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Thread: An Italian Christmas

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    2 out of 2 members found this post helpful.

    An Italian Christmas



    Christmas in Italy:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dj1fooADj4



    The story of La Befana. I believe there's a similar Russian story. They even have her making an appearance at Epcot at Christmas. :)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Befana


    This is a story about Strega Nonna, "Grandmother witch", another magical old woman, as retold by Tommy De Paolo. I read this to my children all the time when they were little.


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULUG...fWonDqeoZ4k4s3

    La Discesa della Befana-every town does this, but this is a particularly nice one:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGWvjzuziXc

    Presepi d'Italia: Christmas Nativity Scenes from the different regions
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aze14OXEW9E

    The absolute best, in my opinion, come from Napoli. Their genius is that in addition to placing them in local settings, as suggested by Francis of Assisi, they infuse each humble village character, shepherd, King, and Mary and Joseph with an individual, very human, and sometimes droll character. There are also some in contemporary style that also use modern representations to comment ironically on Italian and international political and social players and issues. It's genius.

    These are classic antique Neapolitan presepi. There are closeups of some of the chairs, tables, baskets, where you can see the extraordinary attention to detail that goes into making these tiny objects. Not only do you need extraordinary artistic skill, but unbelievable fine motor skills.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1S3UtASiDHQ

    Presepi di Napoli-the market:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGe_j4CpsHo

    Christmas Meals in Italy:
    http://www.delallo.com/articles/feas...lian-christmas

    My only addition for Christmas Day would be to say that in our tradition, that of my Emilian grandparents, we don't eat lasagne for our pasta course. We have anolini in brodo.

    Our Christmas Eve dinner was more local, from my mother's side in the Lunigiana:
    Vegetable pies or tortas of cabbage and ones with porri and mashed potatoes, finocchi fritti, baccala (salt cod) in umido, stoccafisso (dried cod) in a salad with potatoes, and stewed eel.

    The Feast of the Twelve Fishes or Seven or however many for Christmas Eve is something I had never heard of until I immigrated to the U.S. I don't even know if it existed in southern Italy or if it was created here. It's been one of the banes of my life ever since I married. :)
    http://www.epicurious.com/archive/ho...alisevenfishes

    I do a cold seafood salad which has as many different fish as I can find, marinated anchovies, and clams oreganata for appetizers, linguini with white clam sauce, spaghetti with mussels in red sauce, garlic shrimp scampi style, baccala in red sauce with olives, and baked salmon. Anyone who counts to see if there are twelve different fish is sent from the table and banned for next year. :) I don't serve eels since that's one of the few things I really don't like.

    Then you have to stay up until two even if you eat at six in order to digest all that protein.
    Last edited by Angela; 26-12-15 at 03:16.


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    Good Lord. I read about the Italian Xmas food habits. I'll just have to admit that I only made a wild boar stew, with brussels sprouts, mushrooms and pommes duchesse. Entirely made by me, none the less.

    These pies of cabbage, how are they made?

    EDIT: And where do you get that dried cod? (Dutch word is "stokvis", mind you. "Vis" being dutch for fish)

    EDIT2:

    Anyone who counts to see if there are twelve different fish is sent from the table and banned for next year. :)
    I like that approach. Hard on the haters.

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    both my family and wife's families have basically these foods for xmas
    http://foodloversodyssey.com/2011/12...dinner-venice/


    we do throw in a course of Prawns after the starter ( aussie style)

    we have another feast the day after ( boxing day ) when we have a roast Pork and roast Turkey and the desert is strudel ( normal with raisins and grapa added ).
    có che un pòpoło no 'l defende pi ła só łéngua el xe prónto par èser s'ciavo

    when a people no longer dares to defend its language it is ripe for slavery.

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    Quote Originally Posted by epoch View Post
    Good Lord. I read about the Italian Xmas food habits. I'll just have to admit that I only made a wild boar stew, with brussels sprouts, mushrooms and pommes duchesse. Entirely made by me, none the less.

    These pies of cabbage, how are they made?

