Can’t imagine what Italian food would be like without bread. Bread in Italian society has always been at the very center of religious, family and social life.
Michelangelo once said, “I feast on wine and bread and feasts they are”.
Cereal preference or dependence relatively neatly divided the ancient Mediterranean world in half. In the east, the Greeks cultivated and consumed barley, while wheat was the principal grain of the Latin West.
Italians did not reject barley. They grew it and ate it in various preparations as they still do, usually in soups. But it was never a major or vital part of their diet. Rye was grown to a certain extent in the Alps but it, too, was and is still today a minor food resource. Millet and oats never acquired much of a following in Italy but buckwheat (grano saraceno) is popular in northern Italy and particularly Lombardy’s Valtellina.
Wheat in the form of bread and puls (boiled meal flavored in innumerable ways) was the mainstay of the diet for centuries. With the decline in hard physical labor in recent years, bread has lost some of its essentiality but puls has become a standard entry on restaurant menus not only in Italy but also in countries worldwide. However, it changed its form in the 17th century after the arrival of corn (maize) from the New World. Corn replaced wheat and the result was polenta.
Various types of wheat evolved at an early date. Some are specifically adapted to use in bread because of their substantial content of gluten, which gives dough elasticity. Hard wheat (durum) is more compact and the dough retains its shape during cooking. It is the ideal grain for the production of pastas. Farro or spelt wheat is a rare survivor of ancient agriculture. Cultivated primarily in Tuscany’s Garfagnana zone, it was only recently rediscovered. Today, production barely keeps up with demand.
Italians have developed a wide range of breads over the centuries and many ancient types are still produced–-in most cases on a local or regional basis. Commercial bakers account for most of the bread consumed in Italy today as they have since professionals started turning out loaves in ancient Rome in the 2nd century BC. Baking is still practiced at home to a certain extent, as at Genzano, a village near Rome. The selection nationwide ranges from extremely large loaves, once intended to keep a household supplied for a full week, to small rolls. Most breads are leavened but many are not, like the Sardinian carta da musica (thin as sheets of music paper) or carasau.
Crackers are a relatively recent addition to the Italian roster of breads and related products. However, the concept is basically the same as that of the communion wafer. Grissini or breadsticks are a specialty of Turin, although they are now found virtually everywhere. Most are pencil-thin but in their homeland bakers still shape them by hand so that they are thick and irregular. Flat breads are extremely popular in central Italy and include Tuscany’s rosemary-flavored schiacciata, the Romagna’s piadina and Emilia’s crescentina and gnocco. Some are fried and some are baked. Sweetened breads are common but they belong to the dolce or confectionery category. There are over 350 bread types of which 250 are readily available. We have listed around 100 below and we will describe the history behind some of them.
This flat bread topped with olive oil, spices, and other products an early prototype of modern pizza. The basic recipe is thought by some to have originated with the Etruscans or Ancient Greeks.
“Focaccia, a flat bread which belongs essentially to the northern shores of the Mediterranean and has its origin in classical antiquity. In ancient Rome, panis focacius denoted a flat bread cooked in the ashes (“focus” meant hearth). These came the term focacia, focaccia in modern Italian which has branched out in various directions, both savory and sweet…Numerous regional specialties such as the fitascetta of Lombardy, the Tuscan stiacciata, and the schiacciata of Emilia are all descendants. Also, a focaccia may be made with flavorings such as onion and sage or anise, or honey, etc.”
The earliest written document describing the Altamura bread is Horatio’s “Satires” in which the Roman poet recalls that during a trip to his native land in the spring of A.D. 37 he tasted “the world’s most delicious bread—so delicious, in fact, that the discerning traveler stacks up on it for the rest of his journey”.
In an era closer to ours, the 1527 statute of the town of Altamura dedicates numerous paragraphs outlining the duties of the town’s bakers, including the taxes they had to pay to the authorities.
This bread was traditionally made in very large loaves and in the old days, it was customary to knead the dough at home and then take it to public ovens to be baked. In order to distinguish the loaves, the bakers would stamp them with the initials of the head of the family that owned the dough before placing them in their ovens.
