When someone says “Italy,” delicious thoughts are brought to mind of aperitivos had in quaint piazzas, overflowing plates of pasta of differing shapes corresponding with sauces of every type, pizzas with steam still coming off of them after their stay in a wood burning pizza oven, little cups of caffé drunk in one swig, and gelato…oh, the gelato. And of course, the most amazing cured meats and cheeses as varied as the landscapes that decorate this famed gastronomically blessed country.
So what happens when you dig a little deeper into the regions of Italy’s vast food culture? Glad you asked…It has been said the further south you travel in Italy, the better the food. Here in Campania, and specifically in Irpinia, that proves true time and again.
Here's what you want to know about Irpinia Food:
The Fundamentals Irpinians were generally a poor people working for a noble Barone or Marchese who resided in a palace in Naples, but owned land in the mountainous countryside an hour or so drive away. This has resulted in two phenomenons that are a gift from the food gods: 1) an honest to goodness 0km farm to table culture that precedes the fads of today and 2) a vegetable heavy diet that leads to some of the best dishes you’ve never heard of.
Seasonal Taste Profiles In spring and summer you’ll find cavatelli covered in spring fresh broccoli or zucchini (and their flowers) depending on the season. In the winter, there is pasta coated in local black truffles and wild mushrooms. The summer crop of tomatoes will be jarred in every house of the region, preserving the fresh flavors for months of sugo and ragu to come. Fried and stuffed zucchini flowers as well as stuffed peppers are a summer staple and pumpkin everything fills plates in the winter. What can’t be eaten fresh is preserved to be enjoyed throughout the year. Thank goodness for these small (and large) family gardens for the freshest vegetables all season long.
But What About Wine? Making things unimaginably better are the delicious, locally made, small production family wines that you can find at the cantinas dotting the Irpinian mountainsides. But you don’t have to be in Irpinia to try these wines, send me a note and I’ll get you hooked up with a taste of Irpinia delivered right to your front door.
Anything else? Luckily, great food programming like Stanley Tucci’s, "Finding Italy," is highlighting the gems of regional cuisine. (If you haven’t yet watched, do yourself the favor and get on this immediately! One of my favorite episodes is Rome featuring a favorite Italy expert: Katie Parla.) And once you can make the trip over, we’ll be more than happy to help immerse you in the food culture that is Irpinia.
Favorite Restaurants to Hit in Irpinia:
Antica Trattoria Di Pietro
Oasis Sapori Antichi
Il Vecchio Mulino 1874