Panettone: the traditional Christmas cake in Italy

Panettone: the traditional Christmas cake in Italy

A slice of Panettone and a glass of bubbly (either Prosecco or Moscato), and you know that the Christmas season is right upon you. Even the most adverse person to Christmas festivities will not give up on a slice of this moist and delightful cake.

From legend to history

Like many other food and traditions, the Christmas cake could be an ancient Roman invention, as they used to bake a soft bread sweetened with honey.

However, the history of how this deliciously sweet loaf was born is wrapped around several legends, all going back to Renaissance times.
Nonetheless, the most popular took place at the Castle of the Duke of Milan: Ludovico il Moro.
While the cook was preparing Christmas dinner for the Duke and its noble guests, he forgot the cake in the oven and burnt it. The young kitchen helper tried to help by mixing leftover from the pantry: flour, eggs, sugar, butter, citrus peel, and raisin. The result was a delicious, soft, and sweet cake that won all the guest’s palate.

Ingredients to make an original Italian Panettone

When the Duke and its invitees asked the name of the delicious pastry they had, the cook said: “El pan de Toni” (Tony’s bread). And from “pan de Toni,” a legendary cake was born: Panettone.
But it was only in 1919 that Panettone became widely available in Italy, thanks to Angelo Motta that started producing it on a large scale.
Furthermore, he introduced the triple leaving, giving the cake the tall dome shape. A few years later, his competitor Gioacchino Alemagna adapted the recipe, turning the artisanal sweet bread into industrial production.
Panettone became cheaper, allowing everyone to have one on the table for Christmas in Italy and to all those Italians who started seeking a new life in other countries worldwide.

Today majorities of bakeries and pastry shops still take pride in making their masterpieces and personalizing them. Instead of regular candied fruits, you can find the most luxurious creams such as chocolate or pistachio or even limoncello cream, or a combination of chocolates and fruits such as white chocolate and pears, or chocolates and cherries. The options are endless!

The whole process is very long but necessary to get top results, and all ingredients must be of excellent quality.
Instead of regular baking powder, “Mother Yeast” is used to get the typical fluffy and texture, with a tanginess hint. But the critical step is refreshing the dough every 12 hours, for at least two times, if not three, before getting it to the oven.
No wonder the price for a hand-made Panettone will start at about € 25 compared to an industrial one at around € 5, but it will be worth it.

Do you want to know a few more curiosities about it?

  • Panettone takes three whole days to make. Mixing, leaving, baking, and resting.
  • When Panettone has finished baking, it is flipped upside down to prevent the top from falling and keeping its fluffiness. Some bakery hangs them down on a rack, and some others have unique baskets.
  • Every year for Christmas, Italian factories and bakeries produce around 120 million Panettone and Pandoro. Just a little bit less than 600 million Euros.
  • The most expensive Panettone was made in 2017 under the specific request of a Russian billionaire. The Italian Pastry chef, Dario Hartvig, topped it with edible gold leaf and a crown of diamonds and sold it for $ 90,000
  • December 2018: Panettone enters the World Guinness Record. Pastry Chef Davide Comaschi with six people prepared the largest Panettone ever: 332,20 kg (732 lbs). The huge Christmas cake took about 100 hours of work.
    Check out the amazing ingredients list:
    49.5 kg flour, 37.8kg butter, 25.2 kg of sugar, 25 kg dark chocolate, 22.5 kg raisins, 22.5 kg candied orange, 22.5 liters water, 18 kg egg yolks, 15 kg cream, 7 kg ruby chocolate, 5.1 kg honey, 2 kg white chocolate, 810 g salt, 540 g natural orange flavor, 360 g natural lemon aroma, 225 g vanilla!

Make your Christmas a little exotic this year!
Search for a Panettone to share with your friends and family.
If you cannot find it in your nearest store, there are plenty of websites from which you can get it.

A slice in one hand, a glass of bubbly in the other, and BUON NATALE! (in real Italian style).

