Sunday, 7 December 2014

A Taste of Italy at Christmas

We love our English Christmas traditions but because Italy (and Rome in particular) are so dear to our hearts we inevitably include their culinary delights in our festive feasts.
Of course this necessitates a visit to our favourite Italian deli - Valvona & Crolla , an Edinburgh institution, where we fill our basket with Italian treats. There are so many reasons to love Valvona & Crolla - superb Italian produce, friendly and knowledgeable staff, wonderful Caffe Bar but most of all I love the history as told in 'Dear Olivia' by Mary Contini 

Our first purchase would be Panettone, the candied fruit laden cake  which originated in Milan. The Valvona & Crolla version is made by family run artisan bakers in North West Italy.
If we were in Rome we would breakfast on mini panettone at Coromondel (Via di Monte Giordano 60) ....

.....then hasten to Antico Forno Roscioli for their version to take home.
Better still we would track down Pangiallo, a bread filled with nuts, raisins, spices and candied fruit which is from the Lazio region and has its roots in Ancient Roman times. Valzani and Regoli both produce this local sweet bread.

Back to Valvona & Crolla where,for liquid refreshment, we would pick up a bottle of Franciacorta, an Italian sparkling wine from Lombardy.

In Rome we would buy this at Constantini, a huge wine shop on Piazza Cavour in the Prati area of the city.

Constantini have  a wine bar next door where we could sample Franciacorta by the glass but we prefer the atmosphere of La Barrique (Via del Boschetto 41) in the Monti district.

A dessert dish that we create every Christmas is Delia's Truffle Torte. This wicked treat necessitates picking up Amaretti biscuits. For this dish I would choose a store cupboard packet.....

....but for serving after dinner with an espresso these prettily packaged biscuits  would fit the bill.

Both the above differ from the Amaretti baked  in Rome at Biscottificio Innocenti (Via delle Luce 21, Trastevere) and Boccione, the Jewish Bakery in the Ghetto (Via del Portico D'Octavia 1). Here the crisp outer shell gives way to a soft chewy almond centre. Not suitable for the Truffle Torte recipe but addictive all the same!

We also need dark chocolate.

The place to go for chocolate in Rome has to be S.A.I.D.(Via Tiburtina 135) This former chocolate factory, now a chocolate shop and restaurant, is situated out of the centre of Rome in the San Lorenzo area. In the  winter there is nothing better than sitting on a velvet covered sofa in the 'living room', sipping on a hot chocolate.
Followed, of course, by some 'shopping therapy' of the chocolate variety!
The final items to go in our Valvona and Crolla shopping basket are from the cheese counter.

Here we are spoilt for choice but we always buy Pecorino for pasta carbonara. Then maybe some tangy Gorgonzola Piccante,  little discs of Scimudin or even Taleggio, which when cooked with potatoes, creates an Italian version of tartiflette.
Our favourite cheese destination in Rome is Beppe e I suoi Formaggi (Via Santa Maria del Pianto 9A). Beppe originates from Piedmonte and the cheeses here reflect this. You can also buy butter made from Beppe's own herd of cows. As well as buying cheese  you can enjoy lunch - maybe a mixed cheese platter accompanied by a chilled glass of wine.


Now we have completed our food shopping we can enjoy lunch in Valvona & Crolla's Caffe Bar and then wend our way home to create our little bit of Rome on the Edge of Empire.

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