Tour Through Italy
Societi Bistro culinary Tour Through Italy
10 Weeks. 10 Menus. 10 Exceptional Wines.
Region: 1 Sicilia - Wednesday 10 to Tuesday 16 May 2017
Tangy light peach and golden apple aromas with a waft of stone fruit and light floral hints. The palate is equally light with nectarine and peach flavour. A brush of honeysuckle richness vies with the vibrancy of freshly grated lime zest. Lovely balance of acidity and rounded honey richness which lingers long, making an ideal companion to our culinary tour though Sicillia.
We start Societi Bistro’s 2017 culinary Tour Through Italy in the South, in the land of the “Casa Nostra”. The locals are a very proud people, often referring to themselves as Sicilians first, rather than Italians. This picturesque Island produces more wine than New Zealand, Austria and Hungary combined and is well known for its fortified Marsala wines. Sicily enjoys hot summers and an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruit such as tomatoes, aubergines, citrus and artichokes. There are strong Greek and Arab influences in the islands’s cuisine, for example the use of saffron in dishes such as Arancini, saffron risotto balls stuffed with buffalo mozzarella and deep fried. The southern Italian sweet-sour taste, known as agro-dolce, is very popular in dishes such as Caponata, finished with red wine vinegar and sugar or honey. The Island is famous for its Gelato and Cannoli, a cylindrical pastry shape filled with sweet ricotta. This is only one of many famous Dolci from the island, others include cassata, pignolata and granita.
Pasta alla Norma R62
aubergine, tomato and ricotta
Cape fish of the day served with Caponata STB
sustainable, traditional agro-dolce aubergine dish
Frangelico topped Ice Cream R38 – scoop
We highly recommend a 125ml glass (R21) of Terra del Capo Pinot Grigio or bottle (R101).
Region 2: Calabria & Basilicata - Wednesday 17 to Tuesday 23 May 2017
Abundant raspberry, black cherry and spice with just a hint of liquorice evident. Lovely fresh raspberry and black cherry spice makes an immediate impact on the palate. Vanilla oak and nutmeg spice adds complexity to a lighter-styled palate. Pliable tannins make this a lithe, svelte wine rather than a muscular bruiser. There is delicious blackberry ripeness on the lingering aftertaste.
In our second week of our tour we start at the toe of the ‘boot’ of Italy’s mainland into the citrus rich southern regions of Calabria & Basilicata. Calabria, in antiquity known as Bruttium, is a mountainous region that stretches along a 246km long peninsula at the southern tip of the mainland with very unique fauna and flora all over the area. As many other southern regions, the area has played hosts to many an invader, including the Spanish, Greeks, French and Albanians and there are still lingering influences to this day. Basilicata is one of Italy’s poorest regions and like much of the south, has a rich and varied cucina povera based on local ingredients. Pork and other economical meats such as chicken are served in almost every guise imaginable, with almost every recipe containing the diavolicchio, the region’s red hot chilli. Calabrian farmers grow citrus, figs, olives, almonds and chestnuts along the coast and below the mountains. The area is also home to the humble Aubergine, or Melanzane in the local dialect, that features heavily in the local cuisine. Local dishes, described as “Calabrese” are usually hot as the peperoncini (chilli peppers) are a favourite flavouring used to spike everything from salami to pasta sauces such as Puttanesca.
Insalata di Melanzane alla Menta R37
aubergine salad, mint
Agnelo alla Pastora R118
lamb stew, potatoes
Gelato al Peperoncino R19 – scoop
We highly recommend a 125ml glass (R28) of Terra del Capo Sangiovese or bottle (R137).
Region 3: Lazio & Umbria - Wednesday 24 to Tuesday 30 May 2017
This medium bodied Nebbiolo is light in colour with dried prunes, sour cherries, spice and forest floor on the nose. Soft oaky notes support the wine well. Big tannins, unique to Nebbiolo, gives the wine backbone and structure. We felt that a wine with such an impeccable pedigree would best represent this region.