The history of Italian cold cut meats

The history of Italian cold cut meats

All around the world, Italian cold cut meats (called “salumi”) are considered an incredibly delicious ingredient. They can be used in gourmet recipes or to be enjoyed by themselves while sipping a glass of rich wine.

Even their story is part of what makes them so unique. Let’s take a step back and explore the fascinating history that preserved them throughout times.

Selection of cured meats served with grissini

From Prehistoric Times to our tables

Cold meats make themselves known starting from Paleolithic times, as sun-dried meats for longer conservation times. However, the concept of deli meats, as we think of them today, goes back to about 500 B.C. with the Etruscan and Roman populations.
In fact, there are some references to cold cut meats even in the book “The Odyssey” and in the medicinal recipes of Hippocrates.

During Etruscan times, the prosciutto was a popular item among merchants.
For the Romans, ham and prosciutto were often among the main courses during a banquet or even served with fresh bread as street food.

Little by little, the need for a better way of conserving meat became different from area to area. During the Renaissance, these variations created several specific cured or cooked meat recipes, with additional seasoning that varied from region to region.

Finally, during the 1800s, deli meats started to be a common ingredient for everyday foods. Specialized stores began to populate the small and large towns all around Italy.

The most commonly known “salumi” use veal or pork meat, though you can also choose poultry nowadays.

Bresaola

This delicate food is a super lean cured veal cut, typical of the northern regions of Italy. It is salted and dried, not cooked nor smoked. This process ensures a gentle and refined flavor, with a rich taste that is not pungent. It is often used in dietetic menus, as it keeps the calories to a minimum.
The bresaola is a perfect choice to accompany wine and cheese during wine tasting events, as its taste is so subtle that it does not overwhelm any other foods.

Coppa (also known as Capicollo)

Prepared in Center Italy’s regions, the coppa has many variations, depending on the spices used to make it. Prepared with pork, it presents a rounded shape of intense red lean meat, marbled with some fat meat lines. The mixture is the perfect balance for this food, especially because it remains very soft once cooked.

Delicious organic homemade Italian meat coppa, also known as capicollo

Mortadella

The mortadella is one of the Italian children’s all-time favorites, mostly when used to prepare sandwiches with fresh cheese. From its look, this cold cut meat resembles the American bologna, though its flavor is very different.
The mortadella is made with finely ground and cooked pork meat with small black and green peppercorns and pistachios.
Just the right amount of twist!

Fresh mortadella in Italian rosetta bread

Pancetta

Who has been to an Italian restaurant without ever trying the fantastic pancetta?
To become perfectly sweet-salty, it needs to follow precise steps: salted, then spiced, rolled onto itself, and finally dried. A little bit of pancetta’s unique flavor will enhance any pizza, pasta, or even side dishes.
Many recipes around the country prepare this pork deli meat, varying from one region to another. The pancetta can be smoked, or it can have a kick of hot red peppers.
However you find it, you will never be disappointed.

Traditional italian cheese tomino wrapped in freshly sliced pancetta

Prosciutto

We could never skip the most known Italian “salumi”: the prosciutto!
This food is prepared through a precise and lengthy drying process. Furthermore, it takes on many slight flavor differences depending on the provenience. In this particular case, it varies from city to city. One of the most famous prosciutto types is the Prosciutto di Parma, which is considered the number one in the entire Italian deli meat family.
You can read all about its process in our previous blog.

Prosciutto can be enjoyed in so many recipes, one of the most Italian favorites is next to a fresh cantaloupe melon slice

Salame

Let’s not forget about the smallest one of them, though the most flavorful: the salame. It offers endless recipes and spices to try, and it is perfect for eating cold as a snack, accompanied by a few cheese pieces and maybe a glass of good wine.
It is also perfect for adding flavors to any recipe, pasta, and pizza for the most, but also panini and casserole dishes.

Most of these cured meats are our favorite ingredients, and we include them in many of our recipes to prepare the most authentic Italian food for our patrons.

If you are curious to know more about our ingredient list, look at our menu, and find the perfect dish for you!

