From The Desk of the Publisher
I visit Italy at least once or twice during the course of a year, either for business or pleasure. Italy has so much that I will never see, or experience all of the treasures it offers, but I have so much enjoyment trying. I am working on a two week itinerary now for my visit in October and thinking of including the regions of Piemonte, Veneto and Liguria.
Piemonte is a region that may have played the most crucial part in Italy’s unification, but I must admit I am most interested in the reputation it has gained as a most interesting culinary region, with Alba, Asti, Monferrato and Torino, offering distinctive specialties. With the rich and extraordinary variety of dishes for which Piemonte is famed, it would be easy for me to stay here a week. After all, it is the season for porcini, truffles, game and regional pastas, but let us not forget the famous cheeses and what I think is the finest wine making region in Italy, with Barolo, Barbaresco and Asti Spumonte leading the way.
Liguria, the Italian Riviera, once rivaled Venice as a commercial and financial power of the Mediterranean. One would think that the Ligurian cooking would be based on the sea, but herbs and vegetables are its basis. The most famous food which many call their “flag” is the pesto sauce which is served with a variety of regional pastas. I have found it quite interesting that this staple of the Ligurian table varies from coastal town to coastal town, each with its own version. Some make it with pine nuts; some with walnuts; another may add cream, while another adds ricotta.
The wines of Liguria are not widely exported but one of its most popular wines, Cinque Terre, is named for the centuries-old seaside villages which dot the Riviera coast line. I would like to take this year’s group to the Cinque Terre and to magnificent Portofino.
The food of the Veneto may be called delicate and colorful because of the Venetian influence, but I have found the rest of the region offers a more robust and rustic fare that includes game and meat (farmed pigs and cattle) partnered with polenta and rice. Shellfish is most common in Venice. The wines of this region are noteworthy with Bardolino, Valpolicella and Soave being the most popular. I would not call them distinctive. For my palate, there is one wine that is special in the Veneto and that is Amarone. If grappa is your pleasure, the heart of production is in the town of Bassano del Grappa, which is where my friend Jacopo Poli produces what I think is the smoothest and finest grappa in the world. This year’s trip includes a day boat trip up the Brenta River to see the 200 Villas inspired by Paladio. Very beautiful.
So now that I have shared my thoughts for this gastronomic adventure, I must fine tune it logistically to accommodate travel and comfort. This should be a good trip, with little bus travel, more relaxation and lots of eating and drinking!
If you want to comment on my column, just send me an email at BFSicily@gmail.com