This week we head Southwest, over the mountains to Lazio, home to the eternal city and the Vatican, and then North to Umbria. The Lazio region is certainly dominated by Rome, but some rural areas still hold on to their old traditions. With a vast history that stretches through the ages, many different influences can be found in Roman cuisine. The cucina povera of Rome is the Italian cuisine most heavily based on offal with items such as hearts, tripe and intestines often making an appearance on the dinner table. Lamb and veal are ubiquitous, and can be found in many different guises, often just simply roasted on the spit or in veal’s case, prepared as Saltimbocca (“jump in the mouth”). Gelato shops are a common site in the capital city where locals and tourists alike are treated to a myriad of different flavours of rich ice cream. To the north, Umbria is often referred to as the ‘green heart of Italy’. The region is blessed with culinary treasures such as the black truffle found in Valnerina, an area that produces 45% of all black truffles in Italy. Umbria is also known for its lentils from Castelluccio, prized for their small size and tenderness, tobacco, olive oil and the excellent wines its vineyards produce. The capital city of Perugia is famous worldwide to chocolate lovers as the home of Perugina Baci, chocolate kisses.
Lenticchie con Salsiccia R53
lentil stew with sausages
Saltimbocca alla Romana R222
veal escalope, Prosciutto, sage
Gelato al Caffè R16 – scoop
espresso flavoured ice cream
We highly recommend a 125ml glass (R76) of Steenberg Nebbiolo or bottle (R378).
Region 4: Campania - Wednesday 31 May to Tuesday 6 June 2017
The Two Oceans Pinot Grigio is subtly perfumed with floral notes and fragrances of dried apricot, peach and a hint of litchi resulting a crisp, zesty and easy drinking wine.
Our travels take us west to Campania – home to the one dish that is commonly accepted as ‘Italian food’ by the masses worldwide – pizza. The people are friendly, and to this day – like their forefathers, rather poor. Although the Castles in the area entertained various royal appetites, the masses had very little to eat and had to make the most out of the scraps left over by the few wealthy. This is how braising became one of the central techniques to the region’s cooking as it transforms scraps into something edible and delicious. Tomatoes arrived in Campania in the 16th century and have played a central role in the region’s cuisine, featuring in many braised dishes as the acid in the tomato helps to tenderize meat. Fresh tomato is enjoyed with basil and one of the region’s other specialities, Mozzarella di bufala (Mozzarella made from Buffalo milk, bred in Salerno and Caserta). Sorrento is famed for its beautiful and tasty lemons, not to mention Limoncello, a lemon flavoured liqueur. The sunny area also produces some excellent wines.
Mozzarella in Carrozza R67
deep fried mozzarella sandwich, anchovy, dressed rocket
Braciola di Maiale alla Pizzaiola R98
pork chop with Pizzaiola sauce
Chocolate & Almond Gelato R21 – scoop
We highly recommend a 125ml glass (R16) of Two Oceans Pinot Grigio or bottle (R77).
Region 5: Puglia - Wednesday 7 to Tuesday 13 June 2017
The Springfield Miss Lucy is a unique blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Pinot Gris and bursts with citrus pamplemousse flavours and an ample mouth feel, yet remarkably moderate in alcohol.
Northeast onto the heel of the ‘boot’, the flattest region in Italy. The Greek influence in this once Greek territory remains to be seen in Pugliese cuisine and culture to this day. Puglia is a dry area and agriculture relies heavily on the torrential rivers to irrigate the Tavoliere delle Puglie, a tableland that is one of the largest and agriculturally most productive plains in Italy. Similar to other Southern regions, the most common ingredients are garlic, chilli, peppers, tomatoes, olives, olive oil, citrus fruits, caper, anchovies, almonds and of course pasta. Orecchiette (little ears) is the most common shape and is often simply served with local broccoli, olive oil, garlic and chilli. Generally pasta is made without egg and eaten with vegetable and legume sauces and the region’s peppery olive oil, a result of allowing the olives to ripen fully before pressing them for oil. Between the heel and sole of the Italian boot lies the gulf of Taranto. The inhabitants call the port “Mar Piccolo”, the “Little Sea” which has relatively warm water temperatures from spring to autumn which is good for the breeding of mussels and oysters which is prolific in the area.
Orecchiette ai Broccoli R77
“little ears” pasta with broccoli, garlic & chilli
Cape Fish of the Day alla Taratina STB
mussels, tomato, white wine, garlic, chilli, olive oil
Bitter Chocolate & Cherry Gelato R23 – scoop
We highly recommend a 125ml glass (R39) of Springfield Miss Lucy or bottle (R192).
