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Bologna revisited -- September 2011 (quite long)

I have not had the chance.
Apropos Serghei, it's also worth mentioning that their passatelli are my gold standard, have not yet been surpassed and I am a passatelli eater.
Did you come across zuppa imperiale on the menu anywhere, out of curiosity?

Via Piella, 12, Bologna, Emilia-Romagna 40126, IT

Oct 22, 2011
ciccia bomba in Italy

Bologna revisited -- September 2011 (quite long)

I wholeheartedly second your opinion of the secondi at da Serghei. Their stinco di maiale is exquisite, and I've never been disappointed by any of their roasts.

Via Piella, 12, Bologna, Emilia-Romagna 40126, IT

Oct 17, 2011
ciccia bomba in Italy

Everything you hope to find in an off-the-beaten path country trattoria

Sorry for my silence, been off harvesting olives in an internet/cell-deprived area. Yes, it was awesome. My father in-law paid for everything, so I don't know the exact prices, but he's not a big spender for ordinary Sunday lunch. 30 euros each sounds about right.
KasieB, if you need more suggestions in the area just say so -- I have a ton of favorites. With family in Termoli I've done a lot of exploring nearby.
bob96, My brother in-law is the priest in the next town over, so he was the source of the recommendation, but it is indeed in the Slow Food guide.

Oct 17, 2011
ciccia bomba in Italy

Everything you hope to find in an off-the-beaten path country trattoria

Sunday my in-laws treated my husband and I to a spectacular Sunday lunch at Trattoria La Nostrana, in Montelongo, a hilltop villageabout a half-hour inland from Termoli, Molise. The area is way off the beaten path for most tourists, but well worth the visit.

The owner/chef Maria Concetta Pannunzio has curated every detail of the space and the food to produce what is more of a living archive of Molisana cuisine than an ordinary trattoria. Maria Concetta displays a certificate of recognition as "esperta di cucina molisana" without any exaggeration: she knows the wild herbs of the nearby hills, the exact varietals of semi-dried grapes to use, the lost recipes that even the geriatric locals no longer make. She makes everything possible in house: jams and conserves, breads, sott'oli; and her ingredients are local: typical pecorino at various stages of aging, salumi and cured meats from local producers.

She offered us a couple of choices of primi, but for the most part we ate what she brought us. We began with a series of antipasti that were each more wonderful than the last:

homemade bread and carmelized onion conserves
salumi: prosciutto, pancetta, salsiccia and sopressata
sott'oli: zucchine, eggplant, carrots, cauliflower, wild asparagus, whole picled garlic cloves and olives (all preserved in oil)
eggplant stuffed with breadcrumbs and a sharp pecorino, with thick tomato sauce
savory potato torte
peperoni secchi fritti: dried sweet peppers, crisped in olive oil
local cheeses: several types of pecorino, some with truffles, and caramelized figs

For our primi we decided to taste both options offered which were homemade troccoli with 1) ragu redolent with chunks of pork tripe and other flavorful and rich cuts; and 2) 'con la mollica', a hyperlocal pasta condiment based on a breadcrumbs flavored with garlic, spicy pepper, olive oil and sauced with tomato sauce with salt cod. The ragu was quite good but the pasta con la mollica was outstanding, both as a rarity and as an impeccable execution of strong flavors in balance. The troccoli themselves were fat and al dente, like thicker, toothier spaghetti alla chitarra.

For the second course Maria brought us a brasato di manzo, braised beef slow-cooked in wine and aromatics, with mashed potatoes. What you wish your Italian grandmother made.

To finish she brought us slivers of 'tronco di castagne', a chestnut and chocolate dessert, and a crostata with homemade jam. They were lovely, but not being much of a sweets person I was still overwhelmed by the previous courses to take much note. After coffee we asked for digestivi, and Maria brought us bottles of nocino that her late mother had bottled in 1998, and her own Mistra', an anise and liquorice liqueur. I felt guilty pouring the bottle of nocino, a reliquary more than a digestivo, but I am too big a fan of an aged nocino to pass it up. Well worth the guilt.

Her wine list includes the best of the regional wines, but the house red is very good too. There is really no detail that Maria has not considered, and has somehow arrived at a perfection of a homey local cuisine taken to the level of art. I plan to go back regularly, as I have the good fortune of having family in the area. Go, adventure into the unknown region of Molise and put yourself in the capable hands of Maria Concetta; she can show you some of the best the region has to offer.

Oct 04, 2011
ciccia bomba in Italy

Sagra season is beginning...

If you find yourself in Emilia Romagna this week:

La Sagra del Castrato; Bagnara di Romagna from April 29 to 3 May 3.
Castrato=castrated lamb, older than agnello; the menu for the sagra includes ragu di castrato, castrato sausages, chops, roasts...

La Sagra del Carciofo Moretto; Brisighella from May 1-2.
Carciofo moretto is a local specialty heirloom artichoke. On offer: various dishes based on artichokes.

Apr 28, 2010
ciccia bomba in Italy

Sagra season is beginning...

