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Monday, July 20, 2009

La Giornata del Pane


It had been determined, for some reason I can't remember, that I didn't know enough about the traditional breads of this area. Therefore, Saturday, July 18, 2009 had been designated as La Giornata del Pane, Bread Day. The idea was that we would eat nothing but bread on this day, for la colazione, il pranzo e la cena, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and in this way I'd learn about local breads.

Here's how it went: Breakfast must be a brioche, the croissant pastry most commonly had with cappuccino here. There are three bars in Stresa which make their brioche fresh each morning on the premises, and we taste tested brioche at two of these to compare. First was the old and elegant Gigi Bar, on Corso Umberto, facing the lake. A small brioche filled with about a tablespoon amount of apricot marmellata. Light, with the tear-away layers of pastry dough I like that melt in your mouth. The cappuccino was also excellent, btw...

My favorite. The classic brioche and cappuccino from Gigi Bar.

The competitor was the marmellata-filled brioche made at Bravi Bar, on Via Garibaldi. This one had more filling, and the pastry was spongier, chewier. My choice of the two? Gigi... buttery and soft.

Bravi Bar's brioche. Spongier, more filling, and more filling in me as well.

While munching on my second brioche we visited a fornaio in Stresa, a bread shop, La Casa del Pane, where Giovanni was busy serving customers. I wasn't fit to eat any more bread at this time, o anzi, better to say, no more bread could fit into me at this time, but we bought a few rolls for later. Two traditional types of Piemontese rolls. The round rosetta, which has a floral design on the top, and the maggiolino, which is more of a spiral. Both are crunchy on the outside, and softer inside. Traditionally these would be eaten with maybe some mortadella slices, maybe some prosciutto cotto, making an inexpensive little meal of meat and bread.

These are the rosetta and maggiolino we bought from Giovanni.

Lunch was a bit of an expedition. A drive to Verbania in search of certain fornaios, in search of focaccia. Unfortunately, we failed somehow, on this Saturday afternoon, to find the focaccia makers we were searching. Not to be undone, we continued the expedition into the Essalunga supermarket, crowded with tourists, and made our way to the very fully stocked bread department, where we chose two small focaccia with olives, and two small margharita pizzas. Unexplicably hungry, we ate the breads while driving. This is against the law; when in Italy, one doesn't pizza and drive.

Only professional pizza eaters and drivers should attempt this.

Bread day is going well, and only la cena, dinner, remained. The weather was gorgeous, the perfect place for a small cena, really an aperitivo, was the Lido Beach Club in Baveno. The beach was empty, but the lounge was full, there was a nice breeze, and with my prosecco I ate bruschetta from the buffet. A little bit of creative license with the bread for dinner, but, it was, at the end, a delicious, educational, and carbohydrate-packed giorno tutto del pane.

A bit of bruschetta at the Lido Beach Club.

A few other notes: I did also have the skinny breadsticks often served in restaurants here; these are called grissini. Another common bread one may buy to serve with a meal here may be the ciabattina. The breads here tend to be small, bought or baked daily, rather than in large amounts for the week, and are not intended to be a large part of the meal. Focaccia can have any of a large variety of toppings, is easy to make, and is a meal unto itself. My friend Diana recently posted this recipe for her focaccia, give it a look here.

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