Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cuisine From Abruzzo Romances New York

In the midst of a cold, blustery, New York City winter comes a warm breeze from Abruzzo, Italy in the form of Rosanna Di Michele. Full of joy and a sincere desire to share her region’s cuisine, Rosanna’s dream is to make her mark on the Big Apple, one plate at a time.

The Abruzzo region lies in central Italy, east of Rome. It includes the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea, with 3 national parks and 30 nature reserves. This wild landscape with its varied climates gives rise to a hearty cuisine full of simple, satisfying flavors from land and sea. Caciocavallo and Scamorza cheeses, truffles, saffron and spicy peppers, along with ventricina (salami), soppressate and mortadelle are all typical products of Abruzzo.

Rosanna comes from Vasto, an ancient coastal city of art and lively festivals celebrating food and culture. It was here that Rosanna was inspired to create Abruzzo in Tavola, an organization dedicated to the preservation and enjoyment of Abruzzo cuisine. According to Rosanna, “The basis of everything - health, culture, happiness, of life itself - starts at the table.” Rosanna understands that the best meals come from a cook with an open heart. “I put love in everything I make. The best thing for me is to cook from morning until night for people who appreciate what I make.”

She has not had a problem finding people who appreciate her talents. It was standing room only at Di Palo’s Enoteca in New York’s Little Italy recently where Rosanna made a hearty, steaming bowl of trafilata al bronzo pasta, an Abruzzese favorite. For me, the highlight was a scoop of finely chopped hot green peppers marinated in olive oil and poured over the pasta. It added such a wonderful kick to the dish that I decided then and there to add this to my own kitchen repertoire. Of course, the food at Di Palo’s was paired with Abruzzo wines, like Montepulciano, Cerasuolo and Trebbiano. The event was so well received that Di Palo’s invited her back a few weeks later to delight its customers with her delectable cuisine.

Rosanna’s talent was a favorite at a recent fundraising auction at Marymount School. The lucky winner had Rosanna in her own kitchen, cooking an amazing multi-course meal of eggplant ripiene, polpette della nonna on a bed of oven baked potatoes, risotto with mushroom and pecorino cheese and seafood pasta. It was such a success that she has been invited back to participate in the 2012 fundraiser. She was also invited to dish out the delicacies at Whole Foods on Columbus Circle on Valentine’s Day.

She is also in demand outside of Manhattan. She shared her cuisine at the Original Arthur Avenue Italian Deli in the Bronx and at Gourmet 2 Go Marketplace and Catering in Bronxville.

Rosanna is so taken by the enthusiastic reception she has received in NYC that she wants to create something special in return. In May of this year she will hold Abruzzo Week in New York. Events will be held at various locations throughout the city featuring dishes made with genuine Abruzzese ingredients.

A wonderful dolce from Abuzzo is tarallucci, small pockets of dough filled with a combination of white wine, concentrated grape, almond and chocolate. This dessert is so popular that it has its own festival. Tarallucci & Vino is held annually during the second week of August in Casalbordino, Italy.

Another wonderful dish is scrippelle ‘mbusse, an ancient recipe from the city of Teramo. It is a kind of crepe made with flour, water and eggs, rolled and bathed in broth and sprinkled with cheese. But I have to tell you, this description hardly does it justice.

Rosanna will soon return to Italy, but we await her arrival in New York in May, when the city is blossoming in Springtime, for her presentation of Abruzzo Week. I know I’ll be ready.