Monthly Archives: October 2008

Mangia! Mangia! – The Ultimate Tuscan Burger at Mac Dario

In Chianti Classico, on a warm October day, we savored succulent burgers under the Tuscan sun. Mac Dario has been open for four months in Panzano and it’s clear that Dario Cecchini has another hit on his platter. 

Dario greeting guests at Mac Dario
Dario greeting guests at Mac Dario

Until our order for Veloce e Toscano (Fast and Tuscan) arrived just minutes after we sat down, the only thought I had was: “Does Dario ever sleep?”

Kim in the Macellaria Cecchini
Kim in the Macellaria Cecchini

After the 2006 opening of Solociccia (“It is not a restaurant. It is the home of a butcher.” See Instructions for Use) and the 2007 debut of the Officina della Bistecca (“The Officina is not recommended to those of little appetite.” See the small print.), it’s easy to wonder why Dario wanted to dive into the world of fast Slow Food. Remember, he’s also spent the last 33 years building the Macelleria Cecchini into one of the best-known butcher shops in the world. (See links below for more about Dario, Solociccia and the Macelleria Cecchini.)

The answer was very clear by the time we finished the most fabulous burgers and perfect roast potatoes served in Italy. Dario is surrounded by incredible people, each of whom add their best to a dining experience – any of the varied dining experiences – from that at home, savoring the fennel pollen-coated pork chop Dario sells in the butcher shop, to Maria Teresa welcoming you in to eat “only meat” (not exactly) at Solociccia to Simonetta’s torta all’olio di oliva, served at all three venues, to Riccardo’s half pound Medaglione (a burger of the best beef) to the grill masters, Carlo and Angelo, to Dante…

Modern day Dante manages Mac Dario
Modern day Dante manages Mac Dario

Dante was a find. Legend (probably not all true) has it he wandered into sunny Tuscany from the cold north (Udine). He meets a butcher known for reciting reams of poetry from another Dante (Alighieri) and the rest is history. Dante now coordinates the fast-paced Mac Dario and the leisurely Officina della Bistecca.

But back to the food. Mac Dario offers two fixed menus – Veloce e Toscano and Accoglienza (loosely translated: Welcome).

Fast and Tuscan costs 10 euro and fills you up with the Medaglione, a huge rounded patty of pure ground beef, lightly dusted with fine breadcrumbs. It is flanked by slivered sweet red onions, fresh tomato slices and crispy yellow potatoes. For those who want the bun experience, a basket of crusty buns, wood oven-baked Tuscan bread and focaccia is offered.

The meat is not seasoned. On the table is Dante’s own Chianti Catsup (fresh tomato salsa with a red pepper kick) and Profumo del Chianti (herbed salt), Kim’s sweet and spicy mustard and Judy’s hot and sweet pepper jelly (Mostarda Mediterranea). Just tasting the condiments reminds us of the collaboration that goes into the experience at Mac Dario. (Kim, alone, is credited with tasting dozens of versions of Veloce e Toscano before Dario settled on the final styling.)

Veloce e Toscano
Veloce e Toscano

The crispy potatoes with soft yellow centers are pure comfort food. Harvested near Prato, the spuds are peeled, chopped, parboiled, and finally, roasted in the oven with sage and extra virgin olive oil. A sprinkling of salt finishes them off.

Riccardo cooks up the burgers
Riccardo cooks up the burgers

For newbies to the Macelleria, the second menu at Mac Dario may be the best way to go.  The Welcome meal costs 20 euro and offers a bit of everything from the butcher shop, including Sushi del Chianti (beef tartare with parsely, garlic, ground red pepper, lemon juice, salt and pepper), Tonno del Chianti (pork boiled in white wine, then marinated in olive oil with sage and bay leaves), Arista in Porchetta (slow, fire-roasted pork loin), Cosimino in Salsa Ardente (fine-ground veal meatloaf garnished with Judy’s pepper jelly), raw carrot and celery sticks and Tuscan bread.

Extras include red or white wine, fruit juice, coffee and Simonetta’s scrumptious torta (rich with bit a lemon and a crunchy sugar dusting), and digestivi dell’Esercito Italiano (liqueurs made for the Italian Army). You may bring your own bottle of wine – there is no corkage fee.

Famed for the clean trendy design of Solociccia, Dario repeated the feat at Mac Dario with the long black slate rock picnic tables, flanked by surprisingly comfortable red iron geometric chairs, under large umbrellas, located outside the Officina della Bistecca, upstairs from the butcher shop. The view is pure Tuscan – the valley of Greve and the ridge to Lamole.

