Know your Italian, food we mean!

Italian cuisine cannot be swept under one carpet. The variety is mind-boggling. Chef -Sommelier Fredrico Volpi from The Westin, Pune tell us exactly why..

It’s raining Italian food and Punekars don’t seemed to get enough of it. Try to count the number of Italian eateries and food festivals taking place and you would be pleasantly surprised. Pune is hosting yet another Italian food fiesta – Giro D’Italia – at their Prego till August 3rd. It has Chef Fredrico Volpi, who is a connoisseur of the delectable cuisine take you on its tour. A native of Tuscany, the chef sommelier shares with The Punekar the specialties of these regions, their wine and classic dishes.


main lamb rack Lazio happens to be one of the 20 regions in Italy and has Rome, the country’s capital as its capital too. According to Chef Volpi, the ingredients which make up traditional Roman cuisine comes from this rural region. “Because it’s always been food derived from a land which is very fertile and productive, it is designed to meet the power needs of a man busy working in the fields.” So, you will always find the typical regional products in consumption here and not much brought from outside, from oil to pigs. Interestingly, one of the sub-regions, Umbria had butchers selling pork after Easter till November. Volpi adds, “The cooking medium of choice is oil and is still present among the typical products of Lazio.”
Wines Found Locally: Castelli Romani and Frascati
Classic Dishes: Spaghetti Amatriciana, Spaghetti Carbonara, Lamb Chops Scottadito, Suppli


fondenteIf you get a chance to taste the food from Emilia Romagna, try to savour the starters. Chef Volpi suggests, “It starts from Borlengi, a kind of wafers made from milk and eggs, and then goes to Chizze Reggio Emilia, which are fried dumplings stuffed with parmesan to taste hot. Start the meal with an Erbazzone, a variant of the best-known pizza with vegetables of the Neapolitan tradition, with spinach and flavored with cinnamon.”
It is worth trying the Parma Ham, Parmigiano Reggiano and Culatello. You can safely say that Emilia Romagna is the home of tortellini, cappelletti and noodles, while the delicious sauces are heavy. The popular Bolognese sauce can be made of tomatoes and also ground beef, onion, carrots and celery. Amongst the pastas, Grana Padano or Parmigiano can be named one of the most delicious.
Chef Volpi adds, “On the Adriatic coast, the most representative dish is the fish soup. For the most refined palates I recommend snails Bobbio with carrots, onion and tomato sauce, while in the area of Parma, thistles with truffles are a delicacy of the highest level.”
The sweet dishes are quite elaborate and rich in flavours. “The easier Bracciadella Reggio Emilia is similar to the most classic donuts. Typical of the capital of the apothecary, Bologna pan is made with sugar, almonds, pine nuts and spices. At Christmas, taste the spongata Christmas cake, rich in spices with honey, walnuts, almonds flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.”
Wines Found Locally: Sangiovese, Trebbiano and Lambrusco. Go for aged wines.
Classic Dishes: Lasagna Tagliatelle Bolognese, Parma Ham, Piadina and Zuppa Inglese.


lamb rack with lentil ragoutThe very beautiful region of Tuscany or Toscana is where bread is literally worshipped and even stale bread is used. In fact, the region has a long list of recipes which are based on bread; right Panzanella Breaded, Acquacotta, pappa al Pomodoro to Garlic Bread, Vegetable Soup and the Soup of Cabbage.
The other speciality is the use of meats and game. The list is big: chickens, turkeys, geese, guinea fowl and pigeons with rabbits are equally welcome with game meats like hare and wild boar, pheasant and porcupine for a great feast. Pig is a favourite, going by the number of good products, right from the famous Tuscan salami, salted ham, to sausages and products like Buristo.
Chef Volpi adds, “Among the cheeses, the tradition focuses on Tuscan Pecorino cheeses. The most famous one is of Pienza and Maremma.” Desserts too have a place here with the famous being Sienese sweets like gingerbread, Tiramisu, cecco cake and so on.
Wines Found Locally: Brunello, Chianti, Sassicaia
Classic Dishes: Ribollita, Fiorentina Steak, Bruschetta, Cacciucco, Cantucci di Prato


chicken risotto
Apart from the natural beauty, the island’s unique cuisine is also a point of attraction. Chef Volpi reveals, “Thanks to the island’s geographical position between the sea, lagoons teeming with fish and the reliefs of the interior, the typical ingredients of the kitchen are different but also simple and natural. Sardinia was always known for its pastoral sheep and goat farming. Among the most valuable is the pecorino cheese DOC produced exclusively here.”
Amongst the Sardanian salami, you will find the mountain ham, pork or wild boar, even the sausage, dried or smoked, cured meat.
Starter fans can go with Aritzo hams, sausages cheese and olives seasoned in various ways, which are often accompanied by fresh vegetables. The seafood appetizers include crabs, mussels, clams, limpets, date mussels, snails, sea urchins, lobster, octopus and mullet roe.
Some other traditional Sardanian specials are pastes (dry and fresh), bread especially the well-known Bread Carasau, or Music Paper and desserts wheat flour, almonds and honey as key ingredients.
Wines Found Locally: Cannonau, Vermentino, Vernaccia
Classic Dishes: Porceddu , Pane Carasau, Malloreddus, Seadas, Pardulas.


prosciutto e meloneMove over Sicilian mafia gangs and gravitate towards Sicilian cuisine which uses a lot of fresh ingredients like fresh fish, juicy tomatoes, crisp vegetables and fruits, almonds and pistachios. The Saracens brought eggplant, and citrus fruits. The Arabic influence is seen in the spices, saffron, raisins, pistachios, almonds, still used in western Sicily and also sugar cane.
Chef Volpi adds, “Most of these flavors come from a social situation of poverty. The Sicilians always followed the principle of common fresh ingredients and the secret of Sicilian dishes is basically simplicity.”
The ingredients dominant in Sicilian cuisine represent the three colours of the National flag. Red is for the Sicilian Tomatoes which has a wonderfully intense sweet taste. Peppers are another important ingredient. To represent white is garlic, practically used in almost every dish. White is also the cheese. Parmesan entered the menus of the restaurants on the island only recently, and is not used for all the sauces. The last color is green. Olive oil is the essential seasoning of Sicilian cuisine. Basil is massively present in many dishes.”
Wine Found Locally: Itynera Grillo Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot Mannara
Classic Dishes: Arancini, Caponata, Sword Fish Rolls, Pasta Alla Norma, Cannoli filled with Ricotta, Cassata Cake.