A picnic in the Italian countryside in your classic Fiat 500 or ______. Just fill in the blank and your picnic basket with salumi, salame and a crusty loaf of bread. My choice would be a rustic Tuscan pane and a selection of Italian cold cuts like mortadella, capicola and finocchiona (if I could get it). Finoccchiona is a salame from Florence and the Chianti region made from finely ground pork, flavored with black peppercorns, garlic, wine and fennel seeds. Traditionally wild fennel is used and gives this salame the aroma of the Tuscan countryside. Add a few bruschetta toppings, a selection of mostarda, some fruit and formaggi (my choice would be a truffled pecorino from Pienza). For dessert, a melon with prosciutto and some biscotti to dip into my flask of Vin Santo. Speaking of wine, no self–respecting Italian meal would be complete without vino. So bring along a bottle of wine and to quench your thirst include aqua minerale bottled water (San Pelligrino or Panna ) and Italian soda. Of course you’ll need a cutting board, corkscrew, cheese knife, a nice cloth and plates. Although there is no reliable etymological translation for the world picnic in Italian, an outdoor meal eaten al fuori (outdoors) in the countryside or a garden is widely described in Italian literature and a well-laid table was encouraged to heighten the experience.
This is a picture of our Italian family circa summer 1919 in the countryside near Vicenza. To me it represents the idyllic Italian lifestyle and the pleasures of “villegiatura”, leaving the life of the city for a villa in the countryside. Even though our Italian family was not relaxing at their villa along the Brenta they still enjoyed picnics in the countryside. Traveling in Italy and staying with our Italian family and friends has led me to believe that Italians seem to know how to balance work and relaxation better than we do. An Italian inspired picnic in the park is my way of bringing Italy home and capturing a small slice of “la dolce vita”.
Here are a few ideas from Salume’ Menu in NYC for a summertime Italian picnic.
Mortadella di bologna, emmental, rucola, senape
Bologna mortadella, emmenthal cheese, arugula, mustard
Prosciutto crudo di parma, mozzarella di bufala, pomodoro, olio extra vergine d’oliva
Prosciutto from Parma, buffalo mozzarella, tomato, extra virgin olive oil
Salame, provolone, rucola, rafano, olio extra vergine d’oliva
Salami, provolone cheese, arugula, horseradish, extra virgin olive oil
Mozzarella di bufala, pomodoro, basilico, olio extra vergine d’oliva
Buffalo mozzarella, tomato, basil, extra virgin olive oil