Monday, December 14, 2009
Dinner in the Style of Celle di San Vito
Dinner in Italy. Sounds romantic, luxurious, decadent and delicious. While traveling in October with my parents and sister, we went to this little town, Celle di San Vito for lunch. I am sorry I don't know the name of the restaurant, but I doubt there is more than one or two there, and I believe it is really famous for its pizza. Pepino, our friend from Faeto really wanted us to go to dinner there, but Lori, my sister and driver was pretty adamant about going to this village in daylight. As navigator, I was a little surprised at her lack of adventure, I mean she was a trained stuntwoman, how hard is it to drive around Italy? We were in Faeto, sitting on one side of a small mountain, and Celle was across the valley on another mountain.
It turned out to be a wise decision for a number of reasons. First of all it was cold and rainy so, not a lot to do in Faeto. Second, the road was full of hairpin curves and one portion was down to a single lane where it had washed away, (gulp, that's me swallowing the crow), and last, based on the amount of food we consumed, we could have never gone to bed within hours of eating. I declared it the best meal of the trip. Nothing fancy, nothing exotic, nothing new to my palate. It was so delicious, the table next to a fire, it was perfect. This weekend I duplicated this simple meal for a few appreciative friends. The photos are from the Italian dinner, with the exception of the table setting, the cannoli and the pizzelle.
I rearranged my house last year and turned my keeping room into the eating area and the table is next to the fireplace. We started with Antipasti. A platter of prosciutto and salami, bruschetta which was grilled bread with fresh chopped tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil, and finally assorted olives, marinated mozzarella and peppers. The olives and mozzarella were the only additions, otherwise it was the same as in Celle. Sadly, I didn't have Anna Sabatino's bread to make my bruschetta. We sipped red wine and savored the smell from the oven.
For Primo we had baked pasta. The pasta in Celle was apparently hand rolled, like a gemelli, but I found Torchetti, imported from Italy and made on 150 year old bronze molds. I made a marinara with Pomi tomatoes and added some mild Italian sausage. The sauce cooked all afternoon, and at the end I added a Tablespoon of homemade pesto for a little brightness. I tossed the sauce with cooked (al dente) pasta, added a few chunks of mozzarella and baked it for about 25 minutes in a very shallow dish. In Celle, I am certain it was baked in a wood fired oven, it was crusty on the top and the sauce was sweet and burnt in places. In Celle it was served in individual terra cotta type vessels that were shallow and held in the heat on that chilly day. Mine was equally as delicious.
For Secondi, we had grilled pork chops that had been marinated in extra virgin olive oil, lemon zest and bay leaves. And for Contorni we had roasted potatoes and salad. The potatoes were not as crispy as they were in Celle, and I opted to not make them with the sausage, but I tossed the wedges with olive oil, garlic and onions and baked it in a hot oven. I think the potatoes cooked with the sausage would make a fine winter meal on its own. The salad was simple, mixed greens with white wine vinegar and olive oil. The salad is last, that is the way we always eat it at my house, and in Celle too.
We then brewed some coffee (no espresso here) and poured a little Sambuca. In Celle we had fresh roasted chustnuts (cue the music, Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.... but as wonderful as they smell, they are too mushy for me. We opted for Dolci and had handmade cannoli and pizzelle, and more Sambuca. Many of our guests had never had Sambuca con la mosca which translates to Sambuca with ants. Really, it is 3 coffee beans which represent health, happiness and prosperity.
It was a great dinner. Fun to relive it and tell about my great Italian roadtrip. Everything I made will be standards in my recipe repetoire, but not all at once! Buon Apetito!