Pane di Altamura is a very crisp, fragrant bread. Its crumb, the soft part of the bread, is the color of straw and soft to the touch. Its most distinctive characteristic, however, is that it keeps for a long time, an essential quality for a bread that, dipped briefly in boiling water and dressed with olive oil and salt, provided nutrition to peasants and shepherds for a week or more in isolated farms scattered in the hills of Alta Murgia.
Bread and pasta are the mainstays of the Sardinian diet.Among the Sardinian breads with an international reputation pane carasau is probably the most well known. This bread is called carta da musica ( music paper) by foreigners. It consists of very thin circular crisp sheets of pastry and it keeps a long time. “Pane carasau” was the bread eaten by shepherds when they were away from home for long periods tending their flocks. If pane caraus is served with tomatoes and eggs, it becomes a specialty called pane frattau The same bread seasoned with oil and salt is called pane guttiau. Another well known Sardinian bread is civraxiu. It is large and circular in shape and has a crisp crust and soft interior. It is delicious when dipped in the fat of roasted pig or lamb. It is worthwhile mentioning su coccoi which is made from semolina or very fine flour in the Campidano area. Su coccoi is a very popular bread not only for its taste but also for its shape which changes from village to village. There is also su moddizzosu which is a circular and very soft bread. It is particularly good with cheese and sausages. Another bread is spianadas which is circular in shape, soft and easy to transport.
Vittorio Amedeo II Duke of Savoy was born in Turin in 1666 and was crowned the first Savoy King in 1713.
As a child, Vittorio Amedeo was frail and sickly so his mother, the second Madama Reale, worried by the state of his health called to court a famous physician of the time, Don Baldo Pecchio from Lanzo Torinese. The doctor immediately had a stroke of genius and diagnosed food poisoning (gastro-enteritis in modern parlance) caused by the ingestion of bread polluted with intestinal pathogenic germs. Those days, bread (the so-called ghëssa or grissia) was produced rather improperly from the hygienic standpoint and was generally cooked badly, indeed not nearly enough.
So Don Baldo, remembering certain small grissias his mother was wont to bake for him when he suffered from a similar intestinal form as a child, ordered Court master baker Antonio Brunero to prepare a very thin and well cooked bread, indeed cooked twice, to destroy any micro-organism present in the dough with perfect baking. The end result was the grissino, hygienically perfect and unpolluted by any germ whatsoever. The story goes that the Duke’s physician fed and cured the noble scion with this bread.
The ghëssa led to the ghërsin or small ghëssa, Italianized into grissino.
So the first grissino was made and Turin also won the nickname of Grissinopoli.
As we said, Vittorio Amedeo II, miraculously healed by the grissino, grew to become the first Savoy king. There followed the rapid rise of the Savoy dynasty, that privileged Piedmont, laid the foundations of the Italian Risorgimento and the subsequent creation of the Kingdom of Italy.
The success of this celebrated Turin bread (greatly appreciated by Napoleon who called it Le petit bâton de Turin) grew rapidly and conquered the whole world and became the Bread of Kings and the King of Breads.
The origins of this product are rooted in the peasant culture of its zone of production. The bread, which households used to make for themselves, is baked in wood-fired ovens known as soccie. Pane Casareccio di Genzano was already known and appreciated in the last century for its particular aroma and fragrance which last up to seven or eight days. It was not until the 1940s, however, that the bread becomes extremely popular in Rome to which it was brought from Genzano at night and sold fresh the next day by local grocers and bakeries. Pane Casareccio di Genzano is made from choice flour, natural yeast, mineral salt and water. The bread is shaped into either round loaves or long broad sticks. The area of production is the whole town district of Genzano in the province of Rome.
