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Jun 1, 2012 07:02 PM

Elusive foodie gifts tools and food 2012 thread?

Family is going to Italy and has asked for a list of foodie gifts to bring back for other family. Besides cheese, olive oil and vinegars...are there some things more elusive?
I have read the threads previous to this but was wondering about people in recent trips and those who have returned.
I am thinking:
wild fennel pollen
chitarra for pasta making
a good rolling pin (not sure)
lentils or legumes
herbs: mentuccia, wild fennel, fogli di mirto
spring loaded pasta stamp?
Alici (colatura and filets)
cherries in amarene

What small or larger kitchen items for a real cooker and baker would be good? What about black steel pizza trays?

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  1. Much depends on the area of the country that you plan to visit.

    1. One thing I love, that is cheap and cheerful, are the stove top toasters. They are metal sheets, with holes and wires, that go on top of the stove top flame. Perfect for making bruschetta. NOT easy to find anymore. One source is the corner stand at Campo de' Fiori. Other things he carries that I get: milk frothers, parmesan cheese graters (very nice stainless steel ones), puntarella slicers, mini mokas for making coffee, various pasta gadgets. And he's not so expensive.

      2 Replies
      1. re: minchilli

        Elizabeth, thanks for noting where to buy one of those bruschetta makers. I saw one a while ago on a cooking show and I was hoping to find one when in Rome next month.

        1. re: ekc

          these sound like the same types of gadgets you can buy in camping stores! I have one in my closet.

      2. Lots of these items are extremely elusive, even in Italy. For example in Rome I havent found a store that collects all the items you might want in one place as some of the bigger urban stores in the US do. I have never seen a chitarra in Italy, for example, but you can buy this, pasta stamps and several other items through fantes in Philadelphia.

        I also was a bit disappointed with the vendor Elizabeth mentions, and indeed with the Campo di Fiori market as a whole, compared to other Italian markets, including that in Testaccio which has a more homely flavor. Hopefully you will get more suggestions, but Ive found Volpetti a great source for food gift items including many of those you list- their stock varies to some degree with the season - and the little liquor store where I found Alchermes is right around the corner.
        I also found a list including stores which might provide some of what your are looking for (including perhaps mirto items at the sardinian store on via della Pigna, behind the Pantheon..Certainly some of these would be worth visiting as you walk around the city.

        I was assuming Rome, but of course wherever you go, if you keep you eyes open you will find special things, from local olive oils, to legumes, to preseves and honeys, offered at the local farmers markets or farmers, even at monasteries and such.

        Note, Ive been trying to get to this store in Rome (recommended by Fred Plotkin) for years - they seem to have an enormous assortment of artisan liqueurs, honeys and such. He also recommends a cookware store in the Ghetto - Lione Limentani. Wondering if any of our Rome hands have been to /have recommendations regarding either of these places. the latter seems fairly slick and not homely from their website, however.

        Have fun!

        5 Replies
        1. re: jen kalb

          limentani is great for china, stem- & silverware. less so for ttaditional items, casalinghi stores arebetter for those.
          the monastery sells its products at the ex-mattatoio farmers market.
          the named spices can be found best at the emporio delle spezie in teataccio.
          i bought achitarra yrs ago in abruzzo but i am pretty sure i've seen one in rome recently, just cant remember where....

          1. re: vinoroma

            wondering can you recommend a couple of good casalinghi stores in the centro or neighboring areas? thats the kind of place I always like to browse around in, much more than the stylish cookware stores or department stores..

            1. re: jen kalb


              If you use google and plug in the address "via dei banchi vecchi 147 roma", you will get a "street view" pop up. Look at the store just to the left of the pasticerria, (You can zoom in close enough to go window shopping for coffee-makers.) Last time I was in Rome, I went in to buy flashlights, and it couldn't be more old fashioned. It's right at where via di Monserrato and via del Pellegrino meet, steps away from the Chiesa Nuova..

              1. re: jen kalb

                Have no faves, walk into a different one everytime. Usually they are so much bigger than seen from the outside and just a treasure chest.

            2. re: jen kalb

              Unfortunately Monasteri closed last year.
              Limentani is great! But FYI, they close exactly at 1pm every day and don't open till 4.

            3. What kind of alici or tuna or canned fish should I ask for? That's hard to get and is very pricey for the one or two good brands I can find. They'll be in Rome and surrounding area, will have access to a car and small places as well as large grocers.

              3 Replies
              1. re: itryalot

                Some of the best jarred alici will display the name of the town, Cetara, on the label. For canned, there are quite a few brands including Agostino Recca, from Sicily. You'll find both Flott and Recca ion cans and jars.

                For tuna, two brands that should be easy to find are Flott and A's Do Mar, but there will be others. Look for the red label on the A's do Mar, as this is their premium line and correspondingly more pricey. Both come jarred and canned. both companies also can mackerel, sgombro, so make sure that the can says tuna on the label, obvious, but with someone else shopping..

                Again, I would check prices in your home city before shopping; I schlepped home a jar of anchovies from the town of Cetara a few months ago and later found them for not much more in NYC. Note that the jarred anchovies tend to break up in transit so do not carry so well in my opinion, or maybe I was just unlucky; still usable but they lost their shape) Also, wrap jarred seafood in paper towels and plastic bags, as the anchovy jars have been known to leak ever so slightly.

                Not sure if anyone mentioned bottarga, but that would also be a great time to bring home.

                For soup bases, one of the most popular is STAR brand, but I do not use soup cubes much. I'd rather grind a few dried porcini and use those for flavoring.

                1. re: erica

                  Erica, the As do Mar line is delicious, but some of their products are from tuna caught off Portugal, and so labelled of course. The Calabrian Callipo line of canned and jarred tuna and other preserved fish (inc. ventresca) is superb, too. You're right that many of these products are indeed available in US shops and online. As for soup bases, these dadini are used everywhere, and without apology, by skilled home cooks to boost flavor. I rarely use them, but when I do have never found ti necessary to go beyond those commonly available here. I've read that Star and other manufacturers fashion a less assertive stock cube for the European market, though.

                  1. re: bob96

                    Thanks, Bob! How could I forget Callipo?!

                    There are also many other brands, so just take a look at the cans for details..we just gave you the most widely known..

              2. What about soup bases or cubes?

                2 Replies
                1. re: itryalot

                  I got turned onto them by the SIL of a woman I worked with, SIL being from just outside Parma. She used them as an additional seasoning agent, and when I went, looked hard and finally found some. They were the Star brand, come in various flavors, hard to locate in the US. Did find them in Phila's Italian Market area, where the clerk advised against buying them - they were the mushroom flavor and she said they were "too strong", which meant they were just right for my mushroom-loving husband. I'm just about out and am going over in 8 weeks. Will stock up then.

                  1. re: lemons

                    i was told by my vendor that the STAR Delicato type is no longer being produced.

                    Dont know if you will still see it in Italy or elsewhere despite this advice but its good - as is the mushroom type.