Tag Archives: Italy

A Tirolese dinner

21 Jul

Last weekend my wife and I, along with some friends, drove around 450 km to visit a Cheese Festival (Festiqueijo) in the town of “Carlos Barbosa“, in a region colonized by Italians.  Our hotel was in “Bento Gonçalves“, the wine capital of Brazil, colonized by immigrants coming mostly from the Italian regions of Veneto and Trentino.

Looking for places to have a nice Italian dinner the restaurant “Pignatela” (no telephone, no e-mail, no web site) was recommended, and there we went on that rainy and cold night (don’t forget it’s winter here).

For those who may have the opportunity to visit the area, the restaurant is located right at the beginning of the road that gives access to one of the largest wine houses of the region, “Vinícola Salton” (everyone in town knows the place), on the right side.

The place doesn´t look or feel very comfortable, and in fact it is not, but we were greeted on the door by the owner with a smile that warmed up our bones and just made we want to get in and have our meal .

The owner (born in the Veneto) has a grape plantation and a small grape juice factory, but decided to establish this small restaurant in his own house to help spreading the Italian culture a bit more.  Since the region has already dozens of restaurants serving all kinds of pasta, pizzas and the usual stuff labeled as “Italian”, his decision was to explore the culinary of the Trentino-Alto Ádige, also known as Trentino Südtirol, and serve typical tirolese dishes, something not easily found (at least in Brazil).

Glad that no decision concerning the meal was necessary, as they only have one complete menu, displayed on a board right at the entrance door.

The menu at Pignatela, in Bento Gonçalves/RS, southern Brazil

As you can see the first dish was a Canederli soup.  Canederli are small balls prepared mainly with bread, milk, eggs, some bacon and spices cooked in a chicken broth.  This “primo piatto” was served with home-made bread.  The wine?  A Salton Cabernet Sauvignon (maybe not the best choice to go with these Tirolese dishes, but the best one available).

Canederli soup

Then follows “Bigoli al sugo”, a long pasta tube, similar to the bucatini, served with a chicken stew.

Bigoli al sugo

To be completely honest, the pasta was way overcooked and the sauce tasteless.  You won’t miss anything if you just let this one pass and save your stomach to the next one, a gnocchi con creme de Fontina.

Gnocchi with Fontina cream

This was, in my opinion, the best dish.  The gnocchi was made with tomato, what gave it quite distinctive color and taste.  Fontina is a cheese prepared from unpasteurized milk, with a wonderful earthy taste. It melts well and forms a nice cream specially due to its relatively high fat content (around 45-50%).

But that was not all.

Pork marinated in white wine and Italian lemon

This wonderful pork, marinated in white wine with some Italian lemon was not even on the menu.  A nice surprise.

Ravioli Valle d'Antiro

These ravioli (I know, the photo looks terrible as the dish was cold when it was taken – I’m trying to improve) had a most wonderful filling.  The owner defies you to figure out the main ingredients.  Some are quite easy to discover, but a few of them are just unbelievable.  I won’t tell you as I don’t want to spoil the surprise (guess you’ll have to come to go to Bento Gonçalves).

Another protein follows: steak marinated in wine and herbs served with a potato, apple and horseradish salad.

Steak marinated in wine and herbs with potato, apple and horseradish salad

Maybe this was the best dish?  Oh Lord, I just can’t make up my mind.  Guess I’ll have to start all over again. Please, bring me the Canederli.

Dessert.  Of course!   A milk custard (flan) with mollasses and tirolese (apple jam) pie.  Clearly the New World has its finger here, as I bet they don’t grow sugar cane in Südtirol.

Flan with molasses and apple jam pie

What a nice meal.  The price?  About US$ 20,00/person, including wine.  If I happen to be around, be sure I’ll visit the Pignatela again.

Alla carbonara

10 Jan

Today, and for the next 3 days, my youngest daughter (Joana) is going through several examinations, along with 32,000 other candidates, for a spot in one of the largest Brazilian Universities, the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, in Porto Alegre, the capital of our state, as she plans to study Computer Engineering.  Today she had exams on Brazilian Literature, English and Physics, from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m., and the temperature was reaching 95oF.  No need to say she left the exams pretty exhausted; and has to go through additional ones for the next 3 days, as I’ve already mentioned.  We ate something fast for lunch, but I figured she would need something more substantial in terms of energy for dinner.  Something like a pasta (full of carbohydrates, fast energy for the brain) with some fat (some lipids for slow burning metabolic processes).

Made a search on Foodista and decide to go for the Spaghetti Alla Carbonara.  The result you can see below.

Penne rigatti alla carbonara

You sure have noticed I used penni rigatti instead of spaghetti (I didn’t have any).

I have to say that, although I didn’t have an Italian pancetta, the result was rather similar to the dish we had in Italy last summer.  We stopped at a roadside trucker joint between Assisi and Rome, and  they served the best spaghetti alla carbonara I’ve ever had.  I believe the secret was the pancetta, fantastically flavorful.

Spaghetti alla carbonara - The real thing

Spaghetti alla carbonara - The real thing

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara on Foodista

It’s not a pizza! Or is it?