The genuine and homemade Romagna piadina has however lost its legendary roots in the mists of time. One of these legends has it that it was none other than Aeneas, the hero in Virgil’s poem, who on landing on Italian coasts after escaping from Troy had to eat unleavened ship’s biscuits that the sailors used for plates. According to other sources, the recipe was handed down to the ancient Romans by the Etruscans, who prepared an unleavened bread using flour and water, cooking it on scalding hot tiles. This idea is recalled by the word teggia, similar to the Italian for tile (tegola), and is the name for the tin with raised sides still used by piadina vendors today.Emilia Romagna – PiadinaCloser to the present day, the debate as to who can boast paternity of the piadina is still disputed amongst the villages and towns of Romagna. Those from Rimini, who prepare a version that is thin and low in fats, are those most convinced that it was of their own invention. But each area of Romagna has a local variation: small, thick and soft in Ravenna and the hinterland, large and thin in the south of Romagna.
In any case, it is an unleavened bread without yeast and its name would seem to derive from the Greek plakous, which means flat bread and harks back to the days of the Byzantine domination of Romagna. The Piadina, piada or “piè” as it is known in Romagna, has gone on to conquer all of Italy with endless kiosks now preparing them, and they are even to be found in New York. It is a specialty made of a disk of pasta that can be substituted for bread. It can be eaten with a soft cheese (squaquarone, a delicacy of Romagna) or with prosciutto either cotto or crudo. It is best served warm and must be cooked on the proper flat iron pan called a testo, on a lively flame.
At Toscana Divino, we are proud to introduce our “lookbook” menu for our diners. We live in a society that is constantly bombarded with digital and printed text, forcing us to always read to gather the necessary information that we desire. We understand the importance of text and the time/place for it, and we have decided that our menu is not the place. Our team of expert chef’s put countless hours into developing our seasonal dishes, and we just didn’t think that words on a page did the dishes justice. “A picture is worth a thousand words” is the approach that we are taking with our new menu that will showcase some of our seasonal dishes and the inspiration behind them. Our authentic dishes are inspired by our deep-rooted Italian traditions and interpretations of modern culinary elements. Our “lookbook” is the perfect way for us to showcase the culinary artistry that plays an important role for your dining experience with us.
Eating involves so much more than just tasting and chewing the food we choose to consume. Actually, eating should be an adventure that stimulates each sense independently as well as in unison. One of the simple pleasures in life is eating food that we enjoy rather than out of necessity to survive. Taking the time to enjoy each bite of each dish is why fine dining was created. An expertly crafted meal deserves to be taken in and enjoyed by each of the five senses.
What I mean when I say that is before anything even touches our lips, we first process the appearance of it. If it looks appealing or familiar, that is our initial perception of the food and the beginning of the journey in eating. While taste may be the most important sense when it comes to consuming food, it is the appearance that’s the first challenge that the food must overcome. There’s a reason that melted cheese looks irresistible to most people or that a piece of pan seared fish makes our mouths water. That’s because our brains tell us what looks good based on a variety of factors. Everything from familiarity to physiological hunger reactions influences how we visually perceive food.
Don’t get me wrong though, the sizzling sound of a searing piece of meat, the fresh crunch of a crisp salad, the tenderness of perfectly cooked pasta or the savory smell of seasonings and spices all play an irreplaceable role along with how the food tastes. When you dine with us at Toscana Divino, you will do much more than just eat the food. You will be immersed in a true Italian culinary journey. We invite you to try our new menu for a truly unique experience that begins with your eyes instead of your taste buds.
Seems like everyone chose Italy for their summer vacation this year. Beautiful photographs are being shared over social media – especially images of Tuscany! Seems like everyone chose Italy for their summer vacation this year. Beautiful photographs are being shared over social media – especially images of Tuscany!
Tuscany is a large wine region located in the heart of Italy with many recognized sub-regions (also known as subzones), areas that must obey with Italian laws that apply quality assurance such as DOC (controlled designation of origin) and DOCG (controlled designation of origin guaranteed). Wines are government tested and analyzed, and bottles have numbered government seals on the cap and cork, and IGT (Indication of Geographic Type).