Region 6: Molise, Abruzzo & Marche - Wednesday 14 to Tuesday 20 June 2017
Idiom’s Bianco di Stellenbosch is a pale, straw-yellow colour with a delicate oral nose. It shows elegant avours of pears, green melons and pineapples on the nose, which combine well with a fresh, crisp acidity and a well structured mid-palate, making it an exceptional example of Pinot Grigio and makes for and exceptional partner to the food of this region.
Over the mountains to the Northeast we reach Molise, Abruzzo and up the coast Marche. Molise & Abruzzo were joined until 1963 and have much in common. All three regions have cold, mountainous regions, Adriatic coastlines and large areas of national parks. They are isolated from central Italy by the Apennine Mountains and have always had to be self sufficient. Much of Abruzzo & Molise’s coastline is very rocky and does not provide many ports, hence the cooking relies more on the produce from the land than from the sea. The inhabitants are not particularly prosperous and rely on cheaper, inexpensive ingredients in their cooking. Chilli, olives, olive oil, dried Semolina based pasta and oregano are common ingredients, as are lamb, goat and kid. Despite this, Abruzzo is the only area in Italy that produces the very expensive spice, saffron. Marche is almost completely hilly, with the exception of the narrow strip of coastline. Along the coast the fish and seafood are prepared in numerous dishes, from simple fritto misto di pesce to traditional brodetto. In the hills, pigs are allowed to roam free and forage at will, producing some of the world’s best hams and salami.
Spaghetti all’ Aglio Olio e Peperoncino R62
spaghetti with garlic, olive oil & chilli
Cape Fish served with Risotto allo Zafferano STB
sustainable, saffron risotto
Gelato con Salame di Fichi R37 – scoop
fig, almond & walnut
served with an espresso
We highly recommend a 125ml glass (R35) of Idiom Bianco di Stellenbosch Pinot Grigio or bottle (R174).
Region 7: Emilia - Romagna - Wednesday 21 to Tuesday 27 June 2017
Idiom’s Rosso di Stellenbosch is a bright red colour with perfumed aromas of pomegranate, sweet and sour cherries and Prosciutto. The wine underwent delicate oaking in 2nd and 3rd fill barrels, which contributes to both fruity and savoury notes on the palate. The wine is medium bodied with good acidity and a dry finish, typical of Italian varietal wines and perfect for Italian dishes. This elegant wine ads style to our menu from this region.
Our tour takes us East-wards into the valleys and hills of arguably the culinary centre of Italy. This is the home of Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and Balsamic vinegar di Modena. This is pig farming country, and the antipasti from the area are heavily meat orientated. Everybody loves their mother’s “Spag- Bol” which also originates from this area, more particularly the city of Bologna where it is traditionally served with Tagliatelle (often made with Spinach). It is also the wealthiest area in Italy, boasting the oldest university in the Western world. There is an extensive range of pasta available, usually the more luxurious and expensive variety made with egg and egg yolk as opposed to the simpler Semolina and water recipe used in the poorer Southern regions – Tortellini being a firm favourite.
Richard Bosman’s Charcuterie R98
a selection of cured meats
Coniglio alla Cacciatora R149
hunter’s style rabbit, tomato, polenta
Grappa Gelato R31 – scoop
We highly recommend a 125ml glass (R35) of Idiom Rosso di Stellenbosch or bottle (R174).
Region 8: Toscana & Liguria - Wednesday 28 June to Tuesday 4 July 2017
A rich, powerful expression of Stellenbosch Sangiovese. A wine with a tantalizing nose and complex mouthfeel. Spicy aromas of blackcurrant, tobacco and cedar wood are enhanced by sweet and sour notes of red currants and dark cherry on the palate. A wonderful balance of aromas and textures. We pay homage to these wild and unspoilt regions by pairing this exquisite wine.
This week we reach the North-eastern coastline and visit the two famous regions of Tuscany and Liguria. Tuscany is famed for its food, beautiful landscapes and rich artistic legacy, and has been home to names such as Dante, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo Galilei, and Puccini. Simplicity is central to Tuscany’s cuisine, the quality of the ingredients are of the highest standard, cooking is often kept to a minimum and ingredients are allowed to speak to themselves. Even though Tuscans eat meat in the form of Bistecca alla Fiorentina and other hams and salami’s made from local pigs, they are often referred to as Mangia Fagioli or “bean eaters”, due to their love of borlotti and fugioli beans, which feature in Tuscan dishes such as Ribollita. Further North up the coast lies Liguria, home to the famous Cinque Terre. This predominantly coastal region produces herbs, olives, grapes and has a small dairy industry sustained by the pastures on the hills beyond the coast. Genoa, home to Christopher Columbus, is the region’s capital and Italy’s largest port. Many of the impressive buildings, churches and elegant mansions of the past still remain today to bear witness to Liguria’s glorious past. Preserved food has a long tradition in the region as sailors leaving from Genoa needed supplies to take with them on long voyages.
