Italy is made up of twenty regions with distinct characteristics. Every town, every village, makes the same dish in different ways and every town and village has its proudest specialty. These cooking traditions define people's identities just as much as their dialects and their traditional costumes. Local cooking preferences and customs are shaped by geographic, historical and climactic differences, the richness of Italian cuisine lies in its diversity.
The unique features of foods in Italy are quality, simplicity, fantasy, health and tradition.
Italian food and culture go hand in hand, our food belongs to our history and culture as much as Giotto, Raffaello or Leonardo da Vinci do.
We have chosen the EMILIA-ROMAGNA region, a triangle located in the north-centre of Italy, with its shortest side lapped by the Adriatic Sea and the other larger two resting along the river Po and the Apennine mountains which divides Tuscany from Emilia-Romagna.
Such is Emilia-Romagna, a region in which cities, towns, villages and roads create a thick network over hilly or flat land, rich in rivers and canals. The ancient and important roman road, the Via Emilia, weaves together all provinces from its far western side right down to the sea.
Music is at home in Emilia-Romagna: Verdi and Mascagni were born here, Rossini lived in Bologna, in love with the city and its cuisine. But perhaps it is its gastronomy that makes the region so well known throughout the world. In Emilia-Romagna food is both an art and a passion.
We move among special cheeses like “Formaggio di Fossa”, a wonderful oddity of the Romagna area, created by mistake during middle ages and still now produced in the same way, or “Parmesan Cheese”, in the area around Parma, dated from Middle Ages. By the time of the Renaissance, people in the nobility were producing this fine cheese for their own tables. It was known as caseumparamensis in Latin, and locals shortened this to Pramsàn, in dialect. But if you look for the top-quality Parmigiano, you need to taste “red cow Parmigiano”, made of exceptionally rich and creamy milk, the original source for Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Other precious food are to be discovered, like “charcuterie” from a very special pig called “Mora Romagnola” the almost extinct breed which came to Romagna with the barbarian invasion and adapted perfectly to the geographical conditions. It looks more like a wild boar than the white pig we know, the meat is darker and more tender, due to the way the fat is present. Why is it almost extinct? Economic reasons: - it´s very slow *in fattening, which means less meat, - it has a low fertility rate and it’s a difficult sucker, so it’s less cost-efficient when compared to its big pink brother from England. But the Mora Romagnola is a good grazer and can graze by itself in the woods for several month, it has a high resistance to illness and…. delicious meat!
In the Italian cooking tradition Olive oil is a must, even if, in Romagna, in the olden days it was considered a “luxury”, that’s why the use of fat and lard was very popular and they are the ingredient of many specialties.
There are many different olive varieties or olives, each with a particular flavor and texture. Even the same varieties grown in different regions of Italy can have a different taste and aroma. Extra virgin olive oil produced in olive groves on the hills of the Provinces of Forlì-Cesena and Rimini has distinctive characteristics, with excellent organoleptic qualities and a very low level of acidity.
Together with these fine Italian products, you need to taste Italian wines, like the local Sangiovese, a red wine-grape variety whose name derives from the Latin sanguisJovis, "the blood of Jove”. Though it is the grape of most of central Italy from Romagna down to Lazio, Campania and Sicily, abroad it is most famous as the main component of the blend of Chianti and other Tuscany wines. Young Sangiovese has fresh fruity flavors of strawberry and a little spiciness, but it readily takes on oaky, even tarry, flavors when aged in barrels. At least fourteen Sangiovese clones exist, of which Brunello is one of the best regarded.
In Emilia, there is another peculiarly Italian product, obtained from grapes: the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar from Modena. It is produced from the juice of just-harvested white grapes boiled down to approximately 30% of the original volume to create a concentrate or “Mosto” (Must), which is then fermented with a slow aging process which concentrates the flavors.
The flavor intensifies over the years, with the vinegar being stored in wooden casks, becoming sweet, viscous and very concentrated. At the end of the aging period (12, 18, or 25 years) a small portion is drawn from the smallest cask and each cask is then topped up with the contents of the preceding (next larger) cask. Freshly reduced cooked must is added to the largest cask and in every subsequent year the drawing and topping up process is repeated.
Gastronomy involves discovering, tasting, experiencing, researching and understanding how the food interfaces with people culture. Italian food culture is unique and need to be discovered with all five senses!!