Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Rome – Lunch from a Delicatessen

When in Rome… Entertaining is important in the life of most Italians. It is an opportunity to show others how much you appreciate their company and a good host(ess) will always make the guest feel like he is royalty. When you have people over you do your best to share with them the best that you have. Some people do this to show off how much they have, but for the most it is an opportunity to give to someone else. A guest also has responsibilities. It is rare that guests, even when they are family members, will arrive to dinner without some gift, a special cheese, a bottle or two of wine, dried meats, fresh pastries, or perhaps flowers.

One of the great secrets of Rome, that is not a secret to the Romans, is the Salumeria La Tradizione. Two childhood friends started this company in 1980 buying an old delicatessen. They were raised in a small town in the mountains close to Perugia. They dedicated their production exclusively to the methods and recipes from Valo di Nera, their birthplace. Their products include various types of dried meats and local cheeses. In the store in via Cipro there is a vast selection of dried meats, cheeses and some marvelous wines. A plate of cheeses or meats from this store will be a gracious gift worthy of just about any invitation you may receive.

This is just about the most boring description I have prepared. This type of commentary could easily be found in any newspaper or monthly magazine because it does not do justice to this establishment.

The last time Raffaella and I went we were preparing a dinner meeting with about 20 of our top managers. We arrived at about 11:00 in the morning. The place was packed, by the way the place is always packed, so plan on spending some time. I do not like waiting but the various products displayed were incredible. The staff was extremely friendly treating each customer as if he was the only person in the place. I immediately found something of interest; In the back corner of the store there is a section of medium to top level wines, Villa Gemma, Guado al Tasso, Tignanello, Il President, Brico del Uccelon’, Pergole Torte, and on and on…

Raffaella was fixed to the Deli Bar, there were all kinds of cheese, dried meats and even some prepared foods. The variety of choice was embarrassing, because she could not decide on what to purchase.

“Signoria, un po’ di Bitto di tre anni? del Parmigiano di quattro anni? del Formai de Mut? del Castelmagno? del Caciocavallo?”. A cheese lover’s nightmare, a cheese for every occasion, at different stages of the aging process, to compliment the dinner, dessert, wine or bread that may accompany it.

Realizing the difficulty the owner, offered a taste of their mortadella and smoked Caciocavollo and then Prosciuto and Bitto just to give her an idea of the way things could be put together. This only made the problem worse as they were both just incredible.

So a glass of wine to clean the pallet, and another taste of meat and cheese. By this time I had found three or four bottles of wine that were missing from our cellar and had joined Raffaella in this competition of regional flavors. An hour later we were still “judging” our future purchases. Needless to say we did not have lunch that day. We ended up purchasing several platters of meats and proprietary cheeses and several pieces of cheese for our late evening dinners at home.

It may seem strange to suggest to travel half way across the world to have a meal from delicatessen but, while in Rome, this is a definite must at least for lunch.

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