    EDIT: And where do you get that dried cod? (Dutch word is "stokvis", mind you. "Vis" being dutch for fish)

    EDIT2:



    I like that approach. Hard on the haters.
    People start asking me in November if I'm going to be doing the fish dinner for Christmas Eve, so I can always fill the table...they'd better be polite if they do get invited! Just kidding, of course. :)

    Anywhere in America that has a decent sized Italian-American population is going to have stores that sell imported Italian food products, usually along with fresh baked breads, prepared egg pasta and even whole prepared dishes or complete meals. I have five within five miles of my house, not to mention the huge Eatitaly in Manhattan. They always carry both salted cod (baccala) and stoccafisso (dried cod). We also have a small Portuguese community nearby and their markets also carry baccala. In both cases you have to reconstitute the cod by soaking it in water for a couple of days. It's both to soften it and desalinate it in the case of the baccala. This is what the stoccafisso looks like when I see it in the store. They're like blocks of wood. In Italy they used to say they were as good as a mattarello for clobbering delinguent husbands! :)



    This is what our type of stoccafisso salad looks like. You boil it, peel and debone it, break it into pieces, add boiled potatoes (best if boiled in the skin and then peeled), crushed garlic cloves, either an onion or a finely chopped leek, salt and pepper and good quality olive oil. Sometimes we add olives and capers. The latter is the Ligurian influence.

    This is how we do our baccala in umido:


    My son would eat the whole pan full of it if he could.

    As for the savory vegetable torte or pies, they're a year round dish, and the vegetables just change with the seasons. At other times you might have swiss chard or spinach or artichokes or asparagus or zucchini or some combination thereof. First you make a sfoglia or torta dough. In Italy you can buy it already prepared. I tell my friends here if they run out of time to use phyllo dough, although it's not the same; all that butter makes it greasy in my opinion. My mother was really old school so she did four layers, two for the bottom and two for the top. You brush a thin film of oil between the layers. It's sort of the same principle as how you would do multiple very thin layers of dough for an apple strudel. While that rests you make the filling. Basically, you par boil the vegetables if they're tough, squeeze all the water out of them, chop them, saute some chopped onions in olive oil and garlic, add the chopped vegetables, salt and pepper and grated nutmeg, and continue to saute for two minutes or so. When it's cool, add grated cheese (I like half parmigiano and half pecorino), maybe some ricotta if you want it creamy, and some beaten eggs, assemble the pie and bake.

    I can't find a picture of one stuffed with cabbage, but it looks pretty similar to this one made with swiss chard.


    Maybe my favorite version though is filled with mashed potato and sauteed leeks.

    Your Christmas dinner menu sounds really great by the way...wonderful meal. I do love wild boar, and those are great sides for it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Angela View Post
    People start asking me in November if I'm going to be doing the fish dinner for Christmas Eve, so I can always fill the table...they'd better be polite if they do get invited! Just kidding, of course. :)

    Anywhere in America that has a decent sized Italian-American population is going to have stores that sell imported Italian food products, usually along with fresh baked breads, prepared egg pasta and even whole prepared dishes or complete meals. I have five within five miles of my house, not to mention the huge Eatitaly in Manhattan. They always carry both salted cod (baccala) and stoccafisso (dried cod). We also have a small Portuguese community nearby and their markets also carry baccala. In both cases you have to reconstitute the cod by soaking it in water for a couple of days. It's both to soften it and desalinate it in the case of the baccala. This is what the stoccafisso looks like when I see it in the store. They're like blocks of wood. In Italy they used to say they were as good as a mattarello for clobbering delinguent husbands! :)



    This is what our type of stoccafisso salad looks like. You boil it, peel and debone it, break it into pieces, add boiled potatoes (best if boiled in the skin and then peeled), crushed garlic cloves, either an onion or a finely chopped leek, salt and pepper and good quality olive oil. Sometimes we add olives and capers. The latter is the Ligurian influence.

    This is how we do our baccala in umido:


    My son would eat the whole pan full of it if he could.