Thought I'd throw up a general recommendation: a fun way to eat and explore in Italy is to plan trips around "sagre e feste", especially the eno-gastronomic oriented ones. Yes, they sometimes are innundated by booths of plastic toys and crap, Neapolitans in their neon porchetta trucks blasting Lady Gaga and carnival rides, but if you persist and get to the food tent you may be greatly rewarded.

For example, last October I went to the Sagra dell'Anguilla in Comacchio. Grilled eel and polenta, fritto misto, cuttlefish and peas... delicious. Not as good of course, as a less logistically-challenged restaurant meal, but great fun to sit at community tables with elderly Comacchese ladies evaluating the food and sharing how they make their eel. This followed by a leisurely stroll around the town (delightful), some purchases of marinated eel and anchovies, a tour of the old cannery and a hike around the old sea salt dikes makes for a memorable weekend.

More recently there was the Funerale della Saracca in Oliveto, a miniscule Emilian hilltop town that hosts a late carnevale bacchanalia with abundant wine and plates of smoked herring and polenta. The villagers dress up in rags, form street bands, and entirely devolve into madness. The lottery is a raucuous mess bordering on riot. And finally they have a funeral procession for the herring (symbol of deprivation, poverty). A ripping good time and worthy of a PhD thesis for some Bahktin-influenced anthropology grad student.

And upcoming, for the more genteel, will be this year's Figli di un Bacco minore (Children of a lesser Bacchus) in Bagnocavallo, a Slow Food joint that features autocthonous (native) wines; a chance to taste some incredible wines and be inroduced to little-known and in some cases nearly extinct varietals. Hundreds of them. Including bottles that have three-figure price tags. I've been several times and as the popularity grows it seems to be losing the original charm, when the sommeliers acted as guides to their regional booths. It is still a great event (and not too pricey, if you consider how much top quality wine you taste for around 30 euros).

If you invest some time sifting through Italian websites you can find some gems. These are a few I know of (in Italian):

So does anyone else have favorite sagre? It would be great to hear about these kind of events in advance or reported back afterward on Chowhound.

*** I have no professional or personal attachment to any of these events, sites or to the tourism industry; I'm just trying to start a discussion.

Apr 25, 2010
ciccia bomba in Italy

OMG- Roasted Cauliflower

try asparagus this way too. amazing. ALSO I find that adding salt halfway through cooking instead of at the beginning helps vegs get brown before they get wilty.

Mar 12, 2010
ciccia bomba in Home Cooking

Best Classic Italian Cookbooks?

Pellegrino Artusi's La Scienza in Cucina e l'Arte di Mangiar Bene remains my favorite. It's not really a useful recipe book but is such a delightful read, it's worth returning to periodically to read aloud as fables: the story of the good-for-nothing prodigal son returned home for his mother's cappelletti, for example.
The Casa Artusi has the full text in pdf available if you read Italian (and 1890's bourgeois Italian in particular).
The translation by Murtha Baca is very well done; strongly recommended.

However, is not practical to use if you're looking for functional recipes with clear instructions. If you get bent out of shape by the idea of the quantity "nonnulla" (literally, a not nothing; a trifle), then this is not a book for you. If you read cookbooks as inspiration rather than as rulebooks then you will really enjoy Artusi's chatty descriptions of classic dishes.

The Cucchiaio d'Argento is indeed the Joy of Cooking equivalent of Italy. A good basic reference.

I haven't read Il Talismano Della FelicitĂ  in a while but I remember it as a rather dated 1960's housewife manual. Perhaps I'm off base, or perhaps it has been updated.

Jan 10, 2010
ciccia bomba in Home Cooking

Bringing food from italy through US customs

just a food history side note, one hypothesis on the origins of the salami-inside-caciocavallo type cheeses (more common in Italo-American shops than in Italy in my experience) is that it was devised as a way to smuggle meats inside cheese, that is, a suspect product likely to be confiscated inside an innocuous one.

Jan 04, 2010
ciccia bomba in Not About Food

Bringing food from italy through US customs

Customs officials can seize ANY items they interpret to be prohibited, and you basically have no recourse. They destroy the stuff, and may give you a serious fine. Whether you want to risk that is your business.

I travel from Italy to the US all the time, so here's what I do to avoid problems:
1) Declare everything on your customs form. Make a detailed list in language anyone can understand, for example write "dried farro grain". The idea is to let customs know you are aware of regulations and that if they open your bag they will find exactly what you've written, nothing sneaky. Use words like "preserved", "canned", "dried" to communicate that you have no fresh foods.
2) Carry no meats, cured or otherwise, because they are prohibited. Your boar sausage is a definite no. If you're thinking of risking it, consider whether the beagles will ignore the smell of boar, even the faintest bit transferred to the outside of a vacuum pack.
See the full list of prohibited items at:

2) no fresh fruits or produce
3) no fresh cheeses. Designate how many months aged on your customs form. I believe the limit is 6 months. If the cheese is not labled customs may or may not believe your estimate of age.

Your oil, anchovies and sauce, dried beans and farro should be fine. I hypothetically may have brought salami into the US at some point, it is possible, but that would not have been in the current airport security climate. And again, it is a risk and you should inform yourself and evaluate for yourself if it is one you want to take.

