Throughout spring and summer, posters adorn Italian walls with the word ‘sagra’ clearly taking prominent position in the advertising, so what does this word mean?
The literal translation is festival, but the definition of sagra is a local fair and celebration connected with food and local produce; for example, the town of Baone, in Veneto, hosts an annual Sagra dei Bisi (festival of the green pea). During the event, the streets are filled with people dressed in medieval costume and local residents prepare different dishes that must include the peas within the recipe. Among a number of traditional recipes, the most famous is definitely Risi e Bisi (a delicious risotto with peas). After all the tastings, every evening culminates in a music show with Italian live bands.
Actually, almost every town in Italy at some point during the year will host a food festival. This year for example is the 80th Fish Festival at Chioggia, Venice. The sagra lasts for ten days and attracts over 100,000 people each year; music and theatre act as a backdrop as visitors sample fish dishes, fresh from the Adriatic sea, such as stuffed clams and mussels, griddled sole, pickled cockles and mixed fried fish. Attending a sagra is the perfect way to immerse yourself in Italian life. Add to this the opportunity to sample local cuisine as you sit at long communal tables to eat with the local population and you get a real feel for how Italians come together to celebrate.
Finding out about a sagra is very straightforward as most of the posters follow a similar format: the main heading will tell you where the festival is held and the date; these are mostly in bold typeface and large enough to read from a passing vehicle. Once you’ve found one that interests you, the poster will give you the start time, destination and other events that will be staged. You don’t have to be a local to attend and most towns welcome outsiders and tourists to their celebrations. The lines of parked cars stretching out of the town will indicate that you have arrived at the right place, and those who arrive early are usually the last to leave due to the sheer volume of traffic attending! In fact, some sagre (the plural of sagra) are so popular that the towns have a coach service to ferry people in and out of town to keep the streets clear for dancing.
Sagre take place throughout the year, with many taking place in the summer, so during your holiday to Italy this year, keep a keen eye on the local posters and find a local sagra, and for one evening become an honorary Italian and enjoy all the hospitality the town has to offer!
As a non-Italian, the two biggest challenges you may face in discovering the Italian culture and cuisine probably are: cooking “pasta al dente” and preparing a true, authentic, Italian coffee (everywhere known as espresso).
Essentially, there are two to make an Italian coffe: with the traditional three-chambered aluminium pot, like the famous Bialetti’s Moka, known as Macchinetta or Caffettiera, or with an espresso machine.
In both cases quality is, however, quality is of the absolute importance. No faked products here! The same goes, of course, for the quality of the coffee. Only choose Italian brands that have been roasted and ground especially for espresso machines or moka machines.
Italians themselves claim that the quality of their coffee ultimately depends on the purity of the water. So, unless you lives in Naples (the Italian city where supposedly they make the best espresso), we suggest you use bottled instead of tap water.
Even though the investment is much higher in case you decide to opt for an espresso machine, it is also relatively easier to select one that will make you good espressos.
It may be difficult to find a good traditional coffee machine, better if you choose for a good brand right from the start (not necessarily the most expensive one!). The coffee brand is also crucial to prepare a good espresso. An important advice is to take great care of your coffee maker and to replace the filter and the rubber ring as often as needed. Never (never!) clean your coffee maker with detergents or harsh chemicals. Just rinse it with care after each use.
TYPES OF COFFEE SERVED IN ITALY
When we think about Italian coffee, espresso is the first word that comes in everyone’s mind. In Italy it is not just a kind of coffee; when you order un caffè in Italian, you will automatically be served an espresso.
