Thursday, 29 October 2009

Discover Italian Regional Cuisine: Piedmont

The Land

Piedmont is located in northwestern Italy and is composed of a variety of striking landscapes, from the Alpine mountains to the soft rolling hills of the Langhe and Monferrato, to the flat plains that line the Po River. Many people argue that Piedmont is best enjoyed during the autumn months, when the forests are at their most colorful and a heavy fog starts to settle over the land. Torino, the regional capital, was also the first capital of the newly formed House of Savoy. The presence of the royal family is still evident in city’s palaces, wide streets and avenues, piazzas, churches and its18th century character. Turin has been called a “mini-Paris”, due to the city’s French-feeling cafes, antique stores and signs of another era.

The Food

The world’s most prized white truffles come from the providences of Alba and Mondovì. They make the ideal accompaniment to one of the region’s post popular pastas – tajarin, tagliatelli made from really eggy pasta dough. Cardo gobbo, or local “hunchbacked” cardoon, is an essential ingredient of the region’s most convivial dish, bagna caoda. Local custom suggests that bagna caoda, literally “hot bath,” be enjoyed amongst friends since the primary ingredients of the warm dipping sauce are garlic and anchovies. In Piedmont, you will also find exceptional stuffed pastas like agnolotti that, according to the area in which they are made, can be stuffed with anything from cheese to various mixed meats. Do not miss out on the flavorful Piemontese risotti, the plural of risotto, made with local cheeses, freshwater fish, game, mushrooms and full bodied Barolo wine.

In terms of meat, as in nearby Valle d’Aosta, many of the recipes come from across the Alps. For example, la finanziera, is a sort of ragù made with the less desirable parts of beef and poultry. Originally, the dish was considered poor man’s food, but can now be found in elegant restaurants in the area. Other typical preparations include braises – don’t miss the brasato al Barolo – and mixed boiled meats, or bolliti, served with various sauces.

In Piedmont, you will also find a vast selection of cheeses, like Taleggio, Ossolano d’Alpe, also called Bettelmatt, Castelmagno, Robiola di Roccaverano, Bruss (a spicy cream cheese that comes in its own special mold), and small tome, or tomini, preserved in oil and various spices.

During the fall, people head into the cloudy forests and hills to collect autumnal treasures like nuts. Local hazelnuts are used in all kinds of sweets including gianduia, a Piemontese specialty of chocolate-hazelnut cream. Chestnuts appeared candied as the famous Marron Glacés. They are also used in Monte Bianco, a mountain of cream and chestnut paste.

In addition to the numerous regional sweets, the people of Piedmont also take pride in their invention in local breadsticks, or grissini, and commonly referred to as torinesi. Grissini are made from the traditional bread dough for ghersa, a type of long thin bread, which is believed to be ease digestion. Grissini pair well with many traditional Italian dishes and can now be found throughout the peninsula.

And it goes without saying that Piedmont is famous for its wine. Over fifty varieties of grapes are grown here. The grapes are harvested in the late summer and early fall to produce many of Italy’s most important and famous wines like Nebbiolo, Barbera, Barbaresco and Barolo.

Should you require any special regional dish from Piedmont please contact our restaurant manager in advance with your request.

Montpeliano Restaurant
13 Montpelier street
Knightsbridge, London, SW7 1HQ
T. +44(0)2075890032

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Discover Italian Regional Cuisine: Molise


Molise is one of Italy’s smallest regions and was declared independent from Abruzzo as recently as 1963. Molise is almost completely covered with mountains, including the areas closest to the coast. Despite the cold winters, agriculture remains a thriving industry. In addition to wine, olive, wheat, corn and tobacco are all grown in here.

Molise was first occupied by the Sanniti people, and was then taken over by the Romans despite the valiant efforts of the inhabitants. The history of the region mirrors that of Abruzzo and was dominated by the Lombards, the Franks and then by the Normans, who gave the region its name.

Molise was first considered a part of Campania, then Puglia, before becoming a province of Abruzzo. The region has always suffered from emigration, especially in the nineteenth century.


Molise was the only region in Italy to come under the rule of Sicily. The Sicilian influence is evident in the region’s gastronomic culture. Sheep are an important to the regional economy, as it is in many other regions in southern Italy. You will find that the lamb dishes are very similar to the recipes of Abruzzo. In Molise, pigskin is often used to make sauces for pasta.

The types of pasta you find here are resemble what you find in the neighboring regions. Cavatieddi and Sagne are two popular pasta shapes that come from Puglia. The Puglian influence is also noticeable in the regional custom of pairing cheese and fish, as in the recipe for stuffed, broiled mussels.

The local cheeses are primarily made from sheep’s milk and include names like Pecorino, Scamorza, Caciocavallo and Provolone. Ventricina, the pork sausage typically found in Abruzzo, is produced in Molise as well. Here is the seasoned with fennel seeds and peperoncino.

In Molise, many of the traditional desserts are made with an intense, aromatic olive oil.

Should you require any special regional dish from Molise please contact our restaurant manager in advance with your request.

Montpeliano Restaurant
13 Montpelier street
Knightsbridge, London, SW7 1HQ
T. +44(0)2075890032