    As for the savory vegetable torte or pies, they're a year round dish, and the vegetables just change with the seasons. At other times you might have swiss chard or spinach or artichokes or asparagus or zucchini or some combination thereof. First you make a sfoglia or torta dough. In Italy you can buy it already prepared. I tell my friends here if they run out of time to use phyllo dough, although it's not the same; all that butter makes it greasy in my opinion. My mother was really old school so she did four layers, two for the bottom and two for the top. You brush a thin film of oil between the layers. It's sort of the same principle as how you would do multiple very thin layers of dough for an apple strudel. While that rests you make the filling. Basically, you par boil the vegetables if they're tough, squeeze all the water out of them, chop them, saute some chopped onions in olive oil and garlic, add the chopped vegetables, salt and pepper and grated nutmeg, and continue to saute for two minutes or so. When it's cool, add grated cheese (I like half parmigiano and half pecorino), maybe some ricotta if you want it creamy, and some beaten eggs, assemble the pie and bake.

    I can't find a picture of one stuffed with cabbage, but it looks pretty similar to this one made with swiss chard.


    Maybe my favorite version though is filled with mashed potato and sauteed leeks.


    Stokvis is, again, completely out of fashion in the Netherlands. Although there is an online ordering site. The salad you make sounds and looks delicious. Adding potatoes is what I do with herring salad. Now, herring is northern food. It is salted raw, after which it somehow ripens. I simply love it, but I would understand people considering it a tad too fishy. Although I fed it my children from the very first day they ate. We make salad from it with potatoes, beetroot and pickles.

    That sfoglia dough, is that the same or similar to french mille-feuilles dough? Because I am going to make those. I have a vegetable garden, and these kinds of recipes are very useful.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angela View Post
    Your Christmas dinner menu sounds really great by the way...wonderful meal. I do love wild boar, and those are great sides for it.
    It was. Everybody loved it.
    Last edited by epoch; 29-12-15 at 19:20.

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    Quote Originally Posted by epoch View Post
    Stokvis is, again, completely out of fashion in the Netherlands. Although there is an online ordering site. The salad you make sounds and looks delicious. Adding potatoes is what I do with herring salad. Now, herring is northern food. It is salted raw, after which it somehow ripens. I simply love it, but I would understand people considering it a tad too fishy. Although I fed it my children from the very first day they ate. We make salad from it with potatoes, beetroot and pickles.

    That sfoglia dough, is that the same or similar to french mille-feuilles dough? Because I am going to make those. I have a vegetable garden, and these kinds of recipes are very useful.



    It was. Everybody loved it.

    Baccala is just salted cod, so the process is exactly the same as is used for the herring. The salting "cures" the raw fish. It's actually easier to work with than the stoccafisso in my opinion. Every recipe for stoccafisso can be made with baccala and vice versa, so the salad could be made with baccala. In fact, I've made it with fresh cod, although you have to be very careful not to boil it for too long. Even then it doesn't have that meaty, firm texture that the salt curing provides, or that "taste of the sea" that the curing somehow traps, but it's still pretty good. (I like herring, by the way, although not in sour cream the way my Ashkenazi friends serve it. I like it pickled better. I've never developed a taste for smoked whitefish salad, but I've come to love smoked salmon, especially like this:


    Anyway, sfoglia is very much like millefeuilles, or what they call "puff" pastry here. In sfoglia, you make a "lean" dough of just flour, cold water, and salt, and then a "fat" dough of flour and butter. After rolling out a big piece of "lean" dough, and a smaller piece of "fat" dough, you place the "fat" dough rectangle on top of the "lean" dough rectangle and form a "packet", and after multiple resting and rolling and folding episodes you have the pastry. As I said, in Italy you can buy it. I can even sometimes find it here in the import stores.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIrq1iX9AwQ

    It's 350 for the lean dough; the caption is incorrect.

    Sometimes, people go the easier and healthier route and use just the "lean" dough, or two or three layers of the "lean" dough on bottom and two or three on top, brushing a film of oil in between the layers if they don't want all that butter.