Dining outside at Mac Dario
Dining outside at Mac Dario

Dario, Kim, Simonetta, Maria Teresa, Riccardo, Carlo, Angelo and Dante are only a few of those you may have the pleasure to meet in Panzano while tasting a bit of Tuscany. A couple of dozen more of those who are helping Dario sleep at night, but are unnamed here, will make your visit one to remember.

Want to know more?  See the following links:

Solociccia Web Site

DivinaCucina on Solociccia

Boots in the Oven on Solociccia

LA Times on Solociccia

Dario’s Blog

Bill Bufford in The New Yorker on Dario

Maine Today on Dario

LA Times on Dario’s visit to Los Angeles

Bene Magazine on Dario

Dove Vai? – Niki de Saint Phalle’s Tarot Garden

This garden was made with difficulties, love, wild enthusiasm, obsession, and most of all, faith. Nothing could have stopped me. 

As in all fairy tales, before finding the treasure, I met on my path dragons, sorcerers, magicians and the Angel of Temperance.

Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002)

The Empress - Home of Saint Phalle
The Empress – Home of Saint Phalle

Rising on low hills of southern Tuscany, not far from the sea, Niki de Saint Phalle’s Tarot Garden is a village of sculpture that defies time and reality.  The sculptures are architectural – stairs to climb, courtyards to discover, and even a home (used at one time by the artist) to explore (The Empress). The art is contemplative and playful at the same time.  Both adults and children enjoy the colors, textures and surprises, but each age group takes away very different experiences from the Tarot Garden.

The Lovers
The Lovers

As the Tarot Garden took shape between 1978 and 1998, the works reflected the artist’s ideas about an open way of life in which each person contributes the best of his or her abilities, in which individuals are not placed at any disadvantage and in which imagination is allowed to develop as freely as possible.

The Tarot Garden is in the same tradition of the Italian fantasy gardens of the 16th and 17thcenturies, such as Villa d’Este and Bomarzo. The greatest influence on Saint Phalle was the work of Antoni Gaudi in the Parc Güell in Barcelona, especially in its incorporation of color and mosaics.

Courtyard of The Emperor
Nanas in the Courtyard of The Emperor

The philosophical basis of the garden is the tarot itself.  The figures on the cards of the major arcane make up the sculptures – the Hanged Man, the Falling Tower, The Empress, etc.

Upon entering the circular passage through the Wall designed by Mario Botta, a visitor enters a magic world, both symbolically and in reality. The Tarot Garden calls on four senses – sight, smell, hearing, touch. Saint Phalle chose the aromatic plants for the garden, including lavender, rosemary, pine and juniper trees and boxwood. Water gurgles from the mouth of The High Priestess and metallic tinkling, clicks, and creaks sing out  from the sculptures of Saint Phalle’s collaborator, lover, then husband, Jean Tinguely.

Niki de Saint Phalle's kitchen - The Empress
Niki de Saint Phalle’s Kitchen in The Empress

Rainbow colors meet the eye at every turn from the brilliant pieces of glass and ceramic. Thousands of reflections of people, nature, and the sky sparkle out of mirrored mosaics, including those lining the rooms of the Sphinx (The Empress) – the bedroom occupies one breast, the kitchen the other, a bathroom nestles in a foot, and the mosaic diningroom table shares the body with mirrored couches and chairs.

Pillar of Ceramic Hands
Pillar of Ceramic Hands

Visitors reach out to rest hands on a rough cement balastrade, trace a finger over a message written on a ceramic wall, smooth a palm across the head of a nana in a bathing pool in the courtyard of The Emperor (the Castle), or grab hand of one of the filiform “Skinnies.”

A Skinny - The Fool
A Skinny – The Fool

The Earth Mothers [Nanas] have been replaced by my ‘Skinnies.’ The ‘Skinnies’ breathe.

They are air sculptures with mythological subjects. You can see the sky or a plant through them. I invite the spectator to look with me through my sculptures.

Air has come into my life. My lungs were severely damaged by working with polyester. Breathing deeply, exercise, walking. Feeling closer to nature changed me. These sculptures reflect that change.

