Archive for April, 2010

Sezze Artichoke Festival

April 28th, 2010

Sagra di Carciofi Sezze, 18th April, 2010

Just under an hour by train south of Rome, Sezze (MAP) is a solitary hilltop town set on the highest point of a ridge surrounded by fertile plains which are home to a vast number of artichoke fields. Nestled in amongst the modern town is the historic centre with its long, narrow and tangled streets. It’s a typical or rather stereotypical old Italian town with cobble stoned paving, stone buildings and old, grey haired ladies peering out through doorways at all the curious visitors roaming the streets on days like this one when it hosts the Sagra of the local Artichoke.

This sagra was held on Sunday, 18th of April on the same weekend as the festival in Ladispoli. If you have to choose between the two, I would absolutely recommend this one as it was all about the artichoke and nothing else. On the day the streets are lined with stalls selling cute little handy crafts or artisanal foods like salami and cheeses. Some stalls promote and sell the local artichoke called carciofo setina or, as the locals say, carciofolo sezzese.

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Ladispoli Artichoke Festival

April 23rd, 2010

Sagra del Carciofo Romanesco, Ladispoli

This town boasts the largest artichoke celebration in Italy but I’m here to dispute that claim on the basis of irrelevance. I was thinking that just like an artichoke, 80% of it (the festival) is made up of stuff you can do without and you have to work hard to get to the end (of the street) till you get to the heart where the true prize is.

Ladispoli is a seaside town about 45 minutes by train from Rome. One of those towns that definitely looks better at night and certainly takes on a much more appealing atmosphere once the sun has set.

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Artichoke Gelato

April 19th, 2010

Sorbetto di Carciofo

Cerda is a remarkably un-picturesque Sicilian town in the middle of some of the most stunning Italian countryside you are likely to find. A little deviation off the main highway will wind you through a hilly green terrain, with gigantic rocky outcrops and cliffs towering above cloud level.

The spring crop.

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Zia Eleanora’s Artichokes

April 15th, 2010

Carciofi alla Calabrese da Zia Eleanora

As I leave Turin and start a pilgrimage to many Artichoke festivals which all happen in this part of the season, I need to visit a few relatives and deal with the pleasantries. Zia Eleanora; this auntie is well know within the family for her cooking so I turned up to her place with ten artichokes in hand and asked if she could show me a recipe. She said this one was just one of many artichokes recipes she has in a recipe book kept in her head which is very protective of.

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Artichoke and Blood Orange Salad

April 8th, 2010

Insalata di Carciofi da Mammalicia

Whenever friends come to Turin, we always make sure we have dinner at a trattoria called Mamalicia.  An inviting restaurant with a big history and eclectic décor where once you sit down you begin to notice details that point towards a rich and eventful past.

Mamalicia is run by one of Turin’s Grandi Chefs (top chefs), Maria Buzzi and her small crew of dedicated staff. Maria’s vision is to maintain the integrity that was built up in Mamalicia’s heyday during the 60’s and 70’s. Just as the name suggests, the restaurant was originally in the hands of a lady known as Mamma Licia who, in the 50’s, started the humblest of eating spots. Family operated for over four decades, the dining room was dominated by one, long, central table, where diners would sit together for a single sitting, and be served an entrée, main, cheese, fruit and wine for 1000 lire (less than 1 Euro).

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Torta Pasqualina

April 3rd, 2010

Torta Pasqualina

Pasqua = Easter or Passover. The name of this torta embodies the time of year when you’ll generally find it. I’ve honestly never seen one on a menu but it’s one of those dishes that you hear more about people making in the home.

They don’t come much more traditional than this one but whenever you ask around about traditional dishes you can expect some contention. This dish is typically made with leafy greens and not artichokes therefore many people think that the real Torta Pasqualina does not include artichokes. On the other hand there is another camp that believes that the original recipes calls for artichokes but they were replaced in an age when they were beyond the affordability of most people so the recipe changed to include a cheaper vegetable.

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