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Southern Italy


albiston
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After a long summer at work, my last two weeks were dedicated to a much needed and awaited vacation spent between Campania and Sicily, enjoying the weather, the food and the people in what still is for me "back home". I'll probably be posting pics and stories as I find time (my collegues at work were just waiting for me to get back :rolleyes: ) to write and edit the pictures. Hope you'll bear with me even if the rythm will be a bit slow... well, just as it should be since we're talking about Southern Italy!

Our stay was part planned (the accomodation mainly and a few restaurants) and part free-fall/take what comes and both the planned destinations and the casual ones never disappointed. The first stop was my parents place in Naples for a quick lunch which turned out to be much longer than that, before picking up our car and driving to our first destination in Agropoli.

We got our first plesent surprise as soon as we arrived: my parents had been off to a short fishing session with friends in the Gulf of Naples coming back with a small pesce spada (swordfish), some young lampuga (dolphin fish) and a tuna-related fishes (which were already frozen for future use).

The front part of the swordfish got cooked as small steaks for the kids (my son Saami appreciated greatly) while us grown-ups enjoyed the final part of the tail in a tomato, mint and sword fish pasta sauce of Sicilian inspiration.

The head:

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The tail:

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And our pasta dish, very pleasant and fresh through the use of mint:

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That was followed by one of the two dolphin fishes, each about 1kg

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prepared by cutting their filets into bite size pieces, frying them and adding these to a tomato, olive and caper sauce

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I had never had dolphin fish before -I can't even recall seeing it on sale in fish shops- and was positively surprised by how tasty and firm the flesh of this fish is.

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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We spent most of the following week in Agropoli, simply enjoying the local strands, especially the one of Trentova just south of the city, and taking things easy.

Food-wise things were equally easy going. We shopped and cooked without too much hurry and ate out a couple of times. It still surprises me to see how many Southern Italian regional cuisines still remain more tied to the land products than to sea food, especially considering the length of the Italian coast line. Agropoli seemed no exception to this rule: I only found one large fish shop offering mainly "popular" fishes (at least popular locally), i.e. mainly swordfish, anchovies, mussels, clams and mixed fish for soup.

Still, I'm not complaining. We were lucky enough to live very close to the city market and so we filled up on the seasonal offer: great yellow peaches locally called percoche, all sort of peppers, delicious aubergines, bitter rabe greens and porcini. Some of the pictures are quite blurry (most so much so that they don't deserve posting), so sorry for that.

From the market:

a few different pepper sorts,from top left, clockwise: corna di toro, bull's horn peppers;friggiarielli, sweet peperoncini; papaccelle, round peppers often stuffed or preserved in vinegar.

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Porcini, which ended in part in a risotto, in part dried

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Aubergines, to be used in a pasta together with mozzarella and cherry tomatoes sauce

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I took the chance to prepare a few of my favorite vegetable-based dishes of the Neapolitan tradition, which I simply cannot knock together here in Germany for lack of ingredients. My favorite definitely is penne (or any short pasta) with the friggiarielli peppers pictured before and below. I've tried substituting these with other peppers I find on sale in Middle Eastern shops here but it just isn't the same. These have a marked but pleasant bitterness paired with a characteristic aroma which is unique.

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To prepare the pasta sauce the peppers are simply stemmed, washed and dried then shallow fried in olive oil till tender. Then you simply prepare a basic garlic flavored tomato sauce keeping some of the frying oil as cooking fat and add the peppers back into the pan once the sauce tastes ready. I like my pasta with friggiarielli as is, but many add parmesan, which also adds a nice savory note to the dish.

gallery_9330_174_55698.jpg

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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Off to a great start!

No herbs in the pepper sauce then?  Pecorino? Mint? How spicy are the peppers?

That's right, no herbs, tough you could add a couple of basil leafs if you wanted. Mint is very rarely used in Campania, mostly for scapece dishes. In a sense the use of herbs (or lack thereof) is one of the many defining aspects of Italian regional cuisines.