White wines are emerging big time out of Tuscany. Vernaccia di San Gimignano is one of the only DOCG whites produced in the breath-taking village San Gimignano and is a dry, full-bodied wine with a rich floral bouquet and good fruit. Also Vermentino is very popular, with vineyards planted in the coastal hills of Tuscany close to the sea. Both wines are wonderful as an aperitif or alongside salads and fish. Suggested wine to try: La Lastra Vendemmia Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2015.
For Tuscan reds, Sangiovese is the most widely planted native grape. Noteworthy red wines are produced from the grape including Chianti, Brunello di Montelcino, Vino Nobile di Montelpulciano, Rosso di Montelpulciano, Carmignano and Super Tuscans.
Chianti has various styles, some are smooth and round, easy to drink young; others need years to develop aromas and flavors distinctive of aged Tuscan reds. The wines show a deep ruby-garnet color, present a light to medium body with cherry and cranberry as the leading flavors, but you can find cocoa, espresso, tobacco and oak in the older vintages. Easy to drink, Chianti is a great choice for pizza and pasta. Suggested wine: Frescobaldi Toscana Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Riserva DOCG 2013.
Brunello di Montelcino is one of the most highly-rated and expensive Italian wines. Produced in Montelcino, a magnificent medieval village, Brunello was the first wine to receive DOCG status. Made from 100 percent Sangiovese Grosso, it’s a full-bodied complex wine with a deep ruby color, intense flavor and tannins. Rosso di Montelcino is a younger, fruitier wine that needs less aging. Suggested wines: Camigliano Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012 and Fossacolle Rosso di Montalcino DOC 2014.
Vino Nobile di Montelpulciano, from the ancient town of Montelpulciano, is another well-respected wine that is more versatile than Brunello. The wine shows characteristics of deep garnet color with intense flavors of fruit and violets. A wine that pairs well with meats, sharp cheeses and dried fruits. Rosso di Montelpulciano is a younger alternative with more subtle flavors. Suggested wine: Cecchi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG 2012.
Super Tuscans are highly regarded very popular wines, made using numerous grape varietals; most popular are Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Producers of these wines are known to be more daring and artistic, while keeping the sense of tradition in mind. Super Tuscans are velvety smooth, yet big and juicy, with scents of blackberry and coffee, followed by a delicate finish. They are Bordeaux-style wines that satisfy all tastes and go well with red meat and all pasta dishes. Suggested wine: Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo Toscana IGT 2013
Carmignano has a long history, recognized and enjoyed by the Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1716. Another Tuscan DOCG and one of the first Tuscan regions to be permitted to use Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The wines are structured and elegant with floral notes and plenty of berry, leather and licorice flavors. Foods that enhance the wine are local Tuscan dishes. Suggested wine: Villa di Capezzana Carmignano DOCG 2013.
The most reliable guide to the quality of any wine is the reputation of the individual producer or estate. Tuscan producers to look for: Banfi, Camigliano, Castello di Cacchiano, Cecchi, Rocca delle Macìe, Felsina, Fontodi, Marsiliana and Principe Corsini.
Pocos restaurantes cuentan con dos menús bien diferenciados. Al chef Andrea Marchesin le gusta acercarse personalmente a las mesas para sugerir recomendaciones de ambos menús de Toscana Divino, de cocina artesanal italiana y contemporánea. Todo fatto in casa en el Mary Brickell Village. Además, ofrece un extraordinario y completo menú de trufas, procedentes directamente de las regiones italianas de Piamonte, Toscana y Umbría.
Marchesin, quien llegó a Miami en el año 2014 después de viajar y trabajar por todo el mundo, es un joven chef, de 31 años, con 15 años de experiencia en diferentes tipos de cocina que utiliza nuevas técnicas con los métodos tradicionales de siempre. Su objetivo es sorprender “el paladar de las nuevas generaciones y representar adecuadamente la actual cocina italiana”, asegura Marchesin.
El menú llamado “Tradizione” está hecho con recetas fieles a la tradición italiana como el nutritivo “Maccheroni al Sugo Toscano”, acompañado de una copa de clásico Chianti.