Niki de Saint Phalle (February 1982)

View from the Tarot Garden
View from the Tarot Garden

Plan to spend at least half a day in the Tarot Garden. It changes with the time of the day and the path of the sun. Drive south of Grosseto on the Via Aurelia and exit near Capalbio. Follow the signs – it’s not far from the main road. The Tarot Garden opens the first week of April and closes in mid-October. From April to October the garden is open everyday from 2:30pm to 7:30pm. But also, Niki Saint Phalle mandated that from November through March, on the first Saturday of each month, the Tarot Garden is the open, free-of-charge, from 9am to 1pm.

Visit the amusing and informative website for complete up to date information.

A new venue for viewing  Niki de Saint Phalle’s  works for sale and an up-to-date list of exhibits of her art can be found at artsy.net.

 

Italian Food Rules by Ann Reavis is available now. You can buy Italian Food Rules by using these links:

Italian Food Rules: The Book

Amazon. com (U.S.) eBook for Kindle & Kindle Apps

Amazon. com (U.S.) paperback

Amazon.co.uk (United Kingdom)

Amazon.it (Italy)

Amazon.de (Germany)

Amazon.fr (France)

Barnes & Noble (U.S.) eBook for Nook

Dove Vai? – Florentine Leather in NYC

The euro has dropped a bit, but plane tickets are still expensive. However, those of you living in or near New York City (or visiting at the end of the month) have an opportunity to buy limited edition Florentine leather coats, purses and accessories without traveling far from home. Tuscan Traveler’s favorite leather fashion store, Casini Firenze of Piazza Pitti, is coming to you.

Casini Firenze Purse
Casini Firenze Purse

Jennifer Tattanelli, Casini Firenze’s owner and chief designer, is presenting her second annual showing of Casini’s New Leather Collections 2009 for both men and women.

Reversible Leather Jackets - Soft & Light
Reversible Leather Jackets - Soft & Light

Jennifer and Olga from Casini Firenze will be at Jumeirah Essex House, 160 Central Park South, New York, from October 30th through November 3rd at the Central Park Suites.

For appointments, contact Jennifer at jennifer@casinifirenze.it or call 39.055.219324.

Tuscan Traveler Goes to Matera – City of Stone

To escape the tourist-packed streets of Florence and trendy Tuscany, going south to the Amalfi Coast or Capri doesn’t give much relief.  To find a different Italy, the adventuresome traveler goes to the southeastern region of Basilicata and the unique town of Matera and tours the Sassi (Stones) of Matera.

The Sassi of Matera
The Sassi of Matera

History Made Matera a Cultural Jumble

Almost everyone across Europe and the Mediteranean claimed Matera at some point in time.

Palaeolithic findings and Neolithic and Bronze Age underground settlements have been uncovered in the stone caves in the ravines below and across from the city. The original town center above the Sassi (where the cathedral is now) was a Roman settlement in the 3rd century BC and there is evidence of earlier Greek inhabitants. To either side of the plateau lie two limestone/tufa basins that are home to the Sassi districts of Caveoso and Barisano, home of the ancient cave dwellers.

Ancient caves of the first residents
Ancient caves of the first residents

In the 6th century BC, the Goths invaded Matera. After them came the Lombards, who fought it out over the centuries with the Byzantines. The town was destroyed and rebuilt three times due to invasions between 867 and 994.

13th century Cathedral of Matera
13th century Cathedral of Matera

Matera came under Angevin (French) dominion in the period between the 12th and 13th centuries. Matera was then taken over by the Aragon (Spanish) dynasty. In the 15th and 16th centuries, there was a large influx of Albanians and Serbo-Croats compelled to flee their countries by the invading Turks.

The Aragon rulers (also the Kings of Naples) granted the town to Count Giancarlo Tramontano, but his heavy-handed taxation regime caused the populace to rise up and kill him in 1514.

Matera was chosen in 1663, as the seat of government of the Basilicata area in the Kingdom of Naples, a position it occupied until 1806 when Napoleon’s elder brother, Joseph Bonaparte, King of Naples, moved the bureaucracy to Potenza.

Explore the ancient walkways into the Sassi
Explore the ancient walkways into the Sassi

The town then followed the fortunes of Southern Italy until the unification of Italy in 1861. Since 1927, it has been a provincial capital of Basilicata. 

In the late 1800s, over-population of the town site drove people back into the Sassi, making them the neighborhoods of the abject poor. At first families lived in the bare caves. Later these developed into house-like structures. 

Matera was the first Italian town to rise against German occupation (September 21, 1943).

Sassi House circa 1950
Sassi House circa 1950

The Sassi were evacuated by law in 1952, when 15,000 people, living in extremely poor hygienic circumstances, were resettled to new quarters. 

