L’ Osteria di Zio Aldo
“They’re a lot of work and people won’t drink.”
Blog refresher. If you haven’t read this blog before, about a year and half ago I met a guy in Foggia, Puglia who has the craziest, eccentric kitchen and a wonderful giving nature as a cook. His name is Zio Aldo and he has run a restaurant within the historical centre of Foggia since he retired as a youth worker. Not any old restaurant, mind you, but a den enriched with many stories, years of cultural tradition and an unreserved love of the local. I wrote a post about Zio Aldo and one of his recipes at that time.
I promised him the first time we met that I would revisit and he promised me a menu full of artichoke dishes. We alerted him to our descent south and this is where we headed mid spring along the coast from Le Marche, through Abruzzo, briefly skirted Molise and into Puglia.
Upon arrival there was a warm welcome and an invitation into the kitchen to see the menu in pre-production. It excited me because there were not only four different dishes but also other recipes to add to my diary. Sitting in front of me were two antipasti, a pasta and a main. Why would you need to go to any other restaurant? The truth is that Zio Aldo doesn’t have too many artichoke dishes on his menu ordinarily. Why?
“They’re a lot of work and people won’t drink”
They involve more effort than most other vegetables and are virtually impossible to match with wine. Fair enough, but in true devotion to his art in cooking he put together a menu full of artichokes for me to write about. What a sweetie!
Like most dishes on this blog, they are all simple, involve very few ingredients and rely on the artichoke being at the centre of focus. Simplicity teamed with basic cooking methods shows its peasant roots and that is what is so honest about this cooking, and what keeps my palette completely satisfied. It’s the sort of eating experience that makes you understand just how disconnected from food we have become in our everyday. Alice told me that eating the beans that Zio Aldo cooked made her feel like she was in a field of beans. Other flavours trigger memories, the first time I tasted Zio Aldo’s cooking it took me back to my mother’s kitchen. It’s the flavours that come from there, from that particular zone, from that soil. There is a familiarity, which puts us in closer proximity to a place of origin and a connection to place.
It’s no surprise then that after feeling all this while eating in Zio Aldo’s restaurant that I feel the premise and philosophy of the Slowfood movement is completely aligned with Zio Aldo’s. It’s cooks like him that stimulated Slowfood’s inception.
If you want to check out his Facebook presence there are some great photos of some of him and his cooking.
Antipasto di Carciofi
Pasta ai Carciofi
Carciofi Ripieni con Piselli
I’ll profile all of the above but for this post I am focusing on the simplest,
Carciofi Trifolati, which will require your intuition and your tastebuds to determine just how perfectly you want it cooked. I will only transcribe a translation of my notes. No measurements are given.
Once you clean your artichokes just:
– cut into 6 or 8 wedges
– put into a pan with a little oil and whole garlic so it can be removed
– fry up gently – dolce
– add a small ladle of water and simmer away til no more water
– repeat this til artichokes are tender – lively fire
– salt and parsley