In May we visited Italy and the theme of this trip was “chilometrezero” or “Km 0” for short. This is a trend in Italy that promotes the use of entirely locally produced products, not to be confused with the movie “Km 0” or the mile markers throughout the world. See the Wikipedia entry Chilometro Zero for more on this trend.

KM02a

Tortellini Three Ways at Km0

Meat & Potatoes - Emilia Romagna Style

Meat & potatoes Italian style.

KM01a

Appetizers – Km0

In the US, we might call this farm-to-table or extreme locavore, but Km 0 seems different.

First Stop: Osteria Chilometre Zero by Tom e Ciccio

This trip, we ate at the restaurant northeast of Reggio Emilia near the Autostrada called “Osteria Chilometre Zero by Tom e Ciccio”.  See reviews and location here.

The directions using our iPhone map app took us within 1 Km, but not 0 Km.  We ended up on a farm road that went nowhere (thanks, Siri.)  Using our pre-iPhone skill of reading the actual signs on the road, we backtracked and followed the little white sign (clearly pointing the way in the opposite direction of what Siri said we should do) and found the place easily, except they apparently have recently renamed the restaurant, so the neon sign didn’t exactly match (it was actually a caricature of a Mexican guy advertising coffee – ??)

When we opened the car door after parking in the rear, we had a clue as to the extreme localness of the products based on the smell that made us think we had landed in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, if you get my scent.  Yes, fresh, locally produced pork products are the theme here.  But there was much more to the menu on this day.

We had no reservation, and arrived about 8pm.  We had no problem getting a table way in the back, but the other two open tables quickly filled up.  The place might qualify as a “dive” in the US, but it was pleasant, friendly, and packed with locals.  The staff spoke no English, and there is no printed menu.  Instead, a chalk board gets parked next to your table, and you see the full menu of the day.  Also on the board on the wall is the list of where exactly each item on the menu came from.  We had no trouble interpreting the items with ample help from our cheerful waitress and our command of “restaurant Italian.”

The antipasti were an outstanding selection of salumi, lardo, and puffy fried bread.  In this area of Emilia, the word for the puffy fried bread is cresciontini, but we had previously found them in the Romagna area to the east just called gnocco fritto.  In any case, they were great with the meats. For the wine, we chose the local Lambrusco, which goes perfectly well with the somewhat fatty food.

The primi course consisted of three different ravioli dishes recommended by the waitress.  One vegetable stuffing, one beef stuffing, and one cheese stuffing.  All were better than what we’d had in a fancier restaurant in Bologna the previous day.

For secondi, we were a bit filled up, but dove in to maiale and manzo dishes.  The freshness of the meat and the preparation of each were simple, but really good.  We skipped dessert.

Cheesemaking at Fattoria Montelupa

Cheesemaking at Fattoria Montelupa

 

Next stop:  Fattoria Montelupa near Città di Castello east of Arezzo, north of Perugia for some fresh cheese. Yum.

The owners moved 40 water buffalo to this part of Tuscany some years ago from near Naples, where Tuscany juts its finger way northeast up into Emilia Romagna.  The buffalo seem to like it here just fine, versus the hotter climate in Campania.  The farm has accommodated the buffalo with a low spot to wallow in the cool mud.

Our host explained that the buffalo don’t like stress, and produce the best milk when free from stress.  Based on the taste and consistency of the resulting mozzarella product, we think these are pretty happy animals.  The farm is outside of town, but there is a retail store in town.  Whether it is because the cheese we tasted was made today from milk collected yesterday from a bunch of happy water buffalo, or because it is made with a different technique, the end result is a product that can’t get any better.  We were fortunate enough to also have fresh ricotta made from the whey byproduct of the mozzarella process.  The ricotta, too, was as good as it gets.  Total distance from buffalo to table – about 300 meters.

Tempting Salumi

Tempting Salumi

Al Fresco at Ghiandaio

Al Fresco at Ghiandaio

 

Next stop:  Il Ghiandaio

North of Città di Castello, a bit further east of Arezzo, but still in that little tip of Tuscany that juts up into Emilia-Romagna and Umbria, there is a tiny little store-slash-restaurant on the side of the highway. (Click here for a location map and reviews).

The proprietor of Il Ghiandaio  is a man who takes his craft very seriously and produces his own cured meats to sell in his tiny store.  The restaurant consists of a couple of tables in the yard next to the store.  The store sits behind his house, just off the Autostrada, exit Pieve Santo Stefano (Nord).

