Discovering Prosciuttificio Vittorio Ciarcia

The town of Venticano in the Province of Avellino is the home of Vittorio Ciarcia, which since 1930 has created a wide variety of cured meats “Irpinia Style,” including prosciutto and culatello, among others.

According to their website, Vittorio’s great-grandfather, Nicola, who lived around the end of the nineteenth century, used to visit marketplaces throughout Irpinia and purchase pork that was raised by local farmers. Nicola would then salt and cure the pork he bought to produce prosciutto and other cured meats typical of the area.

Ciarcia now produces these typical regional meats for its customers, still using the same methods created by Nicola more than 100 years ago.

One of Ciarcia’s offerings includes “Culatello irpino.” Culatello is actually a specialty of the city of Zibello, located in the Province of Parma in the Emilia-Romagna Region, and it is made with the muscular part of the hind leg of pigs that were born, raised and slaughtered exclusively in Emilia-Romagna and Lombardia. Ciarcia takes this tradition and puts its own Irpinian spin on it.

Praised by food critics, the “Goccia Irpina” comes from pigs raised traditionally in Irpinia. Produced in limited quantity, Goccia Irpina only uses Italian sea salt to cure it and the curing process takes 14 months. This melt-in-your-mouth meat is of a bright red color with streaks of white fat and the taste lingers on the palate.

While food from Northern and Central Italy often gets the most notice, perhaps it is time to try something different. While Ciarcia’s offerings may be difficult to find in the United States outside of Italian specialty stores, they are certainly worth a taste and deserving of their place among Italy’s finest foods.

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The Best Panettone Comes From Irpinia

panettoni-artigianali
Photo from Il Giornale del Cibo

I have a confession to make… I cannot get enough of Panettone (the name loosely translates to “large bread”). We Americans have seen the brightly colored boxes with the string pop up all over during the holiday season. This year, I even discovered an incredible one imported to the US from the Milan region that had candied pumpkin, pumpkin cream and all sorts of delightful fall flavors. I tried it, loved it, and went back to Sam’s Club to buy three more. I love Panettone.

But even more than I love Panettone, I love Irpinia, so imagine my surprise when I saw an article from La Nostra Voce that claimed that the best traditional Panettone in all of Italy was deemed that created by Raffaele Romano of Pasticceria Fratelli Romano in Solofra, Avellino Province.

Oh, yes. This is a culinary dream come true.┬áJust so you know, Milan is considered the “home” of traditional Panettone, so this was quite the coup for Signore Romano!

The competition was part of the Sweety of Milano Festival, part of which included Panettone Day. Signore Romano was one of 25 finalists in the competition and left victorious. Signore Romano’s Panettone was judged based off of how it looks, its color, quality of baking, how much it rose while baking, the quality of ingredients used, and… of course… taste.

Signore Romano was quoted by La Nostra Voce as saying, “I am very proud of this result. To take on an icon of Italian pastry such as the panettone is a great challenge for those of us in the baking profession. To see my creation reign supreme over more than 200 recipes in such a prestigious competition gives me enthusiasm to keep growing my skills and to take on new challenges.” (Translation by me)

Now for the month of October, Signore Romano and the other finalists were able to exhibit their creations in My Temporary Shop, a modern concept store in Corso Garibaldi in downtown Milano, similar to an American “pop up” store, where people had the opportunity to buy and taste the best Italian pastry creations.

For those of us who can’t fly over to Italy for Panettone, check out the Panettone Project by Weekend Bakery… and buon appetito!