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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Polpo Three Ways

Octopus, polpo, has become one of my favorite foods to eat when I'm in Stresa. Part of the reason is that I rarely see polpo on menus here in my part of the United States. But the main reason is that it's just so delicious, simple, and healthy. Here are three memorable polpo dishes from my recent stay in Stresa:

Insalata di Polpo con Patate
Caffe Torino, in Piazza Cadorna, is becoming my casual restaurant of choice, and this salad is one of the reasons why. This couldn't be any simpler. Chunks of polpo and chunks of potato, boiled, and then tossed together and served warm with a light oil and vinegar dressing and a bit of parsley. I had this as my primo piatto; I followed it with a plate of ravioli con brie e speck, and only sparkling water on that hot evening, sitting outside in the piazza.

Insalata di Polpo con Patate.

Carpaccio di Polpo con Pomodorini Pachino
At Ristorante Vicoletto I had as my primo one evening this plate of very thinly sliced octopus, served with what I call cherry tomatoes, pomodorini pachino. The dish was lightly tossed with very nice olive oil, and the plate drizzled with the most delicious balsalmic vinegar. Vicoletto is a lovely little restaurant in Via Bolongaro. My portion of polpo was quite large, as was the pesto dish I had as a second. This evening, white wine, and there was still room for dessert.

Carpaccio di Polpo con Pomodorini Pachino.

Insalata Tiepida di Mare
I feel a little funny talking about O'Connor's Pub in this post. It is, obviously, not an Italian restaurant. It's a typical Irish pub, but it happens to serve surprisingly good Italian food. There are several reasons I like going to O'Connors. First, definitely the food. Then, the atmosphere. O'Connors is clearly not a tourist destination. It has a comfortable enclosed garden set with many tables. Part of the garden is covered with a porch; I ate under there one rainy evening. It's always been crowded when I've been there, and if the locals think the food is that good they must be right. This salad with polpo I've had a couple of times. The bowl is a fascinating mix of pieces of polpo, calamari, shrimp, potato, green beans, pomodorini pachino, rucola lettuce, and green olives. Oh, and one other ingredient, moscardini. Moscardini were a new thing for me. They are teeny tiny complete little octopuses, each being maybe the size of those large olives. If you look closely you can see a couple of them in this bowl. And yes, you just pop them in your mouth whole. This salad, like the others, is dressed with a light oil and vinegar dressing. The blend of flavors is incredible. This would definitely make for a very complete light meal for me. But I followed it with a fillet wrapped in pastry dough, and, since it is O'Connor's, of course Guinness. What a meal...

Insalata Tiepida di Mare.

There you have it. Polpo, three different ways, at three different restaurants that are favorites of mine. If polpo is as unique for you as it is for me I recommend trying these, as they are very traditional dishes in the region. Note that sometimes you may see polpo spelled polipo on menus or recipes, the words are uguale, the same.

I've been told that cooking polpo is another thing that I must learn to do, and that it is on the next-time-in-Stresa-things-to-do list. Chissa, forse un giorno sara' una festa di polpo sul terrazo dalla casa mia! Who knows, maybe one day there will be a big polpo party on the terrace of my house! Chissa!


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