    Or some might use a simple pasta brisee, which they call short crust pastry here: flour, butter, cold water, salt.

    You could even use a pasta frolla, which is used for sweet tarts, and uses flour, butter, eggs, salt, and sugar, and substitute grated cheese for the sugar.

    If you're really into cabbage, as I am, maybe you might want to play with this recipe: Boil the leaves of one head for ten to fifteen minutes and then chop (I discard the "rib"). Saute in half oil/half butter. Add two cloves of crushed garlic and a few leaves of salvia. Saute for a few minutes and let cool. Combine two beaten eggs, some cream, some grated parmigiano and whatever soft cheese you like (I like Asiago with it) and add to the sauteed cabbage. I remove the garlic and salvia. Of course salt and pepper to taste. Then assemble to bake.

    I have to say that I do the tarts only when I have a lot of time. Normally, to use up all the vegetables I get from my gardening friends, or to use up leftovers or just because it's healthy, I just make frittate, which are the Italian version of omelettes. I probably make it twice a week, for a light lunch or dinner.


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    @Angela

    In Germany, or at least in Warnemünde in the Rostock area, all fish sellers have their own smoke kits alongside their selling booth. And they smoke on the spot. Everything. Smoked herring, smoked eel, smoked salmon, smoked halibut. Lovely. You just buy a bunch of smoked fish and some bread and eat it on the beach. I saw similar smokeries in Denmark. The fatter the fish (mackerel, eel) the better they taste.

    Furthermore, on account of the love for cabbage: There is kale. THE northern cabbage variant. This is way out of the Italian food experience comfort zone, but basically we eat this as mashed potatoes and cabbage, mashed together, with smoked sausages. It's know in the Netherlands, Northern Germany (whilst the south doesn't know it) and the Scandinavian countries. It is simpler, more down to earth, more primitive eating than most southern countries, I assume, would prefer.

    https://www.yummydutch.com/ram/upload/Boerenkool5.jpg

    The cabbage actually starts to become tasty after frost has gone over it. In Germany there is a thing called "Grünkohlfahrt", where one takes a stroll through the countryside at a nice frosty day, then proceed to eat "Grünkohl essen satt", which basically means eat as much as you can, only to end the evening with some beers (*cough*).

    It was, and in a way still is, the staple northern winter veggie. In my garden it survived -21 C nights.

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    Quote Originally Posted by epoch View Post
    @Angela

    In Germany, or at least in Warnemünde in the Rostock area, all fish sellers have their own smoke kits alongside their selling booth. And they smoke on the spot. Everything. Smoked herring, smoked eel, smoked salmon, smoked halibut. Lovely. You just buy a bunch of smoked fish and some bread and eat it on the beach. I saw similar smokeries in Denmark. The fatter the fish (mackerel, eel) the better they taste.

    Furthermore, on account of the love for cabbage: There is kale. THE northern cabbage variant. This is way out of the Italian food experience comfort zone, but basically we eat this as mashed potatoes and cabbage, mashed together, with smoked sausages. It's know in the Netherlands, Northern Germany (whilst the south doesn't know it) and the Scandinavian countries. It is simpler, more down to earth, more primitive eating than most southern countries, I assume, would prefer.

    https://www.yummydutch.com/ram/upload/Boerenkool5.jpg

    The cabbage actually starts to become tasty after frost has gone over it. In Germany there is a thing called "Grünkohlfahrt", where one takes a stroll through the countryside at a nice frosty day, then proceed to eat "Grünkohl essen satt", which basically means eat as much as you can, only to end the evening with some beers (*cough*).

    It was, and in a way still is, the staple northern winter veggie. In my garden it survived -21 C nights.
    It's not so different, Epoch. We eat a lot of cabbage in the winter in my part of the world, because indeed it's still growing, and yes, we pair it with pork meat of some kind, sausage or pancetta (Italian bacon) and potatoes too. Of course, it's Italy, so we use olive oil, garlic, rosemary or salvia or parsley, etc.