El menú “Moderno”, inspirado en ingredientes de temporada, pretende “explorar la diversidad de la comida italiana”, insiste Marchesin. Uno de los platos más destacados de esta sección es el “Carbonara di mare” con 5 diferentes tipos de huevas de pescado incluyendo la bottarga de Cerdeña y erizo de mar, con un vaso del delicado vino Vermentino.
Durante generaciones, la cocina italiana se ha venido haciendo en casa. “Hacemos la focaccia y grissini, batimos mantequilla, fermentamos y envejecemos vinagre, curamos carnes como prosciutto cotto, hacemos pastas frescas, porchetta y pastrami de carne”, comenta apasionado Marchesin. “Fuimos criados aprendiendo a hacer estos platos y productos en casa, y queremos compartir eso con nuestros clientes.”
Lo orgánico adquiere protagonismo en Toscana Divino. “Nuestros animales se compran enteros, usando todas las partes del animal para hacer nuestras propias carnes curadas, ragús, aperitivos, y entrantes. Producimos queso ricotta con leche de vaca doméstica sin pasteurizar, libre de antibióticos y hormonas”, puntualiza el chef italiano.
Hasta destilan su propio limoncello en su bodega de Key West y hacen el tradicional Amaro con hierbas cultivadas en sus jardines en Ironside. Todas las frutas y verduras son locales.
El aceite de oliva extra virgen, el prosciutto toscano y los frijoles Canellini, llegan directamente de la región de la Toscana, zona rica en quesos, verduras y trufas. “El prosciutto toscano se prepara de una manera tradicional que es más sabrosa y rústica que el elegante (prosciutto) de Parma que también ofrecemos. Se combina bien con nuestros encurtidos caseros y una copa de Bolgheri Rosso”, explica Marchesin.
Las trufas de Toscana Divino proceden directamente de las regiones de Piamonte, Toscana y Umbría. Tienen trufas blancas, de octubre a enero, y negras todo el año.
Este extraordinario menú de trufas está formado de Peschiola al Tartufo, un melocotón enano con 1 g de trufa negra laminada; el especial Uovo In Camicia, un huevo escalfado Crostini con 1 g de trufa blanca de Piamonte; Tartare de Vitello, una Tartare de ternera con 1g de trufa blanca de Piamonte; Tagliatelle, de mantequilla de parmesano fresco con 3 g de trufa blanca de Piamonte; Assaggio di Filetto, un filete de colas con 2 g de trufa negra; y el Lollipop, una bola de jarabe de cereza de chocolate ecuatoriano con 1 g de trufa negra.
“Un huevo escalfado es algo simple y único. Combina perfectamente con nuestra trufa y cuando cierras los ojos puedes sentir los sabores ricos y bien redondeados de nuestra tradición rústica”, recomienda entusiasmado.
El Risotto al burro di Parmigiano, hecho con arroz de carnaroli, agua parmesana y mantequilla de parmesano es excepcional. El truco está en “hervir el parmesano y separar el agua de la grasa produciendo lo que llamamos el “agua de parmesano” y la “mantequilla de parmesano”. A continuación, preparar el risotto con el “agua de parmesano” tan sabrosa y con gusto ligero, debido a la cantidad reducida de queso. Lo terminamos con una cuchara de mantequilla de parmesano, pecorino y un poco de pimienta negra fresca en la parte superior. Es una verdadera delicadeza”, comenta el chef.
El plato favorito tradicional del chef Marchesin es el “Pici”. Se trata de una pasta blanda hecha a mano, una por una. “Es tierna y firme al mismo tiempo, muy sabrosa, es un bocado único. Lo preparamos con un lento ragú de pato asado que se derrite en la boca. Es una experiencia fantástica y única en Toscana Divino que debe ser maridado con una botella de Tignanello”, explica Marchesin.
El “Pesce del giorno”, comida contemporánea de la Toscana, es otro de los favoritos del chef. “Usamos el pescado local más fresco con puré de patata con tinta negra, espárragos de mar y una reducción de cebolla dulce y limón”, dice. Se recomienda con un brut Cà del Bosco.
