Saturday, February 14, 2009

Yummy Memories of Bologna

Our friend, Antonio, recently showed me a copy of the April 2008 issue of a UK magazine - Taste Italia - that he had been reading. There, on page 69, in the middle of a section on cooking schools in Italy, was a photo of Carmelita Caruana of Cook Italy, a cooking school located in Bologna, with two rather familiar looking students – Nancy and me!

In 2005 Nancy and I went to Italy for the first time together. We had been lured there by the fact that our nephew, Bark, and his family (his wife Kim and their two kids, Madison and Colin) had recently moved to Bologna, a city we knew absolutely nothing about. We had a great time on that trip and decided to return the following year – again imposing on the Browns.

Bologna is a beautiful city with several nicknames, including La Rossa (“the red,” apparently referring to either the red bricks and tiles from which much of the city is built, or the communist government which governed the city for many years) and La Dotta (“the learned,” referring to the fact that the Università di Bologna is the oldest university in Europe). However, the one I enjoy the most, and which for me is the most appropriate, is La Grassa, “the fat one,” reflecting the fact that Bologna has perhaps the best food in all of Italy.

On our second trip in 2006 we decided we would try to take a cooking lesson while we were in Bologna and came across some very complementary reviews of Carmelita’s school. We got in touch with her and made arrangements for a class, which would entail meeting her in the Piazza Maggiore, Bologna’s main square. Carmelita’s class was an all day affair, involved an initial tour of the traditional market area where we would purchase the ingredients for the class, and then a short walk to her apartment to get to work.

April 12, the day of our class, was the last day of school for Madison and Colin before the Easter vacation and they were very excited since, apart from the impending vacation, there would be a drawing for some of the gigantic chocolate Easter eggs that are a tradition in Italy. After dropping the kids off at school, we went on to the Piazza where we met Carmelita.

The historic market area in Bologna is in the Quadrilatero area of the city between the Piazza Maggiore and the city’s landmark Due Torii, the two towers at the center of the city. The market is primarily is a network of streets named after traditional professions and guilds - Via Caprarie, Via Drapperie, Via delle Pescherie Vecchie, Via Mercanzie and Via Orefici.

Carmelita knows the merchants in the area very well and we explored several of Bologna’s best known food stores, including Atti, Melega, Drogheria Gilberto (great balsamic vinegar), Macelleria del Vicolo, and Salumeria Simoni.

We did not visit A. F. Tamburini, which is perhaps the best known of all Bologna’s food stores since Carmelita feels that the store is too overrun with tourists. As always the meat stores were my favorites.

Ciccioli at Melega

Salumeria Simoni

Macelleria del Vicolo di Negrini Roberto

Roccati Cioccolato, an artisan chocolate maker was also a fun stop, especially given the Easter season. They were offering some remarkable chocolate works of art, including, in the front window, the good ship Pasqualina surrounded by chocolate sharks and wind surfers.

Our final stop of the day was at the
Bruno e Franco salumeria not far from Carmelita’s apartment where we picked up some mortadella and lardo for our lunch. Although not something I took, I found on line a wonderful clip of a group of nimble-fingered women – “le sfogline” - who work at Bruno e Franco making the very special Tortelini Bolognesi.

When we arrived at Carmelita’s apartment we met Silvia Guccione, an Australian from Melbourne who has her own cooking school there –
Pomodoro Italian Cooking School. Silvia was visiting Bologna and sat in on our class.

Carmelita had us prepare the following dishes, and broke open a few bottles of both white and red wine for us to enjoy during the class and to accompany our meal:

~ Antipasto: Tegoline di Parmigiano con Spuma di Mortadella (crisp baskets of parmigiano-reggiano cheese filled with a mortadella mousse)

~ Primo: Garganelli con Speck and Asparagi (egg pasta quills with a smoked ham and asparagus topping)

~ Secondo: Timballo di Spinaci con Polpettine all”Emiliana (a spinach and cream timballe with tiny meatballs with lemon and cinnamon)

~ Dolce: Tiramisu al Limone (Limoncello dipped lady fingers with mascarpone lemon cream and coffee topping).

Nancy Working on a Parmigiano Basket

Kim with Timballo di Spinaci con Polpettine

Towards the end of the class Bark excused himself and went off to pick up Madison and Colin from school. When they arrived they were all smiles lugging some of the huge Easter eggs they had won at school. Here is the photo which was edited for the Taste Italia ad:

At the end of our meal (by this time it was quite late in the afternoon and was starting to get dark!!) Carmelita suggested that we stop by her favorite coffee shop - Caffetteria Terzi – just a few steps up Via Oberdan from her apartment.

We said good-bye there after our coffees, and headed back to the Brown’s apartment. As I recall we skipped dinner that night, although I believe there was some Easter egg consumed.

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