Five of Italy’s Regions were in London recently showcasing their visitor attractions and the outstanding quality of their cuisine. Peter Morrell reports
Very appropriately The Market Hall in Borough Market was the venue for a flavour filled evening of Italian food and wine. Five regions, Emilia Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto, which are all in the north of the country, had flown in chefs who would each highlight their own local specialities. As we watched the chefs weave their culinary magic we were all treated to a plate of the food being cooked and a matching wine.
Italy is a fascinating country for its diversity, bordering Switzerland and Austria as you travel south the terrain moves in easy steps from mountainous to Mediterranean. Each step heralds a change in cuisine, architecture and customs. As we were looking at the cuisine of the northern regions there was an emphasis on meat, maize, butter and preserved foods like cheese and dried meats
Emilia-Romagna presented a dish of oxtail cannelloni made with Prosciutto ham, Parmesan cheese and a drop of Modena balsamic vinegar. Three of the main pillars of Italian cooking all coming from the same region and not forgetting that it’s capital Bologna lends it’s name to the most ubiquitous of Italian dishes Bolognese sauce, A fruity Lambrusco from Modena was the wine pairing for this rich and flavourful dish oxtail dish.
Fruili Venezia Giulia
Moving on to Fruili Venezia Giulia which borders Austria to the north and the Adriatic to the south the region is renown for its aromatic white wines. It’s also home to San Danielle ham and smoked freshwater trout. The medieval centre of the now quiet Cividale del Fruili is a UNESCO world heritage site and once the capital of the Lombard Kingdom. From here we sampled a polenta and cheese dip with a matching pinot grigio.
Our culinary journey moved on to Lombardy with a dish of Ossobuco, slow cooked veal shank served with polenta and dressed with gremolata. it had great depth of flavour. This is a beautiful region and boasts Lake Como amongst its many natural wonders. It’s capital is Milan makes it one of Italy’s most culturally rich areas with it’s famous opera house and Da Vinci’s The Last Supper
The next stop was Piedmont, the showcased dish here was Artemide black rice with Gorgonzola cheese, a deeply savoury and satisfying dish. This was accompanied by a profoundly complex Vespolina and Nebbiolo red wine. You can find culture aplenty in the historic city of Turin which is also the birthplace of vermouth and bread sticks. Here the local wines include Barolo and Barbaresco and the town of Alba it world famous for its white truffles.
The final destination was Veneto, known as the garden of Venice. The representative dish here was ham coated pork tenderloin with Asiago cheese and cornmeal fondue, a red wine reduction glaze and pan seared asparagus. A lovely Colli Eugenei red was the wine partner. Although Prosecco is made in many places, its best known production area is in Veneto to the north of Treviso As well as fine food this region has a wealth of culture in cities like Padua, Verona and Vicenza and fine examples of Palladian architecture.
This had been a delicious and rewarding culinary tour of northern Italy. Wherever you go in any of these regions you will find the standard of food to be very high and there are lots of other things to see and do to keep even the most demanding traveller happy.
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