Pecorino could work fine, though I would still go for the non-cheese version at first, just to enjoy the pure pepper aroma. The peppers themselves are not spicy at all.

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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Alberto, you are making me drool! The fish was beautiful and that pepper sauce looks mighty tasty. The porcini, however, knocked me to the floor. I am always amazeed no matter how often I see or visit them, of the quality of the products in the markets of Italy, France and Spain.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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alberto,

which wine do you drink with the dish?

is there is dish which pairs the friggiarielli with meat or sausage?

if yes, could you elaborate?

awaiting eagerly the continuation of the story!

athinaeos

civilization is an everyday affair

the situation is hopeless, but not very serious

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Wonderful photos, Albiston. The pink swordfish is just mouthwatering, both raw and in the pasta dish.

The aubergine reference piqued my interest especially,

gallery_9330_174_31049.jpg

as your description of aubergine with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella fits an excellent pasta recipe given to me several years ago by an Italian who told me it was from Capri. I'd never seen the particular combination before, and now your report leads toward a possible regional affiliation.

Would you, if you have a chance, elaborate on your preparation? My Italian coworker specified ruote pasta for his dish, which also includes chiffonade of basil.

Priscilla

Writer, cook, & c. ● #TacoFriday observant ●  Twitter    Instagram

 

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I'm addicted to the frigerelli (sp??) pepper. There is only one little old man in the Umbertide market that grows them. I'm a loyal customer. And I agree with you...no cheese, no herbs, the pepper flavor is that full and that good.

Lovely photos. Thanks for sharing.

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Alberto, you are making me drool! The fish was beautiful and that pepper sauce looks mighty tasty. The porcini, however, knocked me to the floor. I am always amazeed no matter how often I see or visit them, of the quality of the products in the markets of Italy, France and Spain.

John, the porcini look great don't they? Yet, off all the produce we bought they were maybe the only ones that were slightly disappointing. Unfortunately almost half were past their best, slightly soft and spongy, but luckily you can still use such porcini to make some mighty tasty dried mushrooms, which is exactly what we did.

I completely share your view on markets (and I would add Greece and Portugal to the list), no matter what their size and/or popularity might be. Another striking thing is how specialized in local products those markets are, at least if I compare them to those I experienced here in Germany or in England.

Lovely photographs Alberto, with all those frsh peppers, it is definately not Tuscany. I noticed Dolphinfish for sale in Greece, but was too stupid to eat them at the time, next time I will not be. Do you think the porcini are local or imported from the Balkans etc?

Thanks, Adam, I must admit I was inspired by your latest travel reports :smile: . The porcini are local product: there's plenty in Campania in the woods of Sannio, Irpinia and Cilento. Quite a bit of the stuff that is sold in Tuscany and northwards comes from here, though the Balkans are now the no.1 source.

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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alberto,

which wine do you drink with the dish? 

is there is dish which pairs the friggiarielli with meat or sausage?

if yes, could you elaborate?

Wine was a sore point in the first part of mny trip. We didn't manage to find a decent shop in Agropoli, though we didn't look that hard either.

If I remember correctly we drank a light red from Capri called Solaro with the dish, which was unfortunately already past its best. I suspected as much, wines from Capri usually should be drinked young and this was four years old, but I couldn't resist since I had only tasted this once years ago.

I'm addicted to the frigerelli (sp??) pepper. There is only one little old man in the Umbertide market that grows them. I'm a loyal customer. And I agree with you...no cheese, no herbs, the pepper flavor is that full and that good.

Lovely photos. Thanks for sharing.

Judith, frigerelli/friggirielli/friggiarielli are all possible spellings depending on where you are. Nice to find another fan here!

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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The aubergine reference piqued my interest especially,

as your description of aubergine with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella fits an excellent pasta recipe  given to me several years ago by an Italian who told me it was from Capri.  I'd never seen the particular combination before, and now your report leads toward a possible regional affiliation.