Today, Matera is defying the legacy of southern Italy to become a relatively prosperous agricultural and manufacturing hub as well as a popular tourist destination.

Matera, Famous for Stone, Art and Food

Matera is unique for its architecture and its food.  The regional Aglianico and Primitivo wines, the Matera bread, the Senise dried peppers, Lucanica sausages, the lamb slow-cooked in an earthenware pot (pignata), and the cheeses lure people to the Basilicata region of southern Italy.  Touring the caves, convents and churches of the Matera Sassi helps to burn off the calories.

Touring the Sassi is like stepping back in time
Touring the Sassi is like stepping back in time

Matera’s Sassi are the best surviving and most complete examples of rock-cut settlement in the Mediterranean region. Nature provided this location with a belt of soft tufa, with two natural depressions. Today, the Sassi have been reborn with trendy, wealthy homes being built to incorporate both the caves and restored external structures.  Many new B&Bs, popular with tourists, have sprung up in the last five years.  Ribboned with stone stairways and paths, the Sassi are an intriguing mysterious place to take a daylight or nighttime tour. The experience is one of stepping back in time, but with startling glimpses of a modern prosperous future.

Matera's special traditional bread
Matera's Traditional Bread

While hiking through the Sassi, find a small cafe to sample the savory bread of Matera and the various cheeses of the Basilicata region. The unique Pecorino cheese made in nearby Filiano is made from the milk of sheep that are bred in pastures. For producing this cheese, the shepherds from Filiano still use traditional techniques. The milk that comes from two milkings, the morning one and the evening one; thus, each wheel of cheese has a slightly different spicy taste depending on the time of the year and the type of pasture for the sheep. Pair this piccante cheese with a glass of Primitivo wine, a red wine made of a grape that is the ancient cousin of Zinfandel.

Painted clay traditional figurines
Painted clay traditional figurines

Materani artisans are justly famous for their sculptures carved from the native tufa stone and the colorful ceramic whistles and figurines.  This cultural center for the Basilicata region has attracted painters, jewelry designers and interior designers.  After a day hiking the Sassi, another can be spent perusing the galleries and workshops of these talented artists.

Tour Guide

Contact Amy Weideman for the best English language tours of the Sassi. Email: aweideman@libero.it

Cave House Museum

To view a cave home as it was pre-1950, visit Casa Grotta of Vico Solitario in Sasso Caveoso.

Dove Vai? – Go to Matera for the Best European Writers’ Conference

Europe is not known for its conferences for writers.  There are many great gatherings for readers, including those in Edinburgh, Wales and Turin.  But only the small town of Matera hosts a great symposium for writers and, despite its name, Women’s Fiction Festival (WFF), it’s not just for women anymore.  This year the speakers included Nick Hornby (About A Boy) and his editor, Penguin UK’s Publishing Director Tony Lacey.

The roots of WFF are in romantic fiction – Harlequin Mondadori and Book Cents Literary Agency are sponsors. One story has it that Elizabeth Jennings, founder of the festival, followed her physician husband to Matera years ago, but missed her friends in Florence and Brussels, both places where she had worked as a translator.  Elizabeth also wrote romantic fiction and was connected via the internet to a world of authors. In 2004, she figured out how to get all of her friends to make the trek to Matera – create a conference of writers with the added bonus of simultaneous translation.Now, using the most modern equipment, the conference is perfect for those who speak either English or Italian. The whole town of Matera is invited to participate along with authors, agents and publishers from Italy, Germany, England and the United States.

Nick Hornby
Nick Hornby

This past September, master classes in Crime Fiction (including a trip to the local Criminal Investigation Laboratory), Memoir Writing, Short Story Writing and Young Adult Fiction (led by Nick Hornby, talking about his new book Slam) were offered as well as sessions on the international publishing forecast, query letters, literary contracts, and foreign rights.

WFF is small enough for authors to hang out with agents, editors and publishers, as well as other authors.  It’s a friendly place, unlike many of the huge U.S. writers’ conferences with their “speed dating” style of author-agent meetings. The agents, editors and publishers this year included those from Penguin (UK), Headline Publishing (UK), Blanvalet (Germany), Mills & Boon (UK), Dorchester Publishing (US), Mondadori (Italy), Memori (Italy), Writer’s Digest (US), Tea (Italy), Verlag (Germany), Serendipity Literary Agency (US), Greyhouse Agency (US), Sarah Jane Freyman Literary Agency (US), Mary Sue Seymore Literary Agency (US), Book Cents Literary Agency (US), and AP Watt Literary Agency (UK).

