Tag Archives: rome

Specchia White Night amber ale at Tree Bar

Last night, we had tickets to go and see Neneh Cherry and Fat Freddy’s Drop at the Cavea of the Auditorium Parco della Musica, in the Flaminio district of Rome. This is the area to the north of Piazza del Popolo,  the popular spot for tourists, shoppers and manifestazioni at the top of Via Del Corso, central Rome’s main consumer strip and sometime location of yacht races *.

We’d never been far into Flaminio, so were keen to check out a spot called the Tree Bar, and the Auditorium itself. The Auditorium was designed by Renzo Piano, who has more recently radically altered London’s skyline with the Shard, and was inaugurated in 2002. The complex consists of three beetle-roofed concert halls with the Cavea in between – a fourth, open air auditorium. This is where we were headed. But first, a beer.

The central Roman section of Via Flaminia (one of the city’s ancient routes, heading north) is canonically long and straight, and plied by trams. It’s lined with handsome mid-20th century apartment blocks and collection of tired looking markets, workshops and older, more historical buildings, along with a couple of stretches of open park. Tree Bar, a former kiosk, nestles in one of these.

Inside, it has has light, Scandinavian style wood fittings, outside there’s a terrace area that spills into the park. Some kids’ football kept escaping from their game – inside a dry fountain – and flying past us while we drank.

With its emphasis on aperitivo drinking, Tree Bar has a long menu of sparkling wines and cocktails, but thankfully there were also a few craft beers tucked in there too, with three bottled beers in a section marked “Birre Artigianale”. I didn’t know any of them, so asked the waiter what one, from a brewery in called B94 in Lecce, Puglia, was. He said it was a birra artigianale. Yes, but what type, I persisted, and he managed to come up with the fact that it was an amber ale. Okay, fine, that’s enough for me. He also said it was enough for two (a 75ml bottle), but Fran wanted a cocktail.

B94 Specchia White Night, plus snacks, Tree Bar, Rome

When it arrived, a black bottle with a slightly muddle label design and the apparent name “Specchia White Night”, I told him not to worry, it’s not too much for one person – as I’m British. Nothing like reinforcing stereotypes.

Anyway, he poured and inch of so, and there wasn’t much head, and the liquid was a murky amber-brown. I poured more, a bit more vigorously, and got a better head. Head, or schiuma, is very important in the appreciation of Italian craft beers – all the descriptions mention it. My Guida alle Birre d’Italia 2013 says it’s a beer with colore ambra intenso con schiuma di buona persistenza. Which I’d have to disagree with – the head wasn’t very persistent.

I didn’t get much in the way of strong scents coming off it, bar malt and some melon, or apple. Which made a nice contrast to the more citrusy beers I’ve been drinking a lot lately. Taste-wise, the maltiness (from both malted barley and wheat) was combined with a fairly strong bitter hoppiness and yeastiness, along with some spice (cloves), caramel and even a soapiness. It was a reasonably drinkable beer, with a medium body, low-middling carbonisation and 6% strength, though perhaps slightly heavy for my tastes for a warm summer evening. Plus, well, another aspect of my Britishness – the name and label brought disconcerting flashes of White Lightning, a trashy cider from the early 1990s. An unfortunate association.

B94 Specchia White Night's label, at Tree Bar, Rome

Still, it’s always good to try something new, from a brewery I’d not heard of before. Apparently B94 was founded in 1994 by Raffaele Longo to make beers for his friend. It’s that step from home-brewing to commerce that’s the familiar narrative for many micro-breweries.

Having quickly consumed Tree Bar’s stuzzichini (a plate of appetizers/snacks often served at aperitivo time), we had a pizza too. The food wasn’t bad – the stuzzicini included some pieces of particularly nice frittata and they seem to use some wholegrain flours in their doughs. Thus fuelled, we dashed on up the road to get to the venue.

Neneh Cherry had, disappointingly, bailed (with no reason or excuse forthcoming online), and the support act were pretty noodly, but the Cavea is a great location, the overcast weather didn’t give way to rain, and Fat Freddy’s Drop – New Zeeland’s finest reggae-dub-soul-rave combo – were energetic and entertaining, taking us through their new album, Black Bird, and including a few old favourites. Though they didn’t do an encore. What’s up guys? Grumpy? Tired from the world tour?