Would you, if you have a chance, elaborate on your preparation?  My Italian coworker specified ruote pasta for his dish, which also includes chiffonade of basil.

I'm not sure about it's origin, Capri comes as news to me. It is quite common to call "alla Siciliana" pasta dishes that have the combination of fried aubergines, tomato sauce and cheese of some sort, which goes back to the fact that aubergines were introduced by the Arabs in Sicily and spread from there to the rest of southern Italy.

My recipe is quite simple: I dice my aubergines, 1cm dice, and shallow fry them in olive oil. You could salt them before, as many do, but I personally like the slightly bitter and piquant taste of the aubergines at full power. Once golden I drain them on plenty of kitchen paper and reserve a tiny bit of the frying oil to prepare the sauce. In Italy you find some great canned cherry tomatoes nowaday, so I usually use these, otherwise use quartered raw cherry tomatoes. Once the sauce is ready -I don't use times just taste, you have to lose that raw tomato note- I add the aubergines back in and a few basil leaves and let the flavours blend together while the whole simmers for 5-10 minutes. You could add extra basil on top as chiffonade but you really need to add some to the sauce too to get a good strong basil aroma in there. The pasta i use is any "pasta corta" I have at hand: penne, ziti, tortiglioni... clearly ruote would be fine too. The shape you use is really a matter of personal preference. Once the pasta is dressed in the sauce I tham add about a handful per person of finely chopped mozzarella or provola, i.e. smoked mozzarella. It's important that the pasta is still piping hot when you add the cheese and that you mix really quickly otherwise the cheese won't properly melt, in the first case, or build a gigantic lump in the second.

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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Cilento has, as almost every tourist destination, its fair share of "must see" attractions. The compulsory one is definitely the ancient Greek city of Paestum

gallery_9330_174_43122.jpg

To avoid going too much OT, we paid the newly reorganized excavations museum a visit. Well worth a look, though it suffers from academic stiffens as most Italian museums do. Still, there's plenty of interesting finds to see. I was particularly intrigued by the "votive dishes" section, a small collection of dishes plated with ceramic replicas of food items. Guessing what the unidentified objects were was fun, but even better was looking at the items that strongly recall modern foods. In the one below, for example, the foremost item looks incredibly like a Spanish churro:

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Did the Greek invent the pastry bag and churros? And if the latter is true, what did they drip their churros into since they had no chocolate :cool::laugh: ? Fire away Adam :wink: .

To top our visit to Paestum we decided to follow Slow Food's suggestion and headed to La Pergola in Capaccio Scalo (Via Magna Grecia 1). We had received a few other good tips for the area, Il Ceppo in Agropoli and Nonna Sceppa also in Capaccio Scalo, but our three year old's eating times, adjusted to Germany, forced us to choose a place that opened slightly earlier than 8:30 PM.

Though the food did not blow us away everything was nice and the pizza our son ate (or better he ate half and his dear parents the rest :smile: ) was really good.

A happy but shy kid ready to dig in into his pizza:

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We preferred to pick our own from the menu. After a delicious buffalo milk ricotta flavored with lemon rind as pre-appetizer (yes, even trattorie are not immune to this nowadays) and a savory cake filled with ricotta porcini, and zucchini blossoms -OK but not more than that- we continued with some nice mezzanelli with tunafish bolognese,

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and a buffalo filet with porcini and runner beans

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It was my first time with buffalo meat (the European buffalo, the one that makes mozzarella, not the American one) and I found it quite tasty, like a more intense beef. It went really nice with the porcini, less so with the beans. Although we were quite stuffed I couldn't resist sharing a slice of torta caprese with my wife. This is a rather fudgy cake made with lots of almonds, chocolate (and butter), and one of my weak spots when it comes to dessert.

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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The aubergine reference piqued my interest especially,

as your description of aubergine with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella fits an excellent pasta recipe  given to me several years ago by an Italian who told me it was from Capri.  I'd never seen the particular combination before, and now your report leads toward a possible regional affiliation.