WFF held in Matera Monastery
WFF held in Matera Monastery

From the opening greetings to the closing gala, the Women’s Fiction Festival of Matera, held each September, is the most educational, fun, edifying four days an aspiring author can experience. 

To read more about the 2008 Festival, see the following:

Jenyfer Matthews does the Women’s Fiction Festival (Killer Fiction Blog)

My Adventures In Italy (Guide to Literary Agents: Editor’s Blog)

Crime Fiction Events (Shotsmag: The Crime & Thriller Ezine)

And the 2004 Festival:

Women’s Fiction for Europe: No Cowboys, No Babies (International Herald Tribune)

Mangia! Mangia! – The Bread of Matera, Italy’s Best?

Matera, located on Italy’s anklebone, boasts of being a UNESCO World Heritage Center with its ancient caves carved in the soft tufa that date back to prehistoric times. (Matera is one of the only places on earth where the residents are still living where their ancestors lived 9,000 years ago.) But what the Materani and visitors alike are more likely to be discussing at any minute of the day is the bread of Matera.  Like the Lardo di Colonnata, the Pane di Matera has been awarded the designation IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta), the only food so honored in the Basilicata region.

UNESCO World Heritage Site - Stones of Matera
UNESCO World Heritage Site - Stones of Matera

A van driver tells his clients about the time he was at school in the north and three fellow students each brought back bread from their region.  His soft, yeasty, fragrant, slightly salted bread with a crunchy crust won hands down over the finely-textured saltless bread from Toscana and the tasty wheat bread from Bolzano. On the train heading north out of Bari, every third person is carrying a kilo or two of Pane di Matera.

One kilo loaf of Martera Bread
Two kilo Loaf of Matera Bread

The tradition of Matera bread goes back to the Kingdom of Naples in the 15th and 16th centuries. It still uses the ancient varieties of hard wheat grown in the area, such as CappelliDuro Lucano, Capeiti and Appulo, whose flours give the bread its unique flavor. These typical varieties must make up at least 20% of the bread’s composition under the IGP rules. The preparation of the yeast, which uses fresh fruit in the process, is unique. Matera bread can only be made with a cone or crested shape and must weigh one or two kilograms (2.2 to 4.4 pounds) per loaf. It has a straw-colored, soft interior with a characteristic honeycomb look, which is surrounded by a hard crunchy crust.

Crunchy Crust and Soft Center of Martera Bread
Crunchy Crust and Soft Center of Matera Bread

Not more than thirty years ago, the bread-making day was a fixed event for the Matera housewife. It began the evening before by collecting the yeast, kept over from the last bread-making day, and making the starter dough that was then left to rise in the majustr, a large clay container. The next morning, a larger amount of dough was made using as much as 15 kilos of flour for big families. After leavening, the local baker made his rounds to pick up the dough. The women then went to the baker’s forno where they carefully watched over what happened to their own bread in the wood-burning oven. To recognize their own loaves, they used to mark each loaf on the fold with a hard wooden stamp. The stamp is still used in artisan bakeries today as are the practices of the Matera housewives of yore, although with the help of large kneading machines and long leavening tables.  Today, few people make Pane di Matera at home.

Is Pane di Matera the best bread in Italy? Tuscan Traveler invites your comments.

Mangia! Mangia! – Melt In Your Mouth Lardo

Lardo is trendy. Mario Batali is putting it on his pizzas at Otto in New York City and Le Cirque 2000 slices it melting-thin and drapes it over warm country bread. Trattorias and restaurants throughout Italy serve it. Italian butchers and delis sell it by the gram and by the kilo.

Lardo with a side of Fig Preserves
Lardo with a side of Fig Preserves

Most claim to serve Lardo di Colonnata. But statistics show that 6.5 million kilograms of purported “Lardo di Colonnata” are consumed in Italy per year and Colonnata only produces 160,000 kilos (352,739 pounds) of the savory fat, so about 7 times out of ten it’s not from the mountain village near Carrara (see Dove Vai? – Colonnata, Village of Anarchists, Lardo and Marble).

Lardo is pork fatback and is 100% fat. So lardo will never melt on your tongue? But olive oil is also 100% fat. And according to the U.S. Agriculture Department, lard (lardo) is lower in saturated fat, and higher in mono- and poly-unsaturated fats than butter. The department’s nutrient database also reports that it is lower in cholesterol. Dr. Frank B. Hu, an associate professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, said research shows that lard and butter ”aren’t public enemy No. 1 anymore.” It is instead the hydrogenated fats – margarine, for instance, the so-called “healthy” fat of the 1970’s – that have turned out to be the “bad” fats.

