Tuscany: Salumi and Cheese
A food quest to Italy is not complete without a visit to Paolo Parisi, prince of salumi and cheese. He was one of the early crusaders to save Tuscany’s now-celebrated black Cinta Senese pigs, and is revered by Italy’s snobbiest foodies for his prodotti. A formidable gastro-snob himself, he proclaims that his Fattoria Corzano e Paterno makes Tuscany’s most sought-after cheeses.
Set on a dirt road that winds through the Renaissance cypresses of green Tuscan hills, the Fattoria was developed by the late Swiss architect Wendel Gelpke. His estate (which also produces wonderful Chiantis and olive oils) is a vision from an Italy-besotted expat’s fantasy; its herd of Sardinian sheep graze on property once in the Machiavelli family. There, Antonia Ballarin (half-English, half-Italian) and Sibilla Gelpke (Oxford grad; middle name: Rapunzel) make remarkable erbolino, a young pecorino shot through with chili, parsley, and garlic, and crinkly-skinned and decadently oozy buccia di rospo.
Down a steep hillside, Parisi’s pedigreed black oinkers munch pine nuts and chestnuts. Each animal gets three blissful years of roaming wild—then is reincarnated as blissful prosciutto crudo, prosciutto cotto, coppa, salami, lardo, guanciale. Lucky guests of Azienda Le Macchie, the rustic agriturismo on Parisi’s estate, can end their days with a piatto di carbonara a crudo, its sauce of eggs and raw nuggets of Cinta Senese guanciale cured on a burning brazier.
Rome: Pizza and Pastries
Celebrity pizzaiolo Gabriele Bonci reinvents pizza al taglio—rectangular Roman pizza sold by weight—at the tiny Pizzarium. To dough fanatics, this cramped shop is the Sistine Chapel of yeast. Yeast, as in the wild stuff from 200-year-old sourdough starters that the eccentric Bonci collects from old ladies in Calabrian villages. Subversively fluffy by Roman standards, with an intimation of sourness, his dough is kneaded from a “cuvée” of flours stone-ground by Piedmontese miller Mulino Marino. Wait for new pizza trays and out comes spicy coppa sausage with blood orange, then hyper-Roman old-fashioned tomatoey tripe, cleaned over three days. Bonci’s signature pizza con le patate—hand-crushed, dense-fleshed Abruzzo spuds with a hint of vanilla—is a canny trompe l’oeil. Where does the dough end and the topping begin?
Bonci has found a soul mate in Leonardo Di Vincenzo, with whom he co-owns the yeast-centric Bir & Fud, in Trastevere. With a doctorate in biochemistry, the 34-year-old Di Vincenzo could be a poster boy for the new Italian artisan—discoursing on lactobacilli as easily as he rates obscure monastic Belgian brews. Five years ago his small-batch Birra del Borgo ignited Rome’s craft-beer craze. At Bir & Fud, Di Vincenzo’s brews are matched with Bonci’s dough-centric dishes—crostini, bruschetta, round Neapolitan pies.
Following Bonci, young Italian bakers have gone crazy for sourdough leavening. Lievito naturale—passed down from the owner’s family—is what raises the buttery cream-filled cornetti at Cristalli di Zucchero to stratospheres above all other breakfast pastries in town. Inside the new branch, barely a truffle toss from the Campidoglio, jewel-like pastries marry French techniques with local ingredients.