Here are the typical coffee drinks you will find in Italy:
caffè (espresso): a small cup of very strong coffee, the typical espresso (20 to 25 ml)
caffè doppio: 2 espresso served in one cup
caffè ristretto: en even more condensed version of an espresso (less than 20 ml)
caffè macchiato: an espresso with a drop of milk. You can order either a macchiato caldo (drop of steamed milk with froth) or a macchiato freddo (drop of cold milk)
caffè Americano: weaker than espresso and served in a large cup or a mug but still stronger than American-style coffee. It consists of an espresso to which hot water has been added after the brewing process (about 80 ml)
caffè lungo: where more water (about double) is let through the ground coffee, yielding a weaker taste (about 40 ml)
cappuccino: it is not just an espresso with steamed milk. To prepare a cappuccino properly you have to pour the steamed milk very carefully as to add 1/3 of steamed milk before the final topping (of about 1/3) of foamy, frothy milk. Italians usually drink cappuccino only in the morning, never after lunch or dinner. The name Cappuccino comes from the resemblance of its color to the robes of the monks of the Capuchin order.
caffè Hag: also more and more called un deca, a decaffeinated coffee. Can be combined with any of the version above
caffè corretto: an espresso with a drop of liquor
caffè borghetti: an espresso with a drop of borghetti liquor
caffè freddo or shakerato: espresso shaken with ice and sugar and served in a glass, usually in summer
caffè latte: not really a coffee drink, as this is basically hot milk mixed with coffee and served in a glass.
Carnival has very ancient origins. It is believed to have originated in Roman times when Saturnalia, the Saturn festival, and Lupercalia, the feast of the full moon, were celebrated.
Saturnalia for the Romans included long and complex rites dedicated to seeding. Banquets, exchanges of presents, and sweets characterized these celebrations, which included servants acting as their masters, and a slaves being crowned as kings. Lupercalia marked the end of the Roman year and was celebrated with dancing and singing in the streets. Historians believe that these celebrations influenced Carnival.
Traditional in Roman Catholic countries, Carnival is not celebrated or even known in many countries of other faiths. The Carnival Season is a holiday period during the two weeks before the traditional Christian Lent, when the rigors of 40 days of fasting and sacrifice begin. In fact, the origin of the word “Carnival” comes from the Latin “carne-levare,” literally “to remove the meat” or “stop eating meat.” The celebration of Carnival ends on Mardi Gras (French for “Fat Tuesday”).
For centuries, Rome was the headquarters of Carnival. Many Popes have been great supporters of the public celebrations, the horse rides, the exhibitions, and the parades. During the Renaissance, the festivities, sponsored by the Pope and the noble Roman families, acquired political prominence. Thousands of people would travel from all over Europe to attend. The Palio was a famous horse race without jockeys, taking place along the Via del Corso. The race became a competition for the best horses. The victory would culminate in a large public banquet and food distribution. The Palio was abolished in 1884 after an accident occurred in front of Queen Margherita.
The carnival of Venice was first recorded in 1268. It was unruly, with parades and Pamplona style bull chasing games. The use of masks to cover faces made it even more transgressive, and the Mascareri, the mask-makers had a special position in Venice. Everyone could wear a mask during the carnival without the barriers of gender and social status.
Venice was occupied by Napoleon in 1797, and this actually ended the Repubblica Serenissima, “The Most Serene Republic.” After Venice became part of the Austrian Empire, the celebration of Carnival was stopped and restarted only in the 1970s. Today, Venetians have reinvented the ancient masks and costumes in a style that melts together the dress styles from the Middle Ages through the 1700s. The result is splendid precious elegant dresses in silk, gold, silver, and lace, wigs, and since the masks cover people’s faces, everybody can feel free to dance and sing in public without being recognized.
What is Carnival after all, other than excess and the transgression before the sacrifice? And the practiced and desired transgression was of course related to the abundance of food. The gastronomy of Carnival rich in fats and sweets. Traditional dishes in most regions of Italy include gnocchi, lasagna and tortelli.
Nowadays, many traditions have vanished or changed, but fried pastries are still common in Fat Tuesday cookery. Spoonfuls of dough fried in oil take the shape of small balls in Frittelle or Castagnole.
However, the most famous carnival fritters are ribbons of sweet pasta fried and covered with sugar or honey. These fritters are familiar all over Italy, where they assume many different names—including Frappe, Frappole, Sfrappole, in central Italy, Cenci (“tatters”) or Donzelli (“young ladies”) in Tuscany, Crostoli (“crusts”) or Galani in Veneto, Lattughe (“lettuce”) in Romagna, Nastri delle Suore (“ribbons of the nuns”) in Emilia, Bugie (“lies”) in Piemonte, and Chiacchiere in Campania.