Methods passed generation to generation
Methods passed generation to generation

For over one thousand years lardo has been made in the same way in Colonnata.  The process starts in the fall when pigs of at least nine months of age and weighing over 350 pounds are butchered.  Rectangular strips of fatback, each at least one and quarter inch thick, are cut. The maturation takes place in marble tubs (le conche di marmo) placed in caves or cool cellars. To give the lard its unique flavor the tubs are rubbed with garlic and the lard is immersed in brine. Sea salt mixed with spices and herbs (always rosemary, peppercorns, and garlic, but sometimes including anise seed, thyme, oregano, sage, nutmeg, and cloves) is rubbed all over each slab in a thick layer. The strips are fit, puzzle-like, layer upon layer in the marble casks, repeating the process over and over. Once the tub is full, it is covered with a wooden lid or a marble cover. The curing time runs from a minimum of six months to one year. A festival in Colonnata marks the traditional date of maturation each August.

Lardo of Colonnata is white with a pink streak. Thanks to the particular maturation procedure, the Lard of Colonnata is a natural product, free from preservatives and coloring. The best way to eat this lard is on toasted bread or on polenta, laying a paper-thin slice of room temperature lardo on the still warm bread (see photo) or polenta. For a savory-sweet treat, dot sliced lardo with fig preserves or mostarda di frutta (an Italian condiment made with candied fruit and powdered mustard). Let the lardo melt on your tongue followed by the sweet taste with the mustard kick. Despite the amount of salt used in curing the fatback, lardo is surprisingly mild.

To preserve lardo after slicing, leave it with its salt- and herb-encrusted coating (do not cut off the rind after slicing and save the end slice) and wrap it in a damp cloth. Store it in a cellar or at the bottom of the fridge in the vegetable drawer.

One of the twelve remaining producers
One of the twelve remaining producers

Despite its century-long history, the most eventful times for lardo have been recent. In April 1996, the powers-that-be realized that the lardariums had never been inspected or authorized by the Board of Health. European Union food inspectors got involved. Countless conche di marmo were sealed and several hundred pounds of lard were confiscated from Colonnata’s dirt-floored cellars and caves. The resulting analysis revealed that all samples tested were found beyond reproach and it was proven once and for all that the use of marble containers posed no health threat. Despite the laboratory findings, however, producers were ordered to meet existing health practices, including using preservatives and disposable plastic tubs, tiling the cellars, forbidding use of the caves for aging – essentially bankrupting the lardariums. The EU’s action caused a grass-roots movement that led to Lardo di Colonnata becoming one of the first traditional Italian foods, made using many of the ancient methods, to be protected under the Arca del Gusto di Slow Food, supported by the Slow Food Italia organization, Provincia di Massa Carrara and the Regione Toscana. Twelve of the fourteen producers were able to remain in business.

Lardo & Vino Rosso
Lardo & Vino Rosso

The Presidio has also moved against the “fake” lardo moving stealthily into the Italian market from inside and outside the country. So now back to the question of wether the lardo you buy is from Colonnata. If you are paying a premium for the product, ask to see the IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) brand on the rind. Also, be aware that other regions of Italy produce great lardo. In 1996, Valle d’Aosta received DOP (Denominazinione di Origine Protetta) for Lardo di Arnad, once made in oak casks, and now aged in steel containers.  It is sometimes stored thereafter in glass jars, covered with white wine. From Cavour, a small town in the Piemonte 
region, a famous butcher, Silvio Brarda, produces a special rosemary-infused lardo, Lardo al rosmarino di Cavour.  The “poor brother” (fratello povero) of lardo, is produced near Florence.  Lardo Val di Greve, made from special mature Cinta Senese pigs, is known for its reasonable price and delicate flavor.

Antipasti at Locanda Apuana
Antipasti at Locanda Apuana

The trattorias, cafés and bars of Colonnata serve lardo in a multitude of ways for snacks or full meals.  One of the best places for lunch or dinner after touring the village and buying lardo to take home (eat before arriving in the U.S., lardo is forbidden by the Customs Service) is Trattoria Locanda Apuana, Via Comunale, 1, (closed Sunday dinner and Monday) just down the main road from the central square.

Trattoria Locanda Apuana in Colonnata
Trattoria Locanda Apuana in Colonnata