    This is Savoy cabbage with Italian sausages. It's often served over polenta.


    This is cabbage and potatoes...yummy! :)
    This is also a favorite of mine. It's a sort of gratinee of polenta slices and sauteed cabbage.
    I don't know why you think we don't eat kale? Unless it's a different kind of kale? We call it cavolo nero, and the Tuscans in particular eat a ton of it, either sauteed, in stews, or often in a soup with beans as the Tuscans are known as the "bean eaters" in Italy. :)

    In La Spezia, the peasants used to almost live on something called mesciua, which is a bean stew, sometimes flavored with a bit of pork. They also used to add cabbage to it sometimes. Or, they would make a very soft polenta and mix it with sauteed cabbage.

    We also eat a lot of leeks at this time of year, and mushrooms and cauliflower. This is cauliflower, potatoes and sausage:


    As I said, one of my favorite things ever is a pie of potato puree and sauteed leeks.

    Just so you know, I'm really enjoying learning about your food traditions. :)

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    I had this a fortnight ago at mums
    http://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-bis...-20193850.html

    the sauerkraut with Bisna and pork sausages made by my mum a fortnight ago was fabulous..........I had forgotten how much better Veneto sauerkraut tastes over the german bitter one

    we usually have pork sausages with sauerkraut with grilled polenta on the side .............with a glass or twoof bordolino or even soave is ideal

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    In many Italian cities one can usually find a square or piazza that hosts "Mercatini di Natale", Christmas markets. It's actually more like a Christmas fair.

    This is the one in Verona:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlFn-jw0m4c

    Much less glitzy, this one from near me:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGTeV2Z47-s

    Despite the above, Christmas in Italy is much less frenetic, and less "showy", still more of a family thing than what I live in the U.S.

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Here are some representative Christmas Eve fish dinners.

    As I said above, this is what I typically do:
    I do a cold seafood salad which has as many different fish as I can find, marinated anchovies, and clams oreganata for appetizers, linguini with white clam sauce, spaghetti with mussels in red sauce, garlic shrimp scampi style, baccala in red sauce with olives, and baked salmon.

    I saw this menu on you tube. Some things are the same, some different. It's sadly lacking baccala. I do like the addition of seafood risotto, so this year I'm swapping that for my usual linguini with white clam sauce. This year I may also try to swap out some other baked white fish for the salmon. I try to eat salmon, but I'm not in love with it. Any suggestions would be welcome. :)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bf8sHhJ-GVg

    Some people do seafood ravioli as one dish:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69Nfb35fntE

    That's a whole half day of preparation, but at least it can be done ahead of time. There's also the sauce to make, of course.

    You can also make lasagne with fish.



    On Christmas Day itself, I go with my family's traditions, having followed the southern Italian or rather Italian-american one (more or less) for Christmas Eve. We usually start with anolini or tortellini in brodo, which is easy to do because all I have to do is make the stock ahead of time, and then cheat and use the homemade tortellini from my local Italian market.


    I do occasionally make lasagne bolognese, and more frequently lately. Luckily, there is now a nice lady at the import store who makes sheets of egg pasta, which means I just have to make the sauce, which although it has to simmer for hours doesn't have a long actual prep time. While it's bubbling gently away you can make other things, and if you make a huge pot there's enough to freeze for the rest of the month.

    I recently ran across this American blogger's take on Marcella Hazan's recipe for bolognese sauce. It's very good and very close to my mother's. The only thing is that I use 3 equal portions of beef, pork, and veal. (the traditional way would be to use whole cuts of meat and then shred them, but enough is enough...the Italian mania for perfection can drive you insane) I also would never add water if it got too thick; add stock.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMj8lNdFqV8

    Then you assemble the lasagna with the sauce and bechamel sauce instead of cheese.



    That's how it has to look for me. If it's dry when I order it in a restaurant here I send it back.

    If I've planned well and set aside most of a day for it, I often make my mother's meat ravioli alla genovese.