Would you, if you have a chance, elaborate on your preparation?  My Italian coworker specified ruote pasta for his dish, which also includes chiffonade of basil.

I'm not sure about it's origin, Capri comes as news to me. It is quite common to call "alla Siciliana" pasta dishes that have the combination of fried aubergines, tomato sauce and cheese of some sort, which goes back to the fact that aubergines were introduced by the Arabs in Sicily and spread from there to the rest of southern Italy.

My recipe is quite simple: I dice my aubergines, 1cm dice, and shallow fry them in olive oil. You could salt them before, as many do, but I personally like the slightly bitter and piquant taste of the aubergines at full power. Once golden I drain them on plenty of kitchen paper and reserve a tiny bit of the frying oil to prepare the sauce. In Italy you find some great canned cherry tomatoes nowaday, so I usually use these, otherwise use quartered raw cherry tomatoes. Once the sauce is ready -I don't use times just taste, you have to lose that raw tomato note- I add the aubergines back in and a few basil leaves and let the flavours blend together while the whole simmers for 5-10 minutes. You could add extra basil on top as chiffonade but you really need to add some to the sauce too to get a good strong basil aroma in there. The pasta i use is any "pasta corta" I have at hand: penne, ziti, tortiglioni... clearly ruote would be fine too. The shape you use is really a matter of personal preference. Once the pasta is dressed in the sauce I tham add about a handful per person of finely chopped mozzarella or provola, i.e. smoked mozzarella. It's important that the pasta is still piping hot when you add the cheese and that you mix really quickly otherwise the cheese won't properly melt, in the first case, or build a gigantic lump in the second.

Thank you, Albiston. This is so similar to the one I was given by my coworker, down to the specifying cherry tomatoes and smoked mozz ... intriguing!

His directions add the basil chiffonade to the dressed pasta while mixing in the cheese, and the heat activates its aroma nicely. However I think I will make sure basil gets in the quick tomato sauce next time, too!

And, your little boy is adorable!

Priscilla

Writer, cook, & c. ● #TacoFriday observant ●  Twitter    Instagram

 

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the meat of the bufala is a ubiquitous product in that area and, I agree, quite tasty. At Seliano we had it a number of different ways, all excellent.

That pizza in particular is making me hungry and I just had lunch!

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Interesting that it is "tunafish bolognese", not ragu etc. :smile:

Quite simple to explain actually: in Campania "ragu" is only Neapolitan style ragu, i.e. a sauce based mainly on pork meat (usually ribs) and tomato, traditionally conserva -i.e. sun dried tomato concentrate, what Sicilians call strattu-, but more and more often made with tomato concentrate. What they make up there in Northern Italy is simple "la Bolognese" :rolleyes: .

Try to convnce a Neapolitan that ragu Bolognese also deserves to be defined as ragu if you can :wink::laugh: .

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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the meat of the bufala is a ubiquitous product in that area and, I agree, quite tasty. At Seliano we had it a number of different ways, all excellent.

I imagine it's the perfect way to get rid of the excess male buffaloes. The mozzarella makers we visited, Vannulo, had a ratio of something like 1 adult male to 50 females in their farm.

That pizza in particular is making me hungry and I just had lunch!

There will be more of that soon :wink:

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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Interesting that it is "tunafish bolognese", not ragu etc. :smile:

Quite simple to explain actually: in Campania "ragu" is only Neapolitan style ragu, i.e. a sauce based mainly on pork meat (usually ribs) and tomato, traditionally conserva -i.e. sun dried tomato concentrate, what Sicilians call strattu-, but more and more often made with tomato concentrate. What they make up there in Northern Italy is simple "la Bolognese" :rolleyes: .

Try to convnce a Neapolitan that ragu Bolognese also deserves to be defined as ragu if you can :wink::laugh: .

