On the Lowly Onion
Have yours with straw and hay

On Sunday, Italy’s National Day of Stuffing Yourself with Friends and Family, we ate at one of those restaurants tourists always say they seek out but never find, the unlabeled eatery full of Italians.

I didn’t find it. That honor goes to Mike of A Path to Lunch. He had the good sense to know that if a place has one of those old signs announcing a public telephone (remember them?) that there was a story there somewhere. And thus he found his path to lunch and was the first American they’d ever seen sticking a fork in their spaghetti. Bravo.

But another thing I like about Italy other than unlabeled and unsigned restaurants is the variety of things to eat that are common, even lowly, like the onion mentioned in the title. We Americans think, “an onion is white, brown, or red and they all taste pretty much the same” as if the color was merely painted on. But in Italy, we have so many different kinds of onions with different flavors, I’m wondering if anyone has ever cataloged them all. Sometimes you go to a food festival (a sagra) and it’s an entire weekend celebration of a particular kind of onion and you don’t even know it because the name of the onion is disguised by being written in dialect, like our experience in the village of Moncigoli at the Sagra di Cigola.

So six of us are eating our antipasti and my friend Roberto leans over after tasting this amazing onion tart-like thing and says, “this is rich, like French onion soup. Do you think they make it like that?”

It would be a stretch to think of a country Italian trying to mimic something French. Anything French. So I answered in the negative. There was no evidence of having been cooked in beef broth, no thyme, No stringy cheese—nothing like that.

So time passes. Then this:

paglia e fieno pasta picture

It’s a simple pasta, paglia e fieno, straw and hay, spinach and normal pasta. It’s sauced with…sausage. Tiny bits of sausage. You can hardly see them. It looks like the dish isn’t sauced at all.

But then you taste. The onions you can’t see rise to make the dish triumph, the sausage playing a decent second fiddle.

Man it was good. And onions made it that way.

So I take my hat off to the onions of Il Borgo di Canossa. I should say the secret onions of Canossa. You see, I asked our waitress about them. Were they special? “Yes.” Where do I get some, where do they come from?

“Just ask if we have them when you make your next reservation.”

I guess if you don’t put labels on your restaurant you don’t put them on your ingredients either. Fair enough.

So, I’m going to do something I am inclined not to do. I am going to come clean with all I know about this restaurant. There is parking in front, but it is on a road that will require you to back your car all the way to the main road if someone decides to come down off the hill (experience speaking). I am going to show you a map of this secret place and tell you the name, which will do no good because not many people will know it. I will trust you not to tell anyone else. Ok?

Ristorante Bar Capetta di Luciani Maria Paola. TEL: 0187.850.063

And whatever you do, ask about the onions. Eat anything that has them as an ingredient.


On the Lowly Onion originally appeared on WanderingItaly.com , updated: Sep 06, 2019 © .

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