2023. 08. 09.
Allora buon appetito!
Mapping Romagna within the Italian cusine
Tartalom értékelése (4 vélemény alapján):
Allora buon appetito!

There is an inevitable section of my Romagna trip which I have left to the end of my stories on purpose. As we have got through history, architecture, sightseeing and entertaiment, now it is time to move on a very popular and never-boring topic of traveling, which is the gastronomy. 

The regional food of Romagna that everyone knows and probably almost everyone loves is called piada or piadina. It is a piece of flat dough, which is very similar to tortilla and stuffed with various things - one of them is usually a type of cheese like mozzarella, but adding rocket (ruccola) and ham (prosciutto crudo, often from Parma) are also very common. 

Photo: Ferenc Ocsovai

In general there are two pieces of piada served, which are equally perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner. You might think they are small, but trust me, they are satisfying, and sometimes I myself could not eat all of the portion at once.

There are some slight differences too, for example piada from Ravenna is thicker than the one from Rimini, but I also learnt interesting cultural phenomens related to piada we, Hungarians have in common with Italians.

I always thought that it is only popular in Hungary and in Eastern (mostly Slavic) countries to clean the plate with a piece of bread and eating it (in Hungarian, at least in my region, it is called tunkolás). However, Italians also do it and call it with the expression fare la scarpetta (‘doing the little shoe’ or ‘skating’), and in Romagna it is obvious that people do it with piada instead of bread.

Photo: Ferenc Ocsovai

Another thing in common between Italian and Hungarian philosophy of eating is the folk wisdom saying ‘eat breakfast like a king; lunch like a prince; dinner like a pauper’. Most likely it is an international saying and people also know it in other countries, but still, it gave me the feeling of a common European heritage or cultural foundation, when I heard about this fact.

Although this would be indeed important for a healthy diet, I need to admit that we, Hungarians do not follow that rule in practice so much, even if sometimes we can have huge meals for breakfast on the days off. Italians, however, do not eat a lot of meat or heavy things for breakfast, but rather sweets, cookies and sweet bakery products as I learnt there.

Photo: Ferenc Ocsovai

I do not have to mention that Italian cusine is worldwide famous, and Italy is also one of the European countries where there are more national and local restaurants than foreigner ones, while Italian restaurants are also one of the most popular foreign restaurants in other countries, with a very wide range of quality though.

Unfortunately, among the world famous hits, I had no time for my favourite, calzone (which is Southern meal anyways), but I had to try pizza, pinsa and spaghetti, all of them at least once, which also gave me some interesting new perspectives. For instance, there was a type of spaghetti with tomato called more or less Totò’s favourite.

Namely, Totò was a famous Italian actor and comedian of the 20th century starring in dozens of movies - I had also seen him in some films before, and apparently this type of spaghetti I tried got its name due to one scene of a movie when Totò was eating exactly the same kind of this dish. 

By the way, he also had a very interesting life and had some funny and weird statements, just like the one that he claimed to be a late descendant and heir of the Byzanthine emperors. No wonder, because his real name was extremely long due to the fact that he was legally adopted by a marquis, already as an adult actor.

If you speak or want to learn some Italian or find subtitles, I recommend any of his movies for you, because they are still entertaining, even after so many years and decades of their release.

Photo: Ferenc Ocsovai

There were also many other typical plates on the menu everywhere like ravioli (dumplings similar to Polish pierogi) or a similar local kind of pasta in Emilia-Romagna called tortellini that you might have heard about as well. Tagliatelle is also a type of delicious pasta which is known outside of Italy as well, but this was the first time for me to try it. Of course, with Ragù alla Bolognese. Where else, if not in Italy?

I do not need to add either the importance of seafood (frutti di mare), such as gamberi (prawns), seppia (cuttlefish) or calamari (squid) which I also met a lot in Spain before. However, I would like to present a speciality in the end which I did not try myself but was told about: it is passatelli, a type of long, slim pasta made of eggs, breadcrumbs and lemon. 

Photo: Ferenc Ocsovai

Apparently, it can also be a pasta put inside the broth, and the soup served like that is called passatelli in brodo. Hopefully, I will try it next time, just as I will tasta zuppa inglese (‘English soup’), which is, in spite of the name, a sort of pudding.

Speaking of desserts, another inevitable part of the Italian part is gelato, so the ice cream, which I also tried in Ravenna once, so I think after having many conversations on philosophy and art in Italian, now I also finally have all the necessary vocabulary to ask for an ice cream (it's just my general criticizm on language education). 

Photo: Ferenc Ocsovai

Here is also a connenction between soup and ice cream in Italy: I bet you know stracciatella, but most probably you think about the type of ice cream with small pieces of chocolate in it, which in fact comes from Bergamo.

However, the original word means ‘to tear’ something or ‘torn pieces’, and that is why stracciatella is also a name of an Italian egg soup. I have not tried it either, since egg soup has never been my favourite and it is typical in other regions of the country, but I will not refuse something new if I have the chance. Last, but not least, there is also a sort of cheese from Puglia called stracciatella di bufala. So always be careful in Italy what you ask for!

Photo: Ferenc Ocsovai

Let’s enclose my adventures in Romagna with mentoning some drinks I tasted there: first of all, I would like to introduce sangiovese, a type of dry red wine which was popular in the area of Rimini.

As a matter of fact, Italians do not distinguish so many categories of wine as we do in Hungary. Therefore, the wine is called only either sweet or dry, and categories like semi-sweet or semi-dry rather do not exist. I have to admit that I am not a big fan of dry wine apart from a few exceptions, but sangiovese indeed bought me. 

It is true that I do not go to restaurants so often and I do not know how it looks like in other countries, but in Italy, I also noticed that when the bottle is already open, first the waiter gives a taster to check if the guest likes the wine or not, only then pours the rest.

Moving forward, this time I skipped famous Italian spirits like limoncello or amaro which I already know very well, but remembering my Venetian days, I could not resist to have two glasses of the aperitivo called spritz - one with Aperol and one with Campari, as the tradition prescribes it. 

Photo: Ferenc Ocsovai

And here are some fun facts about coffee customs in Italy: when you ask for a long coffee (café lungo) anywhere in this country, do not be surprised if you will get the quantity that is usually considered (at least in Hungary) as espresso.

Italians do not like to add a lot of water because they think it dissolves and destroys the original taste, so for example, while the Italian long coffee has the size of a commercial espresso, the Italian espresso is even smaller, more like a ristretto - literally one strong sip on the bottom of the cup! 

Photo: Ferenc Ocsovai

How should you ask for a huge portion of coffee in Italy then? The best is to ask for an americano, although Italians do not like it either because of the same reasons of skipping the water. Once I even made fun of it in Santarcangelo when the waiter had brought the water separately in a glass and I had to make an americano of the espresso by myself.

It was like if the Italians had not wanted to commit this 'deadly sin' of drinking an americano and spoiling the taste of coffee with water. Maybe, as I was thinking in my mind, there is a particular pit in Dante’s hell, especially for the unsuspicious foreign tourists who drink the sacred Italian coffee with water like that. If that is true, I will definitely end up there...