I imagine I would have as much luck with the Neopolitans and Northern ragu, as my sister-in-law did with trying to name her Northern Italian baby Sebastiano. Still I can imagine the true horror of both Southeners and Northeners to the information that ragu is most likely French in origin. :wink:

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Since Kevin complained about the delay in the continuation of this thread I'll try to be as speedy as possible now that I'm free of more pressing work commitments :wink::biggrin:. So one last post about Cilento before moving to Naples again for a short stop and then on to Sicily.

One of the food-related highlights of our trip was definitely our visit to Vannulo, one of the only two producers of organic and raw milk Mozzarella di Bufala in Italy. We had a chance to have a short chat with one of the supervisors of the farm while he showed us the mozzarella shaping phase and buffalo pens, which was extremely interesting even for someone like me who had already visited quite a few buffalo farms and mozzarella producers before, one of the standard organized school-visits if you are a pupil in Campania. Vannulo is unique in a few ways. Their choice to go organic meant they had to completely change the way buffalos are reared, fed and cured. This caused a reduction in the amount of milk produced per animal but also means this milk is much richer in fat, giving an incredibly rich mozzarella. The other characteristic that makes them stand apart from other producers is the fact that they only sell directly on the premises, and its products are so popular that there's always a queue and it is actually better to phone ahead and make a reservation.

I couldn't resist the temptation of a few buffalo pictures; these animals are just great.

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And they definitely know how to chill out.

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The funniest thing we saw there was this back scratcher, below, in one of the pens. Part of the buffalos are kept in a special "clean" pen, instead of in the more usual mud pens, where they are showered with water at regular intervals. This is done to produce a milk with a decreased bacterial charge without using chemical means. The milk will be used to make the starter culture necessary to acidify the cheese curds, a fundamental step to obtain a stretchable curd and also one that can have a great effect on the taste of mozzarella. The buffalos seemed to be really enjoying the back scratcher and actually stood in a queue to have a go.

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Since we could not decide which products to buy we left with about 1.5 kg of mozzarella plus buffalo ricotta, yogurts and butter. Just enough for two meals :biggrin: . The mozzarella is sold as bocconcini, bite size pieces, aversana, a 500g mozzarella, treccia, plaited mozzarella, and sometimes as provola, i.e. smoked mozzarella, which we did not manage to try. When you buy these you are advised to eat them in the next eight hours to taste them at their best, something which is quite common in Southern Italy. I absolutely do not agree with this notion. Fresh mozzarella tastes fine, but if you store it in its shipping liquid for about 24 hours (but not longer) you give a chance to those bacteria present in the starter I just mentioned to get to work and give a new deepness to mozzarella's taste. If you wait more than a day the mozzarella will have already started to turn slightly acid, so if you have any left overs the best is cooking with them.

Treccia and aversana, between the best mozzarella I ever tasted:

gallery_9330_174_37513.jpg

Between all the other products we tasted the best were definitely the coffee yogurt/pudding, rich and with a very strong espresso flavor, and the ricotta. I must admit I'm a sucker for buffalo ricotta: for me it beats any sheep or cow ricotta by miles.

gallery_9330_174_9760.jpg

Apart eating it plain on bread, it is great for cooking pasta dishes -my favourite is simply pasta with butter, parmesan, ricotta and a little black pepper- or even sweets. Mix some with a little cocoa, some sugar and a drop of good rhum, sit back and enjoy :smile:.

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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"Hey, get outta here with that camera!!!!"

"Grrrrr!"

When you buy these you are advised to eat them in the next eight hours to taste them at their best, something which is quite common in Southern Italy. I absolutely do not agree with this notion. Fresh mozzarella tastes fine, but if you store it in its shipping liquid for about 24 hours (but not longer) you give a chance to those bacteria present in the starter I just mentioned to get to work and give a new deepness to mozzarella's taste. If you wait more than a day the mozzarella will have already started to turn slightly acid, so if you have any left overs the best is cooking with them.

That's a similar principle to mozarella we follow here in the U.S.! Except it's in weeks, not hours. :rolleyes:

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"Hey, get outta here with that camera!!!!"

"Grrrrr!"

