and warm if you can to see them at their best. As I recall it is also possible to buy foccacia in bakeries in Florence, say. I am sure there are some woodfired bakeries in this region but its not a cult thing
        A couple of sources of relevant info are Carol Field's books, particularly that on Italian Bread, and Lynn Rosetto Kasper's books, especially the Splendid Table, which focusses in detail on the food of Emilia-Romagna., including its breads..

        1. re: ciccia bomba
          s
          summerUWS2008 Dec 3, 2009 10:10 AM

          ciccia, I live near Genova and we have plenty of commercial bakers using wood-fired ovens around here.

        2. d
          DavidT Nov 29, 2009 07:27 AM

          One of the most famous Tuscan bakeries with a wood-fueled oven is in the hamlet of Loro Ciuffenna, a village in the hills southeast of Florence. It was written about by Burton Anderson (in his book "Treasures of the Italian Table") 15 years ago and was also recently featured in one of the Gourmet magazine's "Diary of a Foodie" TV shows on PBS. I am not sure of the name of the bakery. At one time, it was operated by Carlo Cocollini. My guess is it is the only bakery in the village..

          2 Replies
          1. re: DavidT
            PBSF Nov 29, 2009 07:49 AM

            The bakery is named Forno Cocollini in the village of Gorgiti. I have not been there but thank you for bringing up Burton Anderson's book, "Treasures of the Italian Table". It has a beautifully written chapter on Pane Toscano and the baker, Carlo Cocollini. The entire book is great reading.

            1. re: PBSF
              d
              DavidT Nov 29, 2009 08:04 AM

              Yes, that book is a classic and is a must-read for anyone serious about Italian food. There are plenty of used copies for sale at amazon.com!

          2. s
            summerUWS2008 Dec 3, 2009 10:26 AM

            doctorbrown,

            In San Gimignano, there is a terrific little osteria called I Quattro Gatti at via Quercecchio 13. (tel 0577 940941. It's a hole in the wall with communal tables and dishes up no end of delicious stuff from its ovens. Can't guarantee that they are wood fired, but the slab of pecorino swathed in fatty cured pork, then grilled is memorable. The house also produces fine sweets to go with coffee, and is something of an enoteca. It's tiny, but I thought it was wonderful for lunch (or a light supper).

            If you liked breads, don't neglect to try salt croissants in Bologna (I liked the ones I found at the Roxy bar, kitty korner from the due torri).

            http://maps.google.com/maps/place?client=safari&rls=en&oe=UTF-8&um=1&ie=UTF-8&q=roxy+bar+bologna&fb=1&hq=roxy+bar&hnear=bologna&cid=12519947365742679008

            For a January trip to Umbria, consider Perugia for your base. That way, if inclement weather slows you down, you will still have plenty to keep you happy and well fed. Check out this description of wood-baked porchetta, beloved in Perugia:

            http://www.italianfoodforever.com/iff...

            4 Replies
            1. re: summerUWS2008
              ciccia bomba Dec 4, 2009 05:29 AM

              'cornetti salati' or sometimes 'vuoti salati' are not some kind of Bologna specialty. they refer simply to unfilled unsweetened croissants. agreed, they are better than the sugary variety but hardly worth a special mention.

              1. re: ciccia bomba
                s
                summerUWS2008 Dec 5, 2009 06:14 AM

                Well -- maybe not worth a special mention to you! Where I live in Italy they are not found (even empty brioche or cornetti are not "salate') nor are they available in the US. Have you ever had them at the Roxy bar in Bologna?

                1. re: summerUWS2008
                  ciccia bomba Dec 10, 2009 12:33 AM

                  yes, i live in Bologna.

                  1. re: ciccia bomba
                    s
                    summerUWS2008 Dec 10, 2009 09:01 AM

                    Well, you may have gotten used to them and are taking them for granted! I wish I had such ready access to them, because while where I live (Liguria) has some fine baked breads, the common brioche (not called cornetto here) is to be avoided, whether sweet or not. I also never had anything as tasty as a breakfast bread elsewhere in Italy, Sicily being the exception (and those baked goods are sweet).

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