Tag Archives: Tuscany

It´s a pizza, I’m sure!

16 Oct

Beneath a shady tree, the hero spread
His table on the turf, with cakes of bread;
And, with his chiefs, on forest fruits he fed.
They sate; and, (not without the god’s command)
Their homely fare dispatch’d, the hungry band
Invade their trenchers next, and soon devour,
To mend the scanty meal, their cakes of flour.
Ascanius this observ’d, and smiling said:
“See, we devour the plates on which we fed.

These are the translated words of Virgil (70-19 b.C) in the “The Aeneid”, describing the legendary origin of the Roman nation and their cakes or circles of bread, probably the first written record of this amazing culinary creation, the pizza.

After “It’s not a pizza! Or is it?“, I just can’t go on for too long without writing about the real pizza. At least if you define pizza as a “shallow bread-like crust covered with seasoned tomato sauce, cheese, and often other toppings such as sausage or olive (take a look at Pizza, History and Legends“).

Although of uncertain origin, the standards of what became known today as pizzas were probably set in 1889 by Raffaele Esposito in Naples. In that year he prepared tree kinds of pizzas: one with pork fat, cheese and basil; one with garlic, olive oil and tomatoes; and another with mozzarella, basil and tomatoes (in the colors of the Italian flag – yellow, green and red) which were offered to the Queen Margherita di Savoia. The Queen really enjoyed them, particularly the third type, which than became known as “Pizza Margherita” and is today considered the most basic and traditional type of pizza.

Travelling around Italy you will certainly find thousands of pizzerias, offering pizzas that range from heaven to complete hell. In my last trip to Italy, the third one I had the pleasure of making, my son Thiago, who just loves pizza, decided to try them in almost every meal. We travelled around Liguria, Tuscany, Umbria, Lazio, Marche, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto, thus, from the center to northern regions. I’d like to highlight two of them:

1. “Tonno e cipolla” (Tuna and onions) from the restaurant “Il Vecchio Dado” in Pisa/Tuscany – The city of Pisa has for quite a long time been known for one single thing, its Leaning Tower, which in fact became a symbol of Italy itself. Although an impressive building, the Leaning Tower is just one component of the beautiful “Campo dei Miracoli” (Field of Miracles) which also includes an amazing church, a baptistery and a cemetery.

Pisa flourished mainly around the XIth to the XIIIth century, declining after it was defeated by the Genoese in 1284. It was also governed by the Medice, from Florence, who re-established the famous University of Pisa were Galileo Galilei served as a teacher.

Campo dei Miracoli, in Pisa/Tuscany, with the Leaning Tower and part of the Dome.

Campo dei Miracoli, in Pisa/Tuscany, with the Leaning Tower and part of the Dome.

When looking for a meal please, run away from the restaurants around the “Campo dei Miracoli”. They are expensive and usually of low quality – real tourist traps. Take your time and walk towards south, in the direction of the Arno river. It should not take more than 5-10 min (a little more if you stop for pictures and to admire the nice architecture along the way). Then just walk along the river and look for “Il Vecchio Dado”, at Lungarno Antonio Paccinoti, 22 (if you came through Via Santa Maria, which starts at the “Campo”, just turn left and walk a couple of blocks).

Walk along via Santa Maria towards the Arno river

Walk along via Santa Maria towards the Arno river

“Il Vecchio Dado” is a 200 years old establishment serving good quality pizzas right on the waterfront. It also has a good selection of fish and seafood dishes.

Pizza Tonno e Cipolla from Il Vechio Dado - Pisa/Tuscany - According to my son Thiago the number 1 in Italy

Pizza Tonno e Cipolla from Il Vechio Dado - Pisa/Tuscany - According to my son Thiago the number 1 in Italy

2. “Tartufo Nero” (Black truffles) from the restaurant “I Monaci” in Assisi/Umbria – Assisi is well known as the birthplace of St. Francis, the first Italian saint and the founder of the Franciscan Order. It’s a beautiful medieval town, filled with tourists and pilgrims during most of the year, but worth of visiting for at least a couple of days.

Basilica of St Francis - Assisi/Umbria

Basilica of St Francis - Assisi/Umbria

We had an amazing pizza at “Il Monaci”, whose entrance is in a stepped alley (Scaletti del Metastasio) off the north side of Via Fontebella, a few steps down from Piazzetta in downtown Assisi. I had never had truffles before, but will not comment on that now, as it believe it deserves a special blog entry.

"Tartufo nero" from "Il Monaci" - Assisi/Umbria

Pizza de Tartufo Nero from Il Monaci - Assisi/Umbria

These two pizzas had a few things in common: (a) first quality ingredients, specially the tomatoes, the mozzarella cheese and the olive oil; (b) they were baked in wooden ovens, acquiring a natural and unique smokiness; (c) a crunchy and delicate crust and (d) abundant toppings.

Have you had a similar experience? Wanna share your favorite pizzas with us? Get in touch.

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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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