Deep Regionality

5.April 2021

One surprise about living in Italy is that although I'm so close, I'm still so far. Many  products that I first met in Boston, Los Angeles, Berlin, or Sydney, are not available outside of their region of origin. One of the few cheeses I could find in Berlin that I liked was a Pecorino Canestrato, from Sicily. Cannot get that here in the North. I love pane guttiau from Sardinia, but can only find unoiled pane carasau here (and generally quite low quality and stale at that).

Burrata, a specialty of Apulia in the South, having become an international fad, is easier to find in Berlin than Turin. 

Piemonte is famous for two things that are not on my favorites list: truffles and hazelnuts. Its most famous cheeses, Castelmagno and Robiola are not especially to my liking either.

In some of my travels I have followed gourmet guides by the letter, and was duly rewarded. In other cases the guides are just a starting point, after which I need to do my own exploring... By this method I have discovered here two foods that I have been waiting all my life for: Focaccia di Recco (from Liguria) and Zeppoline.

The cheeses I enjoy most here are the super-fresh ones: tomino, primo sale di capra, marelle, and stracchino (which I believe to be the origin of macaroni and cheese), as well as the luxury testun al barolo (an ubriacone). More about hunting cheese

Turin is also the point source of breadsticks, an industrial table decoration in the US, but here made with very precise techniques and a variety of ingredients. The rubatá are hand-rolled, but my favorite are the segale (rye) ones, with butter.

I'm also working my way through all the red wines, settling on Nebbiolo and the unusual Ruché over the famous Barbaresco and Barbera.

But another interesting dimension of regionality is that wine farmers tend to prefer their own wine over what is deemed "excellent" by professionals. Regionality and locality is not only an exoticism for the tourist, an eco-commitment for the ethical, or a superlative for the gourmet. It is also the taste and landscape of home, and the incomparable resonance of one's own land and labor.

Foccaccia di Recco

Zeppoline filled with Zabayone

Three Barberas

Tomino and Rubatá

Testun al Barolo