La exquisitez de los menús de Toscana Divino es tan notable como lo son sus apreciadas trufas, uno de los condimentos más apreciados en la alta cocina.
A continuación algunas recetas, cortesía de Toscana Divino.
2 1/2 tzs. harina
2 1/2 tzs. semolina
3/4 tz. agua
80 g (2.8 ozs.) huevas de pescado (salmón, trucha, pescado blanco)
20 g (0.7 ozs.) caviar
Bottarga o Botarga
manteca de cerdo
Prepare la pasta: mezcle en seco la harina y la sémola; agregue los huevos, sal y continúe mezclando; Agregue agua progresivamente hasta que la masa esté firme. Extienda la pasta en hojas. Trabaje con una pieza a la vez y mantenga las otras piezas cubiertas. Ejecute la masa a través de un rodillo de pasta y ajústela progresivamente hasta que quede más delgada y quede una hoja de pasta delgada de papel.
Para hacer los espaguetis alla Chitarra: Corte la hoja de pasta en franjas más o menos delgadas como cuerdas de guitarra. Cocine los espaguetis. Lleve una olla grande de agua a ebullición y agregue una cucharada de sal. Ponga los espaguetis alla Chitarra en el agua poco a poco con una cuchara ranurada. Revuelva la olla de vez en cuando para evitar que los espaguetis se peguen a esta o entre sí. Cocine unos 3 minutos. Pruebe uno para comprobar si está bien.
Como paso final, dore en una sartén 2 rayas de manteca y derrítala. Ponga los espaguetis y añada las huevas de pescado mezclando suavemente. Al final, coloque en la parte superior la bottarga, añada el caviar y unas pocas hojas de perejil. Rinde 4 porciones.
Tuscany, as we know, produces some very high quality wines. Its hills are covered in vineyards, one of the oldest forms of farming in Italy and nowhere else can boast such a wide variety of wines. Here you can taste the best of the red wines from the Chianti, the Brunello of Montalcino, the Vino Nobile of Montepulciano and the Carmignano or the Morellino of Scansano, just to mention some of those known worldwide, or the freshest of white wines, like the Vernaccia of San Gimignano, the Pomino, the Ansonica or the Elba wines. The wine making process obviously varies from wine to wine but is usually based on two methods, one for the reds and one for the whites. Here we would like to give a rough idea on what happens to the grapes, from the time they are picked to the moment the wine bottle is uncorked on the table, and discover the particular characteristics of both processes. Red wine is made by allowing the grapes to ferment with the pips and stalks. Once the first main fermenting process is over, the wine is drawn off from the vats. The first decanting takes place at the beginning of the winter, in order to separate the wine from its natural residue. A second decanting takes place in the early spring when the stability and clarity of the new wine is controlled, though it must still be left to mature for a little longer before being opened at the table. Young wines should be served at room temperature, with the bottle opened at the moment of drinking, while vintage wines are characterized by a much stronger alcohol content. Harsh and bitter to begin with, they become harmonious and pleasant in time and can be kept without any problems for over 15 years, if the bottles are kept lying down in a cool dark cellar. The bottle should be opened a few minutes before serving and half an hour beforehand if a vintage wine. The older vintages should be poured before serving into special decanters to separate the wine from the naturally formed grounds. The process for making white wine differs mainly from that used for the reds by the fact that the solid parts, or grape pips and stalks, are not left to ferment with the must. In this way the wine does not absorb tannins or substances that can give it color, This is why white wines can also be made with black grapes: they only require a gentle pressing, when the pips and stalk are immediately separated from the must, and thus do not absorb any color. Nowadays, by picking the grapes earlier and allowing the must to ferment at a controlled temperature, it is possible to obtain lively and scented wines with a lower alcoholic content than in the past. The white wines mature fairly quickly and are ready only a short time after harvesting. We advise you to drink them at once to appreciate their initial freshness and fragrance. The bottles can be kept in a cool dark place from between one to three years… ( from ` A taste of Florence ` )