Fat Freddy's Drop, Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome, 3 July 2013

Infodump
Via Flaminia 226, 00196 Roma
treebar.it

* “In December 1878 [the Tiber’s] floodwaters in the Via del Corso were so deep that a sailing race was held held there…” (p114, Whispering City, RJB Bosworth)

1 Comment

Filed under Ale, beer, Bars, pubs etc

A quick tour of Nomentana neighbourhood and New Morning beer at Kombeer bar

New Morning

My friend Giammarco, teacher, novelist, ghost writer for academics (!), doesn’t much like beer, certainly not proper beer. He’s the sort of guy who’s satisfied with the axis of industrial yuck that is Peroni/Morretti/Menabrea. So I was quite surprised when we met up for drink in Nomentana, a neighbourhood northeast of Termini station and just outside the Aurelian Walls, and he suggested a nearby birreria (beer bar). A new birreria? Come no!

It proved to be an interesting stroll. I already knew the main drags through Nomentana but had never really explored the backstreets. We didn’t exactly explore, but just strolled through. Giammarco dove into a second-hand bookshop where he got a pristine novel for a mere Euro (a book like that would sell for about £5, €6, in the UK). It’s a shame I can’t really read idiomatic Italian… what bargains. We strolled on, past the old Peroni factory, built in 1908-1922. Production stopped there in 1971.

IMAG0032

Apparently the building is being converted into a giant birreria. According to Giammarco. Though it being Roma, even if that is on the cards, it may take 10 years and several changes of local government for it to actually fall into place. Indeed, this site (in Italian) says it was going to be converted into a centre for arts documentation and a cinema, so who knows what’ll happen to the redevelopment plan. Like Battersea Power Station, some developer will probably just get his way to turn it into expensive apartments in the end.

We then passed by the Mercato Nomentano di Piazza Alessandria, a very handsome building with grandly arched entrances and looming pediments. The market was built in 1926 in what Giammarco called a “Liberty” style – that is art nouveau – and inaugurated in 1929. I’m no architectural historian, but it looks more art deco to me, or at least from a kind of transitional style. Check out this old pic from 1940.

PIAZZA_ALESSANDRIA_1940

After a worrying moment where it looked like Giammaroc couldn’t remember the location of the birreria we were looking for, Kombeer, we finally found it…. Closed. It was 5.45pm. This always bemuses me as a Brit because our drinking culture is so much about leaving work and going straight to the pub. Go to any British city and if you’re in an area dense with offices, come 5.30pm, the pubs will like as not be chockablock with people loosening their ties (poor bastards) and forgoing any proper solid food.

We malingered a bit while the Kombeer staff swept up and laid out seating in their little patio area among the parked cars. Before too long we were seated and the waitress came to discuss the beers. Which is all very nice in a hands-on kind of way, but not great is you speak bad (or no) Italian. And not ideal if you’re not acquainted with Italian birre artigianale – which dominate the options here, though there we also some international craft beers, both bottled and alla spina (on tap).

Although I speak some Italian and know some of the breweries and beers, I really didn’t follow… my brain doesn’t work so well when it comes to, like, remembering stuff, so in the absence of a menu I went to the bar to check out the taps. There are about eight, with the sort of temporarily attached labels that indicate regular rotation of new beers. The waitress let me try a few beers, which is always a good sign, and I chose a New Morning (English site) as I remember enjoying it elsewhere many months ago.

New Morning (or Nuova Mattina, depending on which batch you get) is a saison-style beer from Birrificio del Ducato, northwest of Parma in the Emilia Romagna region of northern Italy. This award-winning brewery was founded in 2007 by Giovanni Campari. Their own site calls this food science and technology graduate and former home brewer a “radical and visionary Brewmaster” and certainly the beers of theirs I’ve tried ­– Verdi Imperial Stout, Sally Brown ­– have been tasty and interesting, so fair dues.

new-morning

Anyway, I wasn’t familiar with saison beers before coming to Rome – heck, I’m the first to say I’m an enthusiast not an expert. But from the saisons I have tried, it’s a pretty diverse style (genre?) of beer, though it’s generally defined by fruity flavours, with varying degrees of spiciness and hoppiness and minimal maltiness.

New Morning itself was, at first taste, fairly hoppy, but when a full glass arrived, replete with substantial but quickly subsiding head, the complexity of flavour quickly amended this sensation, with definite spiciness and floral notes. This is unsurprisingly, given that the beer’s made with “wild flowers, chamomile, coriander, green peppercorn and ginger.” My questions for Mr Campari would be – what wild flowers?

