Dish Diplomacy, The G8 Eats In L’Aquila

President Obama arrives in L’Aquila today, and he’s going to leave a little heavier. And I’m not talking about his political weight, although that might increase as well. I’m talking about  the numbers on his scale in the morning.
As the G8 meeting of the worlds rich nations gets together in my Earthquake devastated adopted hometown in the mountains of central Italy, every local and national paper I skim though talks about the menu. The espressos and cappuccinos will be served by the staff of one of the better coffee bars in town, the Gran Caffe dell’Aquila located in the currently off-limits Piazza del Duomo, the main city square that until April 6th held an open air market daily for hundreds of years.
Saffron has been grown around L’Aquila since the Middle Ages, and it funded much of the art and architecture that made the City of Eagles one of Italy’s little known treasures. It’s therefore fitting that heads of state and the diplomatic corps will be eating pasta (rigatoni) with zucchini and saffron threads.
The menu for the dinner hosted tomorrow by Italy’s President – Giorgio Napolitano (Silvio Berlusconi is the Prime Minister) lists tasty but not very slimming treats. The starter is warm tomatoes filled with basil and giuncata (a fresh cheese) from the town of Rivisiondoli in the Abruzzo National Park, followed by a maccheroni alla chittara (a fresh, thick spaghetti like pasta typical of the region) with ragù all’Abbruzzese followed by veal in a dough crust with  summer truffles from the hills around the Sangro river. It will all be followed by an array of cheeses from Abruzzo and deserts from all over Italy.
The wine list is long, and includes one of my favorites – Masciarelli, who’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo reds and Trebbiano whites can be found affordably in the US. I have seen their basic table version in Wisconsin at under $10, for example.
I will be writing more about saffron and truffles later on. Both have been cultivated or collected in Abruzzo for centuries and are considered rare, elegant and expensive foods. They are still expensive, but within the budget of normal human beings again.

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