    The appetizer is just assembly work, so someone else can do it. I've taken to putting only a few small plates along the table or everyone pigs out and I have to wait an hour or two to serve the next courses.




    Then for the main course I often do a pork roast. As traditional as I am, I'm open to learning new tricks. A standard Italian pork roast, cooked in milk, is delicious, but I have a thing for porchetta, which in Italy is made by de-boning, stuffing, and rolling a whole pig and then rotisserie cooking it. This American woman has come up with a way to approximate the taste. I've tried it, and it's great. When I make pork roast I usually go with the tortellini in brodo. Otherwise it's just too much heavy meat to digest, at least for me. If I make the lasagne, I might do a roasted capon.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-4Asp-DVig




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    Here's a few things we ate tonight, I wish I could have taken more pictures though:




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    My wife's parents' families both come from near Bari in Apulia. Fish for Christmas Eve has been family tradition, brought by the emigrant generation. We just ate fish at my house earlier tonight. Fish alone, fish in pasta, etc.

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    Alright! calamari and beer nuts
    mmmmmmmmm dooouuughhhnuuuutz

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    Quote Originally Posted by truth_seeker View Post
    My wife's parents' families both come from near Bari in Apulia. Fish for Christmas Eve has been family tradition, brought by the emigrant generation. We just ate fish at my house earlier tonight. Fish alone, fish in pasta, etc.
    Cool, that's where my family comes from. That's what we ate too.

    My aunt's husband is Neapolitan and used to own a restaurant; he helped to prepare the food.

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    Hmm what can I say?
    Buon Natale everyone

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    Quote Originally Posted by Angela View Post
    The Feast of the Twelve Fishes or Seven or however many for Christmas Eve is something I had never heard of until I immigrated to the U.S. I don't even know if it existed in southern Italy or if it was created here. It's been one of the banes of my life ever since I married. :)
    http://www.epicurious.com/archive/ho...alisevenfishes
    My parents came here in the 70s, but I had some other relatives that came here a bit earlier. Later today, I'll ask them if they ate the Christmas eve fish exclusive dinner back in Italy.

    Today, we're having a much bigger variety of food.

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    Funny, I was asked the same 12 Fishes question Yesterday, I never heard it either.
    But you oh Messapo, Tamer of Horses ... that no one, with neither iron nor fire can break down! “Virgil”

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    I never did that either. I do the 12 ounces ;)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Salento View Post
    Funny, I was asked the same 12 Fishes question Yesterday, I never heard it either.
    For Christmas, my mother's family does a version of Panzerotti, that they colloquially call frittelli, in her town. Usually they're stuffed with either tuna, onions, or mozzarella, with tomatoes and capers.


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    How about we all get together and do the 12 ounces with pizza as we watch football?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jovialis View Post
    For Christmas, my mother's family does a version of Panzerotti, that they colloquially call frittelli, in her town. Usually they're stuffed with either tuna, onions, or mozzarella, with tomatoes and capers.

    We Call them “Pittule”.

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    An Italian Christmas

    Got This Present, I think it’s Cool.
    A real coin of Empress Faustina Jr, wife of Marcus Aurelius.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Salento View Post
    Got This Present, I think it’s Cool.
    A real coin of Empress Faustina Jr, wife of Marcus Aurelius.
    That's awesome. My grandfather on my dad's side, showed me a Roman coin he found a long time ago in Italy. I don't know what happened to it, after he passed away though.

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.

    An Italian Christmas

    Quote Originally Posted by Jovialis View Post
    That's awesome. My grandfather on my dad's side, showed me a Roman coin he found a long time ago in Italy. I don't know what happened to it, after he passed away though.
    If you ever go to Cannae, take a “Casual” walk around the Fields, especially after they plow it. You might get Lucky.

    “The Battle of Cannae was a major battle of the Second Punic War that took place on 2 August 216 BC in Apulia, in southeast Italy.
    It is regarded both as one of the greatest tactical feats in military history and as one of the worst defeats in Roman history.”
    Last edited by Salento; 25-12-17 at 22:33.

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