We feasted on six types of cured meats (actually, I lost count) including the one he called the “eel” because of its shape and size.  Also on the menu was the typical Tuscan crostini selection of green pesto made with celery leaves instead of basil, chopped liver, and a new one – fresh sausage, uncured, made on Monday (we were there Thursday).  It tasted like tuna tartare – really different.

The pigs are raised nearby.  Giuseppe Ferroni is the proprietor, but the pigs are raised by another farmer.  Signore Ferroni is a master at making sausage, salami, prosciutto, and anything that can be done with pork.  We highly recommend this man and his work.  Distance from curing room to table – about 50 meters.

If you take a trip through Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, and Umbria, let us know if you visit these establishments!

–Jeff

We are often asked how often we travel to Italy on buying trips (usually twice a year) but there’s one event in the U.S. that brings amazing choices to our shores.

The Fancy Food Show just concluded in New York. As always, we found a phenomenal range of food (olive oil from China?), ice pops made with kale, and more cheese than you can imagine. We stayed true to our mission to find the best selections from Italy!

We met with favorite producers such as Salvatore Cutrera from Frantoi Cutrera, and planned the fall purchases, starting with the zesty Frescolio. We also learned the the flavorful Cutrera Gran Cru Cerasuola has the highest polyphenol level of any of the Cutrera monocultivars. It is over 600!

The most unusual selections were those from Pantelleria, a tiny island far south of Sicily, and very close to Africa, known for the production of capers. Look for these in a few months!

In 2012 our big discovery was pistachio cream from Sicily, an item that has sold out quickly. Sometimes we don’t know just how good our good ideas are. We didn’t find any pistachio cream this year, so we are glad that connection has already been made for our discerning customers. We should be well stocked again by September.

We had a fortuitous moment when we met with a very experienced importer who is bringing in a very exclusive line of hard to buy olive oils. (Those wine producers can be tough negotiators). Look for new selections from Tuscan wine producers after the next harvest.

The Rogers Collection, known to us as an olive oil importer, is also a big mover in the cheese world. We scheduled our visit to their booth to attend this special and ceremonial opening of a new wheel of Parmiggiano-Reggiano DOP. This is a 36-month aged cheese, and even more special in that it is from brown cows. There are only four producers who craft DOP Parmiggiano-Reggiano from brown cows’ milk. Fabulous.

Other photos show our friends from Italian Products, Compagnia del Montale of Modena, pasta and rice selections, and the grand show floor, in the Italy Pavillion.

Tuscan Selections including Profumo del Chianti

Tuscan Selections including Profumo del Chianti

A Month in Medieval Volpaia Tuscany is a charming brief memoir.  Robert  and Patricia Crosby capture their full weeks in September and October. These are the slower days of late summer and early fall, after the tourists have left. Robert and Patricia provide a series of diary entries of their day to day visits to trattorias, town squares, and churches.  Each day is a peaceful adventure, full of love for their friends and experiences. 

Take a walk with the authors through their day to day experiences, along with visits to our favorite places, the olive oil estates of Volpaia and Badia a Coltibuono.  Another favorite stop is a visit to Panzano, the home of Dario Cecchini, the Dante-quoting master butcher of Chianti. (We’ve written about him before).

A Month in Medieval Volpaia is a quick read, and a perfect gift with a selection of Badia a Coltibuono, Albereto, Campo Corto, or Volpaia.

We found this book to be well produced, and charming, but occasionally repetitive.  It is perfectly written for those of us who dream of having such a month to spend in the Chianti Classico.

Pamela Marasco demonstrates her love for all of her acquired Italian heritage in her self- published family treasury, Seeing and Savoring Italy. This will be read by her family and others for generations.

She married into an Italian American family and grew close to her husband’s grandmother. Through the years this granddaughter-in-law sought to capture and recreate memories and heritage through food customs.  From olive oil, to cheese, to wine, to chocolate, Pamela is to be commended for trying to get it all into one book.

Recipes are interwoven through the chapters as she visits Tenuta di Capezzana, Avignonesi, and other places dear to us at Olio2go. Bistecca alla Fiorentina, Olives all’ascolano, and risotto, fill the pages between Sagra (festivals), wine, mostarde, and tartufi (truffles).

Well-researched and endearingly written, future editions will be improved with one more pass through an editor and graphic designer.

If you can find a copy of The Tuscan Year, now out of print, you’ll enjoy a very pleasant and well written year in Tuscany.  It fits nicely with A Month in Medieval Volpaia and Seeing and Savoring Italy.

You can see The Tuscan Year and Seeing and Savoring Italy on Our Favorite Books That We Don’t Carry on Amazon.