Still, such a nagging query didn’t undermine my enjoyment. In fact, while Giammarco sipped one, taking an age with his aperitivo in true Italian style and mourning the rigid state of Italian culture, I – in true British style – went back inside to ask for another. Hey, it’s only 5%. The bar, which is funky in an easy-going way, was still empty at 7.30pm. Which struck me as strange, especially as the neighbouring pizzerias were filling up with the local bourgeoisie. Maybe Kombeer gets rammed later in the evening. I’ll have to re-visit at some stage. Sheesh, so many beer bars to visit, so many birre artigianale to try.

Oh, and apparently Campari named the brew after the 1970 Bob Dylan song.

Infodump:

Kombeer BirreriArtigianale, Via Alessandria 39, 00198 Roma

Birrificio del Ducato
birrificiodelducato.net (English)

Leave a comment

Filed under Ale, beer, Bars, pubs etc

Casa Veccia’s Formenton and Dazio at Oasi della Birra, Testaccio, Rome

Formento

Haven’t been to Oasi della Birra in Testaccio for what seems like an age. It had become something of a regular haunt, but then something in the aperitivo buffet wasn’t quite right, then other life-things got busy, and well, months went by. But last night I found myself back there, enjoying the evening sun – after a faltering spring, the Roman summer has arrived – and wondering what had become of my chum Cameron. (Never did get those texts.)

On a previous visit, we’d tried a called Molo, a stout made with port from a confusingly named brewery that’s either called Casa Veccia or Ivan Borsato Casa Veccia or Casa Veccia Ivan Borsato Birraio. I’m afraid I hadn’t heard of Ivan Borsato before,  but I like your beers, Ivan, and I like their branding… even if the bottles neglect to actually include such salient information as what type of beer is contained therein.

So this time round, I asked one of the guys from the Oasi what Formenton was, clearly having forgotten what I wrote on my own blog in March. He said it was made with farro (I didn’t get into the issue of what specific farro). As I like my ancient wheat varieties, and it was a warm evening, that seemed like a good place to start. Like many wheat beers, it’s a beautiful bright golden yellow, especially when suffused with the Roman evening sun. I should probably mention the head, as Italian beer reviews always talk about the quality of the schiuma, but what can I say? It’s frothy. But not as frothy as the second beer (see below).

The taste is typically fruity. Cameron  and my wife Fran thankfully arrived before I got too sozzled drinking alone. They both talked about the banana notes (typical to weissbier), but I reckon it had a whole macedonia – that’s Italian for fruit salad – in there, with melon, grapefruit, orange zest, and apple flavours, and even a bit of ginger. At 5.5% it’s not exactly weak, but it’s refreshing and very drinkable, with negligible hoppiness.

Oh, and if you’re really serious about your wheat and white beers, and understand the difference, and can read Italian, there’s a spiel on the brewery’s site about how Formenton “was created from the union of two beers that marked the history of beer: weissbier [wheat beer] and blanchebier [white beer].” Now, I never really had a strong sense of the difference between these beers, as both exist under the wheat beer aegis. But according to the Borsato spiel, and a quick spin around online, the former are more German in origin, cleaner, simpler, with minimal hoppiness and, most of all, are defined by the proportion of wheat in place of some of the (malted) barley. The latter are more Belgian (and Dutch), and may have been made without hops – using herbs instead in something called a gruit. Modern gruit may involve herbs, but also citrus and hops. Both are top-fermented. And, frankly, in this era of innovative craft beers, the dividing line between them is blurred. Formenton, for example, made a point of it. That’s something that’s so good about Italian craft brewing; as the country doesn’t have laboriously rigid brewing heritage and tradition, it’s unafraid to mix things up. Yay. I imagine the two Matt Groening style cartoon chaps on the bottle saying an Italian “yay” at their success with Formenton.

Dazio with OTT head

The second Casa Veccia we tried, and is here featured in a terrible out of focus photo (crappy new phone), showing how I’d rushed to pour it and creating and ridiculous head, was the 6.2% ABV Dazio. The guy in Oasi said it was an ambrata (amber) ale but the Casa Veccia site specifies it’s an APA. As I was talking about yesterday, APA seem to be a very popular style in the Italian birra artigianale scene. And very nice they can be too. And again, unlike in other brewing traditions where beardy specialists might dogmatically insist there’s a distinction between an APA and an amber ale, in Italy it seems an APA can be ambrata.

