Pastry Notes – Trick or treat?

Appetibilis takes a brief holidays break, in the meantime we’d like to tease you with pictures of delicious, luscious, opulent upcoming recipes: Alessandra’s “Strabismic panna cotta” and Sara’s “Tortine ubriache al Montepulciano d’Abruzzo” (drunken cupcakes with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine)… “Trick or treat”? Pastry Notes – Trick or treat?

Mimmo Arena :: Chef per caso, cuoco per passione

It’s impossible not to be at ease with Mimmo Arena, the owner and genius loci of “The Blue Fish Club” of San Vito Chietino, located in the beautiful coastline of Abruzzo Region.

After having exchanged a few words with the accidental Chef, you are immediately taken by his energy, his optimism, his very active sense of wander and creativity. Click HERE to read the interview, it’s in Italian…

Mimmo Arena :: Chef per caso, cuoco per passione

Made in Italy :: AbruzzoCreativo, New-Fashioned Heritage

What do Fellini’s favourite scriptwriter, an exquisite filigree jewel and a typical fishing device like the trabocco have in common?

The AbruzzoCreativo workshop in Pescara | photo: ©MateldaCodagnone
The workshop in Pescara

They are all icons from the same region, Abruzzo, and they feature “Abruzzo Creativo” items. The mind behind the brand is Paola Mucci, an architect by trade and a creative soul at heart. Paola is deeply in love with her region (the Abruzzi), where traditional heritage is still strong and cherished by their people.

The Architect Paola Mucci and her Presentosa Glassware

The first idea came from the Taranta blanket, a  woollen matted fabric that is manufactured in the village of Taranta Peligna, Chieti. Paola’s intent was to use its unique pattern and weft in furniture design, but its exploitation proved to be difficult.
The creative spark fired after a trip to Sardinia. Sardinia’s crafts and cultural floklore have been updated in so many different ways. Why not to try with Abruzzo? These two regions share many traditional features and the bottom line was to rethink the cultural heritage of the land into a modern way. “Tradizione contemporanea” – new-fashioned heritage – was the the right key and production started with “the mug” series.

Mugs show Abruzzo icons: Ennio Flaiano’s portrait – journalist, humorist and Fellini’s best scriptwriter, the Presentosa – a filigree pendant jewel – and the trabocchi, (a fishing device). The challenge is to bring up to light Abruzzo treasures, especially the ones that are little known and even less promoted. A natural outcome of this is the “Provincia” series, four mugs bearing four “hidden” treasures of each Abruzzo province: Roman mosaic floor in Vasto, Atri Cathedral rose window, Scanno typical women’s dress and Pescara Ponte del Mare (i.e. Sea bridge).

The path was set and Paola thought about new subjects, all of them with a strong and direct link to her region: Bruno the brown bear, the sheep and the “papalina” (a type of oily fish) and kitchenware production includes walnut chopping boards, glasses, pot mats, and coffee cups. 

"i so' d'abruzz" - Bruno the brown bear and the bird | photo: ©ockstyle

Abruzzo Creativo knows how to combine long-standing cultural heritage with a modern style; because only if you know your roots, you will be able to express yourself in an original way. And that is exactly what Abruzzo Creativo does with its products.

Made in Italy :: Zì Tunine, The Wikipedia Man

On the world’s most popular e-commerce site you can buy a humorous tee with this slogan joke: ” I don’t need Google. My wife knows everything.” If Amazon people were from Pretoro, a village in the Abruzzo region, they would change the joke into: ” I don’t need Google. Zi’ Tunin’ (Uncle Antony), knows everything.”
Zi’ Tunin’, age 84, however, is far better than Google and Wikipedia: not only does he master a huge amount of information, but he gives it to you with the openness and the simplicity that only wise men can have.

photos: ©MateldaCodagnone and ©GiuseppeMarone

Zi’ Tunin, aka Antonio Palmerio, worked for years in a local company as a carpenter (and as many more other things). Since childhood, he has always had a deep love for knowledge and he devoured all the books he could lay his hands on. Unfortunately for him, his parents could not grant him a higher education so he stopped shortly after primary school. This did not prevent him from becoming a living encyclopaedia. His longing for knowledge and books has made him proficient in many subjects, chemistry, architecture, art, literature. When he retired, he could combine all his passions together into woodworking.

photo: ©GiuseppeMarone

Visiting his workshop on the highest “contrada” (city area) of Pretoro is something difficult to explain, half way between an art history lesson, a visit to a museum and a conversation with an all-around master.

He is fond of architecture and his hobby is to make toy models of the most famous Italian and European buildings: the Duomo of Milan, Notre Dame in Paris, Saint Anthony from Padua Church, you name it.

photos: ©MateldaCodagnone, ©Lonza65 and ©GiuseppeMarone

I asked him if he would like to visit the monuments he copies and surprisingly – to me – he said he would not. Except for a couple of trips to Switzerland, Zi’ Tunin has never moved from Pretoro. He is satisfied with his village and his hobby, he says. He can easily make copies of statues, bas-reliefs and human shapes, and he is one of the last artisans left who can make wood spindles for bobbin lace.

A talk with Zi’ Tunin is quite an experience. He can equally talk to you about chemistry and apple tree grafting – as far as I’m concerned I could not say anything sensible about either subject – without any hubris from his side: he is just happy to share what he knows.

photo: ©GiuseppeMarone

Before saying goodbye, I asked him what he would have liked to be if he had had the chance to go on  his education at school. I imagined that he wanted to be an engineer or an architect, because of his love for buildings and architecture. He took me by surprise and said he would be a philosopher because philosophy is the love for knowledge. All he knows he learned from books, and the process is still going on, even at 84.

The world may have lost a great thinker, but it has gained a life coach.

The “Pasticciotto” Ladies from Bomba (Abruzzo)

Some powdered sugar is all it takes... | photo: ©MateldaCodagnone

What happens in Bomba, a village of scarcely a thousand people in the Sangro area (Abruzzo), when a big wedding is on the way? Everybody is invited to the “ricevimento”, an informal party for friends and acquaintances to be held before the proper wedding party.

At the ricevimento, among the usual refreshments, a typical local pastry is served: the Pasticciotto. In order to prepare 800+ pieces of this tiny masterpiece, a team of hard-working ladies, busy from dawn to dusk, starts preparing the stuffing and the dough two days in advance.

The main ingredients for pasticciotto are short crust pastry and a filling of almonds, lemon peel and sugar syrup. Their making is a feast of its own, ladies gather around a long table and spend time telling stories, updating each other and, why not, gossipping a little. Activities are shared and scheduled as if on a (sweet and merry) assembly line.

Pasticciotto First Lady: Luciana D’Intino

The Pasticciotto “First Lady” (i.e. the groom’s mom) surveys each stage of the “production”: divide the dough, put it into the cake tin, fill it in with the stuffing, cover the tin with some dough, stock the tins on the trays, carry the trays to the local baker’s for cooking.

I took part into the process –  as an unskilled labourer, I was assigned menial work, but greatest fun nonetheless – and even though I met these ladies for the first time then, I immediately got involved in their community, I perceived the delightful sensation of being a minuscule part of something “good”. And I am sure that every guest at the ricevimento will enjoy all the love and the fun the Pasticciotto Ladies put into the cakes.

Because when you cook, the first ingredient you need for a great taste is something that you don’t weight with a scale.