The story actually goes more like this:

Front left buffalo to buffalo in the back - "Grrrr! Stop it! I'm fed up of you using my shoulders as a pillow!"

Buffalo in the back snores :smile: .

That's a similar principle to mozarella we follow here in the U.S.!  Except it's in weeks, not hours.  :rolleyes:

Oh yes, we call that cheese "scamorza" in Italy :wink: .

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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Ciao Alberto! Lovely photos of the buffalo, they are rather loveable creatures, aren't they?

I have a question, in our travels around Italy to mozzarella and parmigiana producers, one thing that struck us American students, was that the cows did not have access to outdoor fields to graze in or just to be outside. The cows were in one barn, and twice a day they walked to the milking barn and that was it. It seems as if your buffalo got to go outside. So, my question is: is this standard practise in Italy to not allow the cows or buffalo outside? Or is outside only permitted for organic producers? Or is it just a matter of space? Not that the animals seemed miserable, but it certainly struck us as strange.

Thanks!

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I have a question, in our travels around Italy to mozzarella and parmigiana producers, one thing that struck us American students, was that the cows did not have access to outdoor fields to graze in or just to be outside. The cows were in one barn, and twice a day they walked to the milking barn and that was it.  It seems as if your buffalo got to go outside.  So, my question is: is this standard practise in Italy to not allow the cows or buffalo outside? Or is outside only permitted for organic producers? Or is it just a matter of space?  Not that the animals seemed miserable, but it certainly struck us as strange.

Thanks!

I am absolutely not an expert in this. I can only describe what I've seen visiting a few cheese makers in Campania and in the eastern Italian regions. There is a distinction between those who rise their cows in the mountains and hills (few) and the big industrial and semi-industrial producers in the Po plain. In the mountains cows are mostly free to graze alpine meadows during summer, and then move to barns in the winter. In the plains what I've seen is pretty similar to what you describe: cows kept in barns as you describe or small pens. I don't think there's any particular rule that prevents cows from staying outside so I'd assume it has more to do with space per animal ratios. I never saw miserable animals either, but you do taste the difference in the cheese.

For buffalos the situation is somewhat different I think: they need a humid/wet environment to thrive. Actually the disappearance of marshes and wetlands, up to the 1950s reduced buffalo numbers quite a bit. No chance of using cows, sheep or goats as farm animals in those areas, so buffalos came in handy.

Edited by albiston (log)
Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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Before I jump to the Sicilian part of our vacation, I wanted to post a couple of pizza pics from Naples. I was actually looking forward to trying out a couple of new pizzerie that I had heard a lot about in the last couple of years, particularly "Il Pizzaiolo del presidente", or at least visiting a favourite of mine, Starita on Via Materdei. Unfortunately all of them were booked full and so the simple solution was to buy a pizza to go with all the trimmings from a decent pizzeria near my parent's place, Vittoria on Via Pisciscelli.

The "trimmings", a plate of Neapolitan fritto misto:

gallery_9330_174_27031.jpg

and pizza, a simple margherita made with provola, i.e. smoked mozzarella:

gallery_9330_174_4614.jpg

Since one pizza was not enough :wink: my little brother -little as in younger, he's 10 cm taller than me and a few kilos heavier- brought a few samples from a joint specializing in pizza al taglio, called Happy Hour (terrible name, I know), where he helps out from time to time. Pizza al taglio is not so popular in Naples, and no wonder with all the great pizza out there, and more commonly associated with Rome. The guy running this place is trying to bring great pizza al taglio to Naples. He certainly puts a lot of effort in using great ingredients and makes an impressive dough, ripened for 48 hours.

gallery_9330_174_32099.jpg

Most pizzas were really good, especially the ones with zucchini blossoms, zucchini and gorgonzola and the one with potatoes herbs and hot sausage from Calabria. Should you ever be in the center of Naples looking for a quick snack this is a good address to keepin mind. The place is on vico Pisanelli, between Via Toledo and the Castel Nuovo, close to the San Carlo Theater and Royal Palace.

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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