In this series, we look more closely at lesser-known region of Italy in every issue. As consumers continue to clamor for authentic, regional foods from Italy, it pays to be in the know! This month, we travel to Central Italy and to Abruzzo.
Abruzzo is located in central Italy, on the Adriatic (west) coast and framed by the Apennine mountains. It really contains two cuisines—coastal and mountain. It's known for pasta, lamb and fish, and specialty items like saffron, red garlic, and sheep's milk cheeses. The food of Abruzzo is mostly simple, inexpensive, rustic fare—featuring less tomato than the south, lots of wild aromatic herbs, bold flavors, crushed red pepper (peperoncino) for heat, and extra-virgin olive oil.
The signature pasta of Abruzzo is the spaghetti ala chittara (guitar) which gets its name from the special tool that was traditionally used to make it, which resembles a guitar. The dough was pressed through the steel strings of this "guitar" with a short rolling pin to give its distinctive square shape, and the distance between the strings was altered to give each cut its desired thickness.
Philadelphia's Le Virtù restaurant celebrates "Cucina Abruzzese" as proudly as anyone in America. From their housemade salumi to the pastas, it's authentically Abruzzo all the way. The signature Lamb Arrosticini are the famous lamb skewers of the region, and the sheep's milk cheeses, saffron and peperoncino are on the menu in abundance. They serve their "maccheroni alla chitarra" the traditional way, with a lamb ragu and pecorino cheese.