Bread is a fundamentals in Italians’ diet and this explains the variety of Italian breads.
You don’t need to ask for bread while eating out in Italy, because bread is served as standard in restaurants.
Despite not defining Italian cuisine as pasta does, bread is more rooted in Italy’s history and traditions. It has been the main food of poor people for centuries and its preparation is still connected to popular traditions.
Typical rustic Italian bread
In Italy breads vary by regions, sometimes even from city to city. They have different flavours, shape, ingredients.
However, all around Italy you can find rustic Italian bread made with just four ingredients: yeast, water, salt and flour. Not usually a “pretty” bread but deliciously tasty. The fermentation of the yeast is what gives this bread its tastiness.
Simplicity is the main characteristic of rustic bread, as is life in the countryside. Rustic, as Italy has been for decades, and as it can be even today sometimes.
For the true lovers of Italian bread, have a try with this homemade bread recipe.
Fascinating Italian breads from North to South
Italian breads, from the north to south of Italy, are an important staple at the family table.
Let’s take, for example, the Ur-Paarl. This is a typical bread from Trentino Alto-Adige (together with the Schüttelbrot, the traditional bread form Valle Isarco, and the Pusterer Breatl from Val Pusteria), a region on the border with Austria (hence the German name of this bread).
It consists of two round and flat breads attached to form a number eight shape. It is made with rye and spelt flours and yeast. Fennel’s seeds and herbs typical of the area can be added. It is perfect both with jam or cold cuts. The original recipe for this bread belongs to the Benedictine monks of Val Venosta and it has been rediscovered thanks to the last baker-monk, Fratel Alois Zöschg, who kept it. Since it is a long lasting bread, good even after a few weeks, Ur-Paarl was cooked just twice or three times a year in farmers’ wood stoves.
Two very singular types of bread are tigelle or crescentine from my city of Modena and piadina from Romagna. Tigelle are typical of the Apennines but today widely eaten all around Emilia. Chestnut-growing is very popular in this area and tigelle’s origins are strictly linked to it. Tigelle are named after the stone used to cook them. Originally, a tigella was made with clay loam from chestnut-growing and water and then shaped in a round wooden mould with low relief decorations, such as flowers.
They were then dried in the sun and cooked. Tigelle (the bread) were cooked in a fire place and the whole family took part in their preparation. A dough made with soft wheat, water, milk, brewer’s yeast and sometimes oil or lard was then put on a hot tigella (the stone), covered with a dried chestnut leaf. Several tigelle were piled up and put in the fire place. Long chats came along with the cooking. Once tigelle were ready, they were filled with cold cuts or cheeses. Today they are eaten more or less in the same way, with cold cuts, lard, jams or spreads, but are cooked in modern metallic moulds.
And then piadina, a round thin flat bread typical of Romagna. A famous Italian poet named Giovanni Pascoli wrote a poem dedicated to this bread.
Delicious piadina romagnola with Italian sausage and spinach
Piadina is made with wheat flour, lard (today, due to vegetarian life styles, oil is also used), salt and water. As simple as people from this region.
Piadina is usually eaten with cold cuts, cheese, meat, vegetables. The most popular filling is with Squacquerone (a local soft cheese) and rocket. One of my favourite is with grilled peppers, onions and sausage. Yet piadina with Nutella is the best experience life can offer.
Piadina has always been poor people’s bread and is still made at home. But all around Romagna small take-away places for piadina (called chioschi) are very popular. The peculiarity of these chioschi is in their colors, striped either white and red or white and green, depending on the locality.
