The perfect recipe is fresh and in-season local food
Even with the convenience of supermarkets, it’s fairly common to buy fresh fruit, vegetables, fish or meat, flowers, cheeses, and other items at open markets and specialty stores on the day. Supermarkets are convenient for durable foods, but if you want good advice with your purchase, the fresh food stand or specialty store is the way to go.
For more than a century, the covered market in the heart of Modena – Mercato Albinelli – has been safeguarding the city’s cultural and nutritional values and the personal and close customer relationship that have always characterized the retail sale.
Massimo is our “go-to” for fresh fruit and vegetables. He runs a stand at Mercato Albinelli with a line of people that goes out the door yet moves quickly. Massimo punctuates orders with compliments for the patron’s choices and selections. You’re a winner just for ordering. Who doesn’t like that? He also stirs you in the right direction on quantities for your meal – it’s an energizing feeling to shop for food with him.
Often stalls are passed on through family generations. It was the case for Massimo whose father passed away a couple of years ago. People stay with the stand, and they pass on the information to their families. Many restaurants buy their food supplies at Mercato Albinelli. It’s in the heart of the city and supplies fresh and local fruit and vegetables daily.
Find the fresh market and specialty stores
Each city has its own equivalent of open market. Or more than one farmers’ market – mercato a km zero – where producers sell directly to buyers. In a small town, a food market may be set up in the center only one day per week. Some cities have a place with a food market every day, like Modena.
In addition to fresh fruit and vegetables, you may also find honey and jams produced locally, eggs (we don’t refrigerate them in Italy, different production system), coffee, fresh cut flowers and plants, olive oil, and even artisan beer, wines and liquors produced locally.
Specialty stores sell fresh pasta and made to order tortellini, ravioli, and gnocchi. On major holidays, you can call your order in for several trays and feed the whole family. Fresh pasta without spending the morning pulling the dough and making the filling means your sauce or broth gets all the attention.
Bread is everywhere, and so good
By mid-morning every bakery (“forno”) is running out of fresh bread, available in a variety of shapes, sizes and base ingredients – extra virgin olive oil, natural yeast, milk, whole grain (integrale), and even black bread made with vegetable charcoal.
If you’re an early riser, you can smell the bakery blocks away – I love bread, even the scent is satisfying.
Made daily, flat breads and focaccias are ideal as mid-morning snacks for school and small bites for aperitif hour, dress with diced tomato, olives, and small pieces of prosciutto cotto (Italian ham) – and voila’, a mini meal is ready.
Buy as much as you need, and not more – there’s always tomorrow with its scent of freshly baked bread to guide you to the nearest forno.
Find the oldest recipes for the secret to buying fish
At the shore, it’s possible to buy fresh fish as the boats come in early in the morning, or at the supermarket a little later until the catch of the day is sold out. They buy it fresh and clean it up for you, if you ask “me lo pulisce, per favore?”, even add parsley to add on top. I’m still chuckling from when I blurted out, “mi taglia la testa?” Literally, it means can you cut the head? But in Italian there’s room for some interpretation on whose head, if you don’t add “del pesce,” of the fish.
When our parents were growing up, refrigerators were a luxury, and very small. They’re much bigger than they used to be now – though hardly approaching the enormous sizes of American double-doors. But meats and fish are often a buy-to-cook affair.
Want to know what’s local without searching online? Find the oldest recipes in any region of Italy, and you’ll see the foods that were in season and local. Many restaurants still follow those guidelines when they say “cucina tradizionale,” traditional cuisine.
How you eat is as important as what you eat – it’s good for the diet, and for the whole being.
Eat each bite to savor the textures, scent, and flavors from the simple ingredients in each meal. Eat fresh, in season fruit and vegetables, and local game to connect more deeply with that region – and nature. Eat in the company of others as much as possible. It’s good for the heart.
- Buy fresh first and in season, “compra fresco e di stagione”
- Look for local food, “cerca cibo locale”