Introducing – Abruzzo Food
Before we first began looking for somewhere to live in Abruzzo, we’d drooled over the guidebook descriptions of all the local goodies we could look forward to trying and buying in the shops and markets; and the prospect of sampling all this wonderful Abruzzo food whenever we went out for a meal.
But it didn’t quite turn out like that.
Yes – there is such a thing as ‘Abruzzo food’, but much of it is so incredibly and tightly localised that unless you solidly eat your way round the region, you’re not going to experience everything on offer.
A visiting friend had read that the town of Sulmona produces the very finest sweets and candies in Abruzzo and wanted to take some home. But could she find any round us ? No. And why not ? “Well, Sulmona is 50 kilometres away…”
Maccheroni alla chitarra. Abruzzo’s gift to the pasta pantheon. Essentially, maccheroni alla chitarra is square spaghetti (doesn’t slide off your fork so easily) and arguments rage as to which restaurant, or whose Mum or Grandma makes the definitive sauce. It’s especially good with tiny little meatballs called polpettine.
Gnocchetti di cacio e uova. Impossibly moreish and delicious walnut-size dumplings made of egg and cheese, gently poached in a rich tomato sauce.
Salami. Countless varieties – and the mainstay of any good antipasti platter. But keep an eye open for Ventricina – another of those ‘typical’ Abruzzo delicacies for which the precise ingredients vary from town to town. The one area in which everyone’s united is that Ventricina should be both fiery and fatty. The main arguments concern how fiery and how fatty. Sometimes, the answer to both questions is ‘very’.
Cheese. Delicious Pecorino D’Abruzzo and Scamorza – which is Abruzzo’s answer to mozzarella. You can get Scamorza fresh or smoked and it’s wickedly good melted in the oven with crusty local bread dunked into it.
Fish. Yes, of course. The coast road between Pescara and Vasto is lined with fish restaurants. A good fritto misto – which they all do, along with a good ‘house pasta’ with seafood – is one of the better treats of eating out in Abruzzo.
As is meat. Abruzzeselove char-grilled meat. A fast food of choice here are arrosticini – wire-thin kebabs of char-grilled beef, pork or lamb. Like peanuts, you can’t eat just one. You can buy just one – but you’ll get some quizzical looks. They’re usually sold in 10’s.
Aside from the tiramisu or semifreddo which prop up the menu in every restaurant, desserts aren’t an Italian strongpoint. But when the ice-cream is as good as it gets – why worry ?
Eating out in Abruzzo is an everyday experience rather than a once-in-a-while treat. The two of you will easily drink and dine in style for €50 – and nobody minds whether you pop-in for a bowl of pasta and a bottle of wine, or a full-blown gourmet extravaganza. Even in the smartest restaurant.
And after a while, you’ll find the Abruzzo food you’re eating is so good, it doesn’t really matter that it doesn’t quite match-up to the Abruzzo food written-up in the guidebooks. Who cares ? Go ahead and enjoy !