One of the most peculiar Italian breads is undoubtedly Pane Carasau from Sardinia, a very thin, crispy bread also known as Carta Musica (Musical Paper), for the sound made during chewing. Ingredients are durum wheat flour, yeast, salt and water. It is usually dipped into water for a while, to make it softer and be rolled up with cold cuts and cheeses. If big crusty crumbles from left overs are often soaked in caffèlatte. Its origin seems to date back to the Bronze Age and has always been known as the ‘shepherds’ bread’. Until few decades ago, its preparation was a family or even neighborhood ritual. The women involved in the making were said to be paid with oil and ricotta cheese.
Pane di Altamura
There are endless types of traditional breads across Italy, I’ll list one more: Pane di Altamura typical of the Apulia region. It is baked with a very slow rising process inside a wood stove. The real recipe uses local ingredients including yeast, grain, sea salt and local water, which make it unique. This bread holds the D.O.P. mark from the EU (Protected designation of origin)
The Italian Cuisine World Summit, which celebrates the 8th edition this year, the fourth in Dubai, ended last November 17th.
The event was a huge success, thanks to the enormous work done by the organizers ItalianRestaurant Consulting and the Chefs came from all over Italy (and not only), who have made it possible.
The core mission of the summit was to bring the best Italian contemporary Michelin starred chefs in the best restaurants of Dubai, however the program included also Gala dinners, masterclasses, live cooking, a series of gastronomic competitions demonstrations like best pasta, best pizza and best espresso.
As well as the past years, this edition saw the participation of Italian Kitchen Group as a sponsor for the kitchen equipment.
For the Gulfood Manufacturing internal exhibition, the Speciality Food Festival, and most of the events occurred after the trade show as the gala dinner on the terrace of JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, the brunch at the Jumeirah Golf Estates and the Italian Street Food Festival at Westin Mina Seyahi Hotel, our best professional kitchen equipment have been used.
The professional Electrolux cooking range is designed with the same precision as a jewel of rare beauty. With over 40 different cooking options, Thermaline is a kitchen like no other, a tailor-made masterpiece, the perfect mix of reliable innovation, high efficiency and one-of-a-kind design.
COMBI OVEN AND BLAST-CHILLER
Electrolux Professional combi oven and blast-chiller range have been designed to work together for a completely integrated process, the best solution for the most demanding foodservice professionals, which involves the full cooking of food, followed by rapid blast chilling, storage at controlled temperatures and regeneration before distribution.
Libero Point Electrolux is a versatile compact mobile kitchen-like equipment designed to hold electric top appliances, allowing to prepare and serve fresh and nifty dishes to everyone, anywhere and in record time. The Libero Point with integrated refrigerated drawers extended the range of Libero mobile cooking units and preserves fresh foods while keeping you closer to the foods you need.
ITALFORNI BULL OVEN
Italforni Bull oven is made of highly resistant steel and is coated with shock and high temperature-resistant, tempered and stained glass. Aesthetically pleasing, Bull has been designed to emphasise its rigorous and clean-cut lines.
On the top a new range of hood adds character and personality to the entire unit.
Consisting of 1,2 or 3 120×100 cm chambers, BULL has uncommon technical features and adapts to any requirement. The design and prominent shape of the new extraction and motorized hood recall a bull’s head-forward stance.
The new control board consists of a series of digital controllers designed to manage both the oven and the prover through function icons and touch-sensitive buttons.
The surface of the user interface is made of a single tempered glass, with a customized display, whose design and easy of use play a primary role. The extraction motorized hood, can be matched with a steam-damper kit complete with activated carbon philtre for vapours and odours, making the connection to the flue not necessary.
Use of new single heating elements inserted into the refractory stone of the top and bottom of the chamber, strengthened on the front side of the oven (door).
A 30% energy saving thanks to the double insulation created by the glass coat and by new ecological insulating fibre both on the chamber and the door, the latter equipped with double glass.
MARANA NAPLES OVENS
This oven is the outcome of Marana Forni’s intensive cooperation and development programme undertaken in association with the master pizzaioli of Naples.
Impressive teamwork, in which the experience of the Neapolitan Pizzaioli and the technological skill of Marana’s craftsmen has created a unique appliance certified by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana for both wood- and gas-fired operation.