Pappa al Pomodoro R25
Tuscan style tomato and bread soup
Bistecca alla Fiorentina R242
grilled 500g T-bone steak, fresh lemon
Candied Fruit Gelato R17 – scoop
We highly recommend a 125ml glass (R79) of Idiom Sangiovese or bottle (R392).
Region 9: North Western Italy - Wednesday 5 to Tuesday 11 July 2017
(Piedmont, Valle D’Aosta, Lombardia & Trentino, Alto Adige)
An explosive wine! Aromas of fynbos and a fusion of sage, rosemary and mint dominate the nose. Intense, evolving flavours of blackberries and raspberries on the palate enhance the sweet cooking herbs making the mouth water. A wine with a long lingering finish. We pay homage to these wild and unspoiled regions by pairing this exquisite wine.
We head due west to celebrate the regional cuisine of North Western Italy. These regions neighbour France, Switzerland & Austria and have kept an affinity with their neighbours – especially evident in its cuisine. In Alto Adige Canederli, bread dumplings, are preferred over pasta or gnocchi and in Aosta and Lombardy the use of dairy make the food from these areas more luxurious than the stark southern olive oil based cuisine. Lombardy has a rich agricultural tradition with the cultivation of rice (for risotto) in the Po valley as well as corn (for polenta). Milan, its large industrial capital is famed as a world fashion and design hub. It is also known for its famous dishes such as Risotto alla Milanese, Cotoletta alla Milanese and Osso buco alla Milanese. In Piedmont, the “land at the foot of the mountains”, which is how it translates; agricultural activities also play an important role. One of its cities, Turin, is home to the international “Slow Food” movement and the region is no stranger to gourmands visiting from the world over. Chocolate and Nougat are also synonymous with this “foodie” destination.
broth, bread dumplings
Osso buco alla Milanese R166
bone marrow & saffron risotto, Gremolata
Chocolate & Hazelnut Gelato R24 – scoop
We highly recommend a 125ml glass (R79) of Idiom Zinfandel/Primitivo or bottle (R392).
Region 10: Veneto & Friuli-Venezia-Giulia - Wednesday 12 to Tuesday 18 July 2017
A delicate and subtly aromatic spumante, produced through the natural fermentation of Glera grapes cultivated on the hills of Conegliano. Delights the nose with fruity overtones and a refined, highly typical bouquet. Decisive and dry on the palate, it makes for an excellent aperitif, but really gives of its best as an accompaniment to starters, particularly those based on fish.
Sadly our culinary Tour Through Italy comes to an end this week as we travel East to the regions of Veneto and Friuli, Venezia Giulia to visit Venice, the city of bridges and canals famed for all its romance. Venice is home to St. Mark’s basilica, the grand canal, piazza St. Marco, the carnival of Venice (famous Venetian masks), the Venice biennale and venetian glass. In its hey-day Venice controlled a major trading empire stretching as far as India and the spice Islands – creating a rich cuisine with black pepper, nutmeg, cloves and others – now used more sparingly in their evolution to highlight their ingredients, rather than mask them. In Venezia Guilia, in the North-Eastern corner of Italy, much of the food is traditionally peasant style with robust flavours. Pork and Venison are staples and pasta is not common but rather beans, polenta and risotto. Coffee is integral to this region – with “Illy” coffee based in the town of Trieste. The daily arrival of Coffee beans in the port ensures that there are freshly roasted beans available. Join us as we jet off to France for another epic ten weeks of armchair travel exploring the regional cuisines of France.
Zuppa di Pesce R72
Venetian style fish soup
Fegato alla Veneziana R110
sautéed calves’ liver, caramalised onion, soft polenta
“pick me up”
We highly recommend a 125ml glass (R92) of Bellenda San Fermo Prosecco or bottle (R366).
Followed by the culinary Tour Through France.