Dazio was also delicious but very different. Arguably, it’s not as obvious a summer drink, with hints of toffee apple and such autumnal things , along with cinnamon and ginger, but it did the job very nicely thanks last night. Oh, and flavour-wise, Fran said “Turkish delight”, while the Casa Veccia site itself talks about this beer – “in an English style with American hops” – having Profumi terziari come pepe, cuoio, chiodi di garofano, liquirizia: “Tertiary aromas of black pepper, leather, cloves, liquorice.” I didn’t get all that myself, but fair enough. I like the idea of a leather-scented ale. The site also talks about its hoppiness and bitter flavour, but I felt it was pretty mild and mellow. The site also provides a nice bit of history about how the APA evolved from the IPA and the IPA evolved out necessity, with British soldiers in India craving beer, but the long voyage souring the milder ales of home. The solution was more hops, to better preserve the ale. Thanks Ivan and everyone in the Vetch House. Quite why the Dazio label features a cartoon astronaut I don’t know.

2 Comments

Filed under Ale, beer

Casa Veccia’s Molo

Back at Oasi della Birra in Testaccio, with my chum Rachel and my wife Fran. Fran’s beers of choice are unfailingly porters and stouts. As the bar – disappointingly – doesn’t have any Italian beers on tap, we were drinking bottled beers. We asked for a 32 Via dei Birra Altra, a double-malted dark brown ale. They’d run out, but offered us another dark beer. This turned out to be Molo from a micro birrifficio (microbrewery) called Casa Veccia. Not one I’d heard of before. Turns out it’s in Povegliano, in Treviso province of the Veneto, inland from Venice.

Reading the info on Casa Veccia’s Facebook page, the story of the brewery seems not unlike that of several of the other Italian microbreweries I’ve been learning about. (Indeed, it’s a story that’s repeated in the microbrewery scene across the world.) Ivan Borsato, a chef and cookery teacher, says he started making beer for a laugh with three friends in April 2009 but by the end of the year he’d glimpsed an opportunity take it to a professional level. By January 2011 they were producing their first commercial beer, Dazio, an American Pale Ale, then Formenton, a wheat beer.

Borsato, meanwhile, is recognised on all the labels, which says “Micro Birrificio Casa Veccia Ivan Borsato Birraio” with birraio meaning master brewer. (And veccia meaning “vetch“, that is the Vicia genus of Fabaceae, the pea family or legumes.) In fact, I’m not really even sure what the brewery is called, as my beer guidebook simply lists it as Ivan Borsato Birraio.

The labels are also distinctive for their Matt Groening-esque cartoons. (Actually designed by Kulkuxumusu from Pamplona, Spain.) Molo’s label seems to feature some kind of exchange between salty sea dogs, swapping a fish for a bottle of beer.

Anyway. Enough pre-amble. The beer.

The most notable thing about Molo is that it’s a dark, dense 6.5% stout that contains tawny porto, that is tawny port – port that’s been aged in wooden barrels and, according to Wikipedia, imparted with a nutty flavour through gradual oxidation. Now personally, I don’t touch port, not after a work Christmas party about 20 years ago when I learned the hard way how it  gives the worst hangovers. Something to do with congeners. But it certainly added a depth of flavour to the Molo, an almost rare meatiness alongside the more typical stouty flavours of well-roasted and toasted malt, slightly burnt biscuit etc. Though nothing fishy, despite the image on the label.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Unexpected Pharmaceutical

Even after a year and a half living in Rome, there are still many aspects of everyday life that confuse me. Any engagement with pharmacies, and even erboristerie (herbalists – places that basically sell a lot of the stuff that’s similar to what you’d find in health food shops), is one of these aspects. Unless I’m just buying some plasters (cerotti), the experience almost always yields unexpected results.

Pharmacies are ubiquitous in Rome, but we frequent the one nearest our flat. The staff know us now (we’re repeat and memorable visitors for sorry reasons I won’t go into now), and they’re friendly and helpful. But that doesn’t always mean you get quite what you want. And even if you do, broadly, get what you want, there’s bound to be something just plain weird about it.

So this week. Yesterday we visited both the pharmacy and the erboristeria. Fran needed something to sooth a cough that was keeping her (well, us) awake at night, I needed some cream for my hands. I’m working in a busy