Vesuvian lava stone is included in the exclusive mix of materials used for the oven’s construction.
All these are just the same excellent kitchen equipment we always recommend, according to their needs, to all our valued customers.
Italia Kitchen Group offers comprehensive solutions and project management services for all industrial kitchen and laundry equipment sector in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Mauritius and Maldives.
This video contains the best moments of the Italian Cuisine World Summit 2016 with Italia Kitchen Group:
The Italian word gnocchi translates to dumplings, but it is thought the name may have come from the word nocchio which means a knot in the wood or possibly from nocca which means knuckle. It should be noted that the word gnocchi is plural and refers to several gnocco (singular) however, the singular word is hardly ever used and the word gnocchi is often used in the singular.
Origins of Gnocchi
The original recipe is thought to have originated in the Middle East and although no one can be sure when Italian gnocchi were first made, the earliest written mentions appear in 14th century Italian cookery manuscripts.
Gnocchi became a staple dish in Italy and was gradually introduced by the Romans to other countries in Europe during their many conquests and over time, many countries developed their own type of small dumplings from the earliest gnocchi recipes.
Moreover, gnocchi were introduced to South America by Italian immigrants during the early 20th Century and quickly became integrated into many South American cuisines including in Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, Venezuela and most notably in Argentina where today the 29th of every month has been designated Dia de Ñoquis (gnocchi day). The 29th was chosen because it was usually the last day before pay day so many people had run out of money. Gnocchi was the perfect meal as not only was it cheap but it was also filling. It was customary to place a coin under the plate whilst eating to encourage prosperity.
Similarly, Italian migration to North America saw an increase in Italian restaurants, many of which would have had a favorite gnocchi recipe on the menu.
Gnocchi can be made by a variety of ingredients, such as pumpkin, bread and semolina flour. They can be made and served also with spinach, saffron and even truffles. They are boiled in water or broth, like pasta, served with many sauces such as pesto, tomato, butter and cheese.
Other types of traditional gnocchi are Gnocchi alla Romana (from Rome), made with semolina flour, topped with cheese and baked in the oven, or Gnocchi Gnudi, from Tuscany, made with ricotta and spinach.
Today, gnocchi are mainly made from potatoes, and has become a traditional dish in Italy. Despite the long description, the dumplings are very easy to prepare. They can be served with different sauces, but are especially good with pesto sauce, amatriciana sauce, meat sauce, four cheeses, butter and fresh tomato sauce or simply with butter and sage. They are also one of the most refined dishes, worthy of the most sophisticated menus.
Mercato is the last Skelmore Hospitality Group’s concept (the one of Roberto’s Restaurant & Lounge in DIFC) which opened in Dubai last May 2016.
Their motto is “We don’t just like food, we love it”.
“It perfectly shows!” we could answer them.
The restaurant incorporates a retail space featuring fresh pasta, including roasted coffee beans, cured meats, bread, pastries and an open kitchen which let the clients see with their own eyes the baker and the chef making bread, pizza or pasta from scratch. The chef takes great care in selecting the best quality ingredients.
As you enter Mercato, you are welcomed by a fragrance of fresh bread, vibrant colors, and a vivid atmosphere inspired by Mercato Centrale in Florence, an historical place to buy groceries that has been renewed and it has become a meeting place for food lovers and gourmets. That is exactly what Mercato is.
For all these reasons, it was an honor for Italia Kitchen Group to be part of its project and realization.
We asked to Mercato’s manager, Mrs. Grazia, what he think about the work that Italia Kitchen’s project manager and technicians made for Mercato:
Time that Mercato project’s born, we immediately thought of relying on someone with great experience and seriousness that could provide us support in any emergency situations, requirements found immediately in Italian Kitchen Group…THANK YOU !
So if you haven’t already, visit Mercato to experience deliciously prepared dishes and the best customer service in town!
Many of Italy’s more traditional dishes were born as food for the poor: in Italy, we call it cucina povera and every region, from Veneto to Sicily, knows it. Just as people of the South achieved the most of their energy from pasta, people from the North would eat mainly polenta, a dish that has a very long history.