A final note: be very careful with oil and liquids in checked baggage, the pressure changes, extreme temperatures and rough handling make it really difficult to be secure that they will not leave you with a bag full of greasy fishy clothes.

Jan 02, 2010
ciccia bomba in Not About Food

Looking for wood fired bread bakery in Tuscany, Umbria or Emilia-Romagna

yes, i live in Bologna.

Dec 10, 2009
ciccia bomba in Italy

Looking for wood fired bread bakery in Tuscany, Umbria or Emilia-Romagna

'cornetti salati' or sometimes 'vuoti salati' are not some kind of Bologna specialty. they refer simply to unfilled unsweetened croissants. agreed, they are better than the sugary variety but hardly worth a special mention.

Dec 04, 2009
ciccia bomba in Italy

Classic Roman Dishes

spaghetti cacio e pepe comes to mind. also fried zucchini blossoms.

Nov 29, 2009
ciccia bomba in Italy

Looking for wood fired bread bakery in Tuscany, Umbria or Emilia-Romagna

Serious wood-fired oven breads are prevalent in southern Italy; not north of Abruzzo. There are of course pizzerie that advertise that they use wood, but that is no indication of quality.
Trying to find great bread in central Italy is going to be difficult, in Emilia Romagna, in particular. It is not the strong suit. There are wonderful local food cultures but bread and pizza are not the best part, they're pale imported imitations. In Bologna the best bread on offer is actually brought on trucks from Puglia, a day-old at ridiculous prices. In Tuscany you will find handsome loaves of pane toscano, unsalted, which can be good alongside a salty baccalĂ  or something, but doesn't stand up on its own, regardless of what its fans say.
the forums are full of opinions on Tuscan, Bolognese, and Umbrian restaurants. here's a local Bologna tip: in the mercato di mezzi, little side streets of gastronomy near Piazza Maggiore, get yourself a couple of etti (100g) each of some mortadella, culatello, and whatever salumi strike your fancy, some cheese, some cipolline, and other goodies and take your purchases into Osteria del Sole, get a bottle of wine at the counter and sit down at a rustic wooden table to eat your diy feast. It's nothing fancy, but it's a fun way to try the cured pork specialties in a real osteria, in operation since 1465. strictly bring your own eats.

Nov 28, 2009
ciccia bomba in Italy

Weekend in Bologna - Jan or Feb 2010

I wholeheartedly second sambamaster's recommendations. Trattoria Gigina and Serghei are both really excellent. Both do great traditional Bolognese food.
I especially love the passatelli in brodo at Serghei. Among their seconds the stinco di maiale, faraone arrosto and lombo di maiale al latte are all great choices.
At Gigina I once had calves liver in caul fat with bay that left me speechless. The owner is also a fun guy, if you get to meet him.
Neither of these places is cheap.
General eating advice in Bologna: you can hardly ever go wrong with the classics: lasagne, tagliatelle con ragu, gramigna con salsiccia (curly noodles in rich sausage ragu), passatelli (breadcrumbs and cheese pressed into fat noodles) or tortellini in brodo. Seconds might include the aforementioned stinco, faraone (guinea fowl), polpettini (meatballs, in sauce), various chops of pork or castrato (mutton, very good).
The typical Bolognese bollito is hard to come by: traditionally served from a cart from which you can choose which meats, sauces and accompaniments you prefer. Trattoria da Gianni (Via Clavature) does an excellent bollito already plated, and la Gigina also serves a plated bollito. The only cart service place I know is da Bertino (Via delle Lame). It is entirely unfussy, ugly, and yet the best 'authentic' Bologna experience I can recommend. Either brush up on your Italian or keep a meat translations phrasebook nearby because they serve testicles and other bits, very tasty but not to everyone's liking. But try it all, doused in friggione (carmelized onion and tomato sauce) or salsa verde and wash it down with a dry Lambrusco (not because Lambrusco is good, but because that's how it's done).
The last Slowfood Osterie d'Italia I bought (2006) listed Caminetto d'Oro, Meloncello and Trattoria del Rosso in addition to Serghei and Gigina
Trattoria del Rosso is cheap, casual, bustling, and hit or miss. One of the few places that always serves crescentine fritte, fried pillowy breads with cheese and salumi. It does real Bolognese food and the primi are good. Go for lunch if you're not too interested in secondi (which are not terrible, just lackluster).
Meloncello is known for one thing, secondi in umido. Stuffed zucchine in umido, polpettine in umido, everything in red sauce with peas and potatoes. They are the last establishment that still maintains this historical part of la cucina Bolognese. What is noteworthy about this is the seasoning -- heavy on the early modern spices, nutmeg, clove -- which is what sets real Bolognese cooking apart. The primi are good too.
Caminetto d'Oro is a very elegant restaurant, very expensive; unparalleled in their attention to the ingredients: culatello, bistecca fiorentina, a beautiful cheese cart, fantastic wine list.
There are lots of small places all over the city, most do a respectable version of tagliatelle con ragu but not much else in the way of real Bolognese.

You should always make reservations, there is always a shortage of tables in Bologna.

Oct 22, 2009
ciccia bomba in Italy