1 Sep

Well, I’m not so sure about that.  Maybe it’s just a flat bread.  But, isn’t pizza a kind of flat bread too? After all, what is the difference between pizza and focaccia?  Gregory Heinz, a customer at Ray’s Pizza in Greenwich Village, says that “the difference between the two is about a buck”.  Maybe you should read “Pizza It Is, and Pizza It Isn’t” by Moly O’Neil, in the October, 6 1993 edition of “The New York Times” and decide for yourself.  A few things SEEM certain though:  (1) The name of this bread appears to be derive from the Roman expression “panis focacius,” which referred to a flat loaf of bread cooked upon a hearth, over a hot stone, or under the ashes of a fire; (2) It’s much older than pizza, maybe 2,000 years older.

The original recipes have originated along the Mediterranean coast, where the air is incredibly salty, and the focacce (plural of focaccia) tended to rise on their own.  Nevertheless, the use of small amounts of yeast, or other leavening agents, are quite common these days.

I used my basic bread recipe, jumping stage 8 and flattening the dough down to about 1-1.5 cm (around 0.5 inches) thickness at stage 9.  I then spread a mixture of olive oil and rosemary over the top, waited until it doubled in size, and then baked it at high temperature for about 20 min (in fact until it reached a light brown color).  It’s important that you don’t pay much attention to shape, as focacce are rather rustic meals. As soon as I took it from the oven I once again brushed the surface with olive oil and rosemary and covered it with a generous amount of course sea salt.

Rosemary and sea salt focaccia

Rosemary and sea salt focaccia

Get some Gorgonzola cheese, some sliced salami, a bottle of a good red Italian wine (a Chianti, for example), and you are ready for a wonderful and quite simple meal.  The above focaccia was offered to some friends, along with a selection of cheeses and wines, last Saturday night.

Rosemary Focaccia Bread

Italian Focaccia on Foodista

Red Deer

19 Aug

Red Deer (Cervus elaphus), one of the largest deer species, are held in captivity for a variety of reasons, including its meat, which is called venison. It is not generally harvested for human consumption on a large scale, though speciality restaurants seasonally offer venison, which is widely considered to be both flavourful and nutritious. Venison is higher in protein and lower in fat than either beef or chicken.

We had the chance of trying venison when travelling in northern Italy, more specifically on Cortina D’Ampezzo, at “Ristorante Lago Scin” (Via Lago Scin, 1 – Cortina D’Ampezzo/Italy).  The restaurant is beautifully located right at the lake from which its name is derived, a small body of water at 1,336 m of altitude, in the center of Belluno Dolomites, province of Veneto.

Lago Scin - Cortina D'Ampezzo/Veneto/Italy

Lago Scin - Cortina D'Ampezzo/Veneto/Italy

Ristorante Lago Scin - Cortina D'Ampezzo/Veneto/Italy

Ristorante Lago Scin - Cortina D'Ampezzo/Veneto/Italy

As you can see by the images, we reached the restaurant on a rather beautiful summer day, ideal for occupying one of the outdoor tables, what in fact we did.

Among the ordered dishes was the already mentioned Red Deer, which came as a nice dark stew with a beautiful yellow polenta (Spezzatini di cervo con polenta).  Polenta, as you may know, is made from boiled cornmeal, and along with tomatoes, constitutes one of the most amazing Latin American contributions to the Italian cuisine, if not to the whole world (if that is not borderless cooking then tell me what is).

Both, the deer and the polenta, where very nicely prepared by Chef Carlo, and even though venison retains a “gamy” or “wild” taste, considering it tends to have a finer texture and is leaner than beef, the overall experience was rather enjoyable.  Something to be remembered and, if possible, repeated.

"Spezzatini di cervo con polenta" from "Ristorante Lago Scin"

"Spezzatini di cervo con polenta" from "Ristorante Lago Scin"

Venison on Foodista

Trippa alla Fiorentina

14 Aug

The use of tripe (in fact cow’s stomach) is quite common in several countries, including Brazil and Italy.  I’ve already posted a few lines on “Mocotó“, a Brazilian dish containing tripe as one of its main ingredients.  Travelling around Tuscany, but specially in Florence, you will certainly find tripes in the menu of the most typical and popular restaurants.  If you happen to be around that wonderful city, cross the “Ponte Vecchio” (Old Bridge) and go south in the direction of the Pitti Palace. On Via Michelozzi 9r, between Via Maggio and Piazza Santo Spirito, you’ll find the “Trattoria Casalinga”, home of Florentine cooking as it should be, with over 400 years of tradition.

"Ponte Vecchio" in Florence/Italy

"Ponte Vecchio" in Florence/Italy

Trattoria Casalinga, home of traditional Florentine cooking

Trattoria Casalinga, home of traditional Florentine cooking

I recommend you try “Trippa alla Fiorentina”, a simple but very tasteful dish.  Tripes are very well cleaned (blanched and boiled) and cut into finger-length strips. Garlic is fried in olive oil with a mirepoix (onions, carrots and celery).  Tripe is then added and stirred frequently for 15-20 min.  Then it’s time to add some peeled tomatoes (the recipe calls for around 500 g for 1,0 kg of tripe, but I suspect that at Casalinga they put a bit less) and let the mixture boil over low to moderate heat for about one hour.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  It has to bee stirred now and then and it should not be let to dry.  I had mine with a nice Italian bread.

"Trippa alla Fiorentina" from Trattoria Casalinga in Florence/Italy

"Trippa alla Fiorentina" from Trattoria Casalinga in Florence/Italy

My great grandmother was Italian, and thus “trippa”, from a recipe that passed on to my grandmother, and then to my mother, was a common dish at our home.  No need to say the meal we had at Casalinga tasted just like home.

Via Michelozzi 9r

Tripe on Foodista

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