A Culinary Tour of Italy
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Friuli Venezia Giulia
Located on the far eastern border of northern Italy, Friuli Venezia Giulia's proximity to Veneto, and what was once the Austro-Hungarian Empire, has flavored the region's hearty cooking with ingredients such as polenta, pickled turnips, and spices. Instead of pasta, soups and gnocchi are more likely starters of a meal, and pastry is better than in most Italian regions (try gubana, a sweetbread studded with nuts, candied fruit, and spice).
Cured pork products rule the antipasto selection here. Prosciutto tastes sweet, and is always pink, lightly edged with fat, and sliced paper-thin (it's distinguishable from Parma prosciutto because it's flatter and the hoof is not removed). To visit a factory or to attend Aria di Festa—four days of festivities that mostly involve prosciutto—contact the consortium in San Daniele, an organization established in 1961 to protect the region's ham-producing process. In fine restaurants, look for the superior smoked prosciutto and Speck by artisan producer Lorenzo Osvaldo, in Cormòns. Simone Turus, in Mossa, makes some of the best sausage and salami in the region, using local organic pork.
For a quintessential Friuli restaurant experience, visit Blasut, in Lavariano—it has a beautiful red meat-slicer on a counter near the entrance and wooden tables occupied by locals drinking wine and eating prosciutto. More serious eating and drinking is undertaken in the two dining rooms. Don't miss d'Osvaldo's smoked prosciutto, scrambled "rooster" eggs, or featherweight potato gnocchi. Owner Dante Bernardis (nicknamed Blasut, or "shorty," in dialect) is effervescent and obsessed with his territory. He celebrates its culinary heritage with festivals dedicated to pork, goose, and squash in the fall and winter.
Grappa, distilled from pomace, the grape skins and pits left over from winemaking, is the typical conclusion to a meal in Friuli. It's potent, consumed straight up or as a "rinse" in an espresso cup after the coffee is finished. Look for the single cultivar grappas and the gentler fruit or honey distillates of Nonino, a family-run distillery in operation since 1897. Visit in the fall, when they distill grappa, or in the spring, when they distill fruit and honey.
The Movimento Turismo del Vino Friuli Venezia Giulia website lists events, links to regional tourism sites, and more than 100 wineries that are open for tastings—including agriturismo farms where visitors can stay and feast on farm products and wines.
Via Dante, 40
Turus Simone spaccio Agricolo Salumi
Via Campi, 6
34070 Mossa Gorizia
Via Aquileia, 7
33050, Lavariano (UD)
Closed Sunday evening and all of Monday, August, and two weeks in January