ORIGINS OF POLENTA
Polenta has been called by some “Italian grits” and there are similarities to the homonymous dish so popular in the Southern United States. In this way polenta and grits share a common link as the food of poverty. However in ancient times, what would later be called polenta started out as one of the earliest and simplest foods made from grain. Made from wild grains and later from primitive wheat, farro (a popular Italian grain), millet, spelt or chickpeas, the grain was mixed with water to form a paste and was then cooked on a hot stone.
HISTORY OF POLENTA
In Roman times, polenta (or as they knew it,pulmentu) was the main food of the Roman Legions and was eat in a porridge or in a hard cake like form, much like today. By this time, milling techniques had greatly improved and the course grind favored for pulmentum had mostly been replaced by farina, a flour. However, even though bread was widely available in Ancient Rome, the legions and the poor preferred the simplicity and tastiness of their polenta. For the next few centuries, nothing changed in the history of polenta, as well as the living conditions of those who ate it most, poor people. However things would slowly improve for polenta, if not the peasantry, the first being the introduction of buckwheat (the Italian saraceno wheat)into Italy by the Saracens. This nutrient grain is still popular in Tuscany for making polenta and adds a characteristic flavour that was preferred for centuries. Buckwheat polenta would finally loose its popularity when a crop from the New World arrived in Italy more or less in the 15th or 16th centuries known as maize. The new crop was a perfect match for the farms of Northern Italy, where landowners could grow vast fields of corn for profit, while forcing the peasantry to subsist on cornmeal. This new form of polenta was abundant, but seriously lacking in nutrients compared to earlier forms of the dish. However cornmeal polenta is very tasty and filling, and therefore continued to be predominant when the conditions of the poor were improved. From then on most of Italy’s polenta consumption was made from corn, which ranges in color from golden yellow to the Veneto’s white polenta.
Much of Italy’s polenta is still made the tedious old-fashioned way using a round bottom copper pot known as paiolo and a long wooden spoon. The process to make a soft polenta involves a 3 to 1 part of water to polenta and constant stirring for up to 50 minutes. Today in a modern kitchen with a good heavy pot, polenta preparation is not so tiring, but it still does need attention. Cooking polenta using a double boiler method is even easier. When finished, the polenta can be served in this soft form or poured out onto a slab and allowed to cool to form a cake.
Cotoletta – also called “Costoletta” is an exquisite, Italian ancient recipe, appearing in all famous cuisine books and restaurant menus, but also traditionally used in families, especially to make meat tasty for children (as meatballs).
The Cotoletta is, together with Milanese Risotto, Ossobuco and Panettone, among the most typical dishes of Milanese Cuisine (from the city of Milan).
A common dispute is about the origin of the dish, which is claimed by both Lombards and Austrians. According to cuisine historians there was no plagiarism, but only two separate paths. In “L’Italia prima dell’Unità“(1815-1860), historian Roman Bracalini in the chapter “Customs at the table”, quotes a document of 1148, mentioned by Pietro Verri in his “Storia di Milano“, who reports a festive dinner where the third course was “Lombos cumpanitio“(breaded veal sirloin). The documents mentioned are preserved in the premises of the Basilica of Saint Ambrose in Milan.
The dispute between Milanese and Austrians began under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, when the Milanese were accused of having copied the Wiener Schnitzel.
This is a Viennese recipe consisting of a thin slice of veal, never with bone, breaded and fried in lard, usually served with lettuce or potato salad; commonly, a slice of lemon is also added to the dish, which is squeezed on the schnitzel. A version made of pork is called “Schnitzel Wiener Art” (in Germany) or “Wiener Schnitzel vom Schwein” (in Austria).
There is a story of Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky – the same to whom Johann Strauss Sr. in 1848 dedicated his Radetzky March, Op. 228 – writing a letter (which was never found, however) to one Count Attems, an adjutant of Franz Joseph, stating that “I have never eaten a similar dish in Austria” and that he knew only the cutlet prepared by his partner Giuditta Meregalli.