Celebrating Fall exploring the magical world of Pumpkins

Celebrating Fall exploring the magical world of Pumpkins

We are now halfway through Fall, and trees are turning into a gorgeous and vibrant palette of yellow, orange, and red.
Just like trees, crops are following the same flow, and Pumpkins are undoubtedly letting us know that the cold season is approaching.

Indeed, you have seen the carved vegetables on the night of Halloween, but did you know that this vegetable is very versatile
in the kitchen and super healthy too?

Conquering tables around the world, one dish at the time!

Pumpkins, also known as Squash (Cucurbita’s family), are remarkably close relatives to cucumbers, zucchini, melons, and watermelons and originated in the area of Mexico and Central America.
They have been cultivated for thousands of years, even before beans and corn. Columbus took the seeds back to Europe, where they were mainly grown in the mildest southern climates. Still, nowadays, they are harvested all over the 6 continents, excluding Antarctica.

The varieties of pumpkins are amazing in colors, texture, size, and flavor! From white to yellow, to oranges, red, green, and even almost blue: these are only some of the shades you might be able to spot!

And we can talk about the texture of the skin, sizes, and shapes: spotty, stripey, smooth, or bumpy! From miniatures to giants, from round to oval, evenly long or squatty. A wonderful reminder of the beauty that Mother Nature is offering us.

Something else unique about this beautiful vegetable is that you can use more than just the flesh! Seeds can be dried out and roasted to make an excellent and nutritious snack, or pressed to produce an exquisite oil.
Asian countries, such as Korea and India, use leaves while some European countries also utilize flowers in cooking.

Moreover, pumpkins are packed with vitamins A and C, potassium, sodium. Low in calories and high in fiber, they make excellent and delicious food for your everyday meal or special occasions such as Thanksgiving.

And what about recipes in Italy? Let’s have a look at a few typical Italian recipes with this delightful veg.

Sciurilli (fried pumpkin flowers)

One of the most delicious street foods you can get in Springtime while walking around Naples.
Freshly picked flowers, stuffed with ricotta and provolone cheese, salt, and pepper, dipped into a light batter and then deep-fried!

Fried zucchini flowers stuffed with cheeses.

Risotto alla Zucca

Traveling to the North of Italy, we can find a delicate and tasty risotto alla Zucca. The choice of the right pumpkin and rice type is essential for this creamy and fulfilling dish. While the original version includes only vegetables and spices, you might be able to discover some other enriched with cheese or even bacon and sausages.

Portion of pumpkin risotto decorated with slices of parmesan

Tortelli di Zucca

It is a traditional recipe that goes back to the Renaissance times when pumpkin arrived from the Americas for their first time! Tortelli is a type of filled pasta mainly made in the Northern Regions of Italy, such as Lombardy, Emilia- Romagna, and Tuscany. However, the most famous is from Mantova, as it is a delicate balance between sweet and savory flavors. The original recipe will have a rich filling made of cooked pumpkin, Amaretti cookies, parmesan, and lightly spicy “fruit Mustard.” It will be served with a light butter and sage sauce and a good sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Tasty hand made italian tortellini for autumn season

Roasted Seeds

Being so versatile, you can use Pumpkins in the entire menu, from appetizers to desserts, but whatever you do, keep the seeds!!
Wash them properly and put them in a pre-heated oven for around 15-30 minutes, depending on their size, until golden.
Remove from the oven, cool for a minute or two, enjoy them plain, or be creative with spices!


We cannot talk about pumpkins and not mentioning Jack-o-Lanterns!
This custom originated in Ireland, where large turnips and potatoes were carved and decorated to warn off Jack’s wandering soul. But who was Jack?

Stingy Jack was a drunken man who tried to trick the Devil, and once he died, his soul couldn’t go either to Heaven or to Hell. Doomed to walk around the Earth only with a hollowed vegetable to light his way.

You can read more about the legend here.

Irish immigrants took the tradition to America, where the original root vegetables were substituted by the native pumpkin.

So next time you are buying a pumpkin, let your fantasy run wild. See if you can find different varieties, and get creative in the kitchen, not only by carving it!

15 Facts about Authentic Neapolitan Pizza

15 Facts about Authentic Neapolitan Pizza

Neapolitan pizza is one of the most loved foods in the world, and one of the reasons is that it follows very specific guidelines to ensure a product that is consistent and that can respect the amazing original taste of Italy even when enjoyed in other countries.

The most notorious association for Neapolitan Pizza is the VPN (Verace Pizza Napoletana), which has determined a list of qualities every pizza has to offer in order to qualify for the highly desired title.

Here are 15 rules that need to be followed to make an authentic Neapolitan pizza:

Rule #1
Neapolitan Pizza is a hand-crafted, artisanal product. Every pizza is unique, much like a snowflake, and will take on its own character. Italian rules simply state that a Neapolitan pizza must be “somewhat roundish.”

Rule #2
Neapolitan Pizza dough must be made with only water, salt, fresh yeast, and “Double Zero” flour imported from Naples, Italy.

Rule #3
The dough of Neapolitan Pizza proofs at 73.5 F for a minimum of 8 to a maximum of 24 hours.

Rule #4
To make Neapolitan Pizza, the Pizzaiolo expertly stretches the dough strictly by hand on a marble countertop using light and circular pressure to move air from the center toward the edge allowing the crust to grow during cooking.

Rule #5
The critical ingredients used to make Neapolitan Pizza must be from the Campania region, in the south of Italy.

Rule #6
When using peeled tomatoes for Neapolitan Pizza, they must be drained and crushed by hand for a better consistency, and so as not to crush the tomato seeds and add a bitter taste to the sauce.

Rule #7
When using fresh tomato on Neapolitan Pizza, it must be one of the approved varieties grown in the Campania region of Italy.

Rule #8
Either Buffalo or Fior di Latte mozzarella can be used on Neapolitan Pizza, as long as its provenance is certified.

Rule #9
The Parmesan cheese used on the pizza margherita must be spread with a circular and uniform motion of the hand.

Rule #10
A good Neapolitan Pizza has a crust around the edges of about 1-2cm high (1/2in to 3/4in), soft and airy, with few bubbles and charring.

Rule #11
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a very important ingredient in Neapolitan Pizza. Extra-virgin olive oil must be poured from a thin spout in a spiral motion. It must be added on the pizza before cooking, but some additional oil may also be used after the cooking for extra taste.

Rule #12
When preparing a margherita pizza, basil leaves may be added before mozzarella cheese to avoid burning them during cooking.

Rule #13
Neapolitan Pizza must always be cooked directly on the cooking surface of the wood-fired oven without any baking pans.

Rule #14
To cook Neapolitan Pizza to perfection, the oven must be a double-dome wood-fired oven and it must reach 485°C (905F°).

Rule #15
While lifting one hem of the disk to check on the cooking, the Pizzaiolo cooks the pizza for about 60-90 seconds.


Look for these characteristics when ordering your pizza, this is the first step to judge the quality of your pizza.

We are very proud to offer a real, authentic Neapolitan pizza every day – our product is made with love for good food and its flavors, as well as the love to hear words of satisfaction in our guests’ feedbacks.

Neapolitan pizza is an art, and we strive to perfection of craftsmanship everyday.

What is Truffle, the most prestigious food in the world!

What is Truffle, the most prestigious food in the world!

Vanilla, saffron, and truffles.
What do they have in common, you might wonder? Although both Vanilla and Saffron come from flowers, they all belong to some of the world’s topmost expensive food by weight.
Quality and the country of origin are some of the critical elements to build up the price, but in the case of truffles, the size plays a big part.

In 2014 Sebastiano Tartufi (an Italian truffle company) found the largest ever white truffle, which he flew to NYC and sold at a Sotheby’s auction for $61.250. You might think of giant truffle, but the truth is that the super expensive fungus was only 62.99 oz. ( 1,786 Kg)!
In 2019 the price of “regular truffles” ranged from $ 170/kg for Chinese Black variety to a whopping $ 7541.95/kg for Italian White ones.
Although the most prestigious grow in France and Italy, they can also grow in New Zealand, China, North Africa, the Middle East, and the Pacific Northwest.

But what exactly IS a truffle?

Truffles: luxurious culinary cooking ingredients.

A truffle is a form of mushroom that grows below ground, so it does not have a stem.
They have a symbiotic relationship with certain trees only. They mutually exchange nutrients through the roots: the tree gives nutrients to the fungi. In return, they get mostly water and minerals.

As they are growing under the soil, hence impossible to spread the spores with the wind as common mushrooms, Mother Nature equipped them with an extraordinarily strong smell, once ripe. The pungent aroma will attract insects and mammals that will spread the spore around while digging for their food.

There are mainly three varieties of truffle: white, black, and burgundy.

Black ones are robust and earthy, and they usually get harvested from December to the end of March. The burgundy variety is delicate and fragrant, and they grow from September to December. Finally, the white is intense with a slightly garlicky flavor similar to shallots and mature from October to December.
However, depending on the part of the world and the varieties, the seasonal calendar might differ.
Not all varieties of truffles can be cultivated. The most prestigious species are still picked from the wild, or better literally hunted.

Ready to hunt your food?

La caccia al tartufo! (truffle hunt)

Traditionally the hunt was taking place with pigs; however, they were greedy eaters ( or with an exquisite palate, we might as well say) and not delicate in the process of unearthing.
Since 1985, it became illegal to use pigs in Italy, so dogs replaced them with great success.
The best and irreplaceable truffle-seeking dog is the Lagotto Romagnolo, thanks to its incomparable sense of smell. As the name suggests, it originated in Italy, in the Region of Emilia-Romagna.

Once the dog sniffs a truffle in the wood, it will call the “trifolao” (truffle hunter), who will be digging gently with a “vanghino” (a very specific shovel). Then he will be rearranging the ground gently so that new rootlets will be forming.

Visit Italy in the right season. You can go participate in the hunt by booking a day trip with some leading truffle companies, such as the ones below:

Eating and storage

Truffles are served raw, shaved sparingly over warm, simple food to emphasize its flavor. Also, any cooking process will destroy its aroma and its unique taste.

If you do want to take your cooking to the next level, get hold of some fresh truffles for your kitchen.
First, you will have to make sure you choose a fresh one: it must be firm, and the smell must be pungent and intense.
Cleaning is a delicate process. Soak it first in cold water for about 10 minutes, brush it very gently with a special truffle brush, and remove any leftover soil. Never, ever peel it!

Main courses with truffles, such as Risotto or any pasta dish, are probably the most famous. However, this unique fungus is so versatile that it enriches any dish from appetizer to dessert!

Any leftover should be preserved in the fridge, well wrapped in absorbent paper, and stored in a plastic o glass container, up to 5 days.

You could also opt for truffle-infused oil in your recipes to add that unique fragrance to your dishes without using the fresh mushroom. Find a great example in our Pasta alla Boscaiola, served with a creamy white sauce, Italian sausage, mushrooms, Parmigiano Reggiano, and then topped with truffle oil.

If fresh ones are not available close by, or you are not in the right season, you can always try preserved ones or products such as truffle salt or truffle oil.

Curious to give your tastebuds a try?
Try our delicious Pizza Tartufo or Pasta alla Boscaiola!
Both dishes include top quality truffle oil: only one mouthful and your taste buds will get you to travel to those mystical Italian woods on a truffle hunt.

Wine, the elixir of life!

Wine, the elixir of life!

Did you know that you are sipping on thousands of years of history every time you have a glass of wine?

The divine drink consumption could be as old as humankind, and its discovery is most likely accidental. Fermentation happens naturally and spontaneously because the yeasts that ferment the sugar are present on the grape’s skin. Just a couple of crashed fruits and the magic would start happening.

Although there is evidence that fermented grapes were typical in Asia in 6000 BC, the oldest archeologic winery ever found was in Armenia, dating 4000 B.C: the site had a wine press, fermentation vats, jars, and cups.

In ancient Egypt, the wine was mostly found in festivals and special occasions. It was believed to have divine qualities, therefore associated with deities such as Osiris, Horus, Hathor, and Shesmu. The intoxicating effects would help to connect with the ancestors, breaking the barriers between life and death.
Traces of wine were also found in some of the Pharaoh’s tombs, together with hieroglyphs showing cultivations, harvesting, and winemaking.

Thanks to an extensive trade in the Mediterranean basin, wine spread quickly in the Greeks and Romans’ empires.

The ancient Greeks took viticulture (the cultivation of grape) very seriously, studying soils and matching it to specific grapevines. Some regions implemented techniques of cultivation to gather better quality of the wine. They often added resins, herbs, and spices to improve the taste.
Wine was always mixed with water, as they believed that the undiluted drink could drive a man insane, and even kill him.
However, the Greeks used it also for its medicinal properties: doctors prescribed it to cure fevers, as an antiseptic, or to aid digestion.

Dionysus was the God of the vine, grape harvest, winemaking, wine, fertility, theatre, and celebrations. Wine was a symbol of his icona, and several festivals were held in his name.

Trading and the cultivation of Vitis Vinifera throughout Greek colonies in Europe made spread wine culture to other parts of the Mediterranean basin.
The Roman Empire made winemaking a real business, improving technologies to ease the drink’s production, storing, and flavoring.
They believed that wine had to be available to everyone, rich or poor. Hence, to ensure a constant supply, grapes cultivation was spread to all Roman Empire parts. We also have to consider that water was often not potable, so adding a little bit of wine could decrease health risks.

La vendemmia: harvesting in Italy

Now that we traveled through time, let’s take a trip to our favorite country for a super special time of the year: la Vendemmia, or harvesting. Find here more links to the best locations for grape harvesting in Italy.
Throughout the year, differing from Region to Region, but mainly starting mid-September, Italy is bursting with Fairs and Festivals where you can celebrate the grape harvest.

Although not in the top 5 wine producers, Tuscany is one of the main Regions for celebrations. You might not be able to participate in the actual harvest, but the events usually held in the main squares of some of the villages will be displaying stands where you can taste local food and wine while enjoying arts and music. You can check Tuscany’s calendar event before organizing your trip to experience more than one.

Quite unmissable is the Grape Festival of Impruneta, one of the oldest running Italian Festival. The 4 neighborhoods will be challenging each other with floats and locals in medieval and traditional costumes.

While most of the Festival will be held in Fall, the Region of Veneto – the land of the world-famous Prosecco – has its main event, “la Primavera del Prosecco,” from March throughout June.

Grape harvesting is hard work, but especially for smaller vineyard, it is always a great way to get all the family and friends together. Once the grapes reach the perfect grade of ripeness, each cluster will be harvested manually and carefully put into a basket. It is particularly important not to break the skin, or the fermentation process will start. The fruits will have to be destemmed, put into tanks where they will be pressed, and start fermenting.

Once the bubbling is finished, meaning the yeast ate all the sugars, the wine will be transferred into a “damigiana.” This is a large round glass bottle covered in a protective straw layer where the wine will sit until it is ready to be put in smaller bottles (750ml).

As you might imagine, stomping, or crushing wine by foot, is no longer done due to hygienic reasons.

Red, White, or Rosè?

The production of red wines will keep both skin and grape seeds, while white wines will be with the pulp only.
As for rosè wines, skins and seeds will be fermenting with the pulp from 24 to 36 hours max.
All skins will be removed for the production of white wines.

If you are a wine lover, we gave you another reason to visit the beautiful Bel Paese of Italy.
If, however, you want to take your palate on a sensory journey, come by our Restaurant. Our extensive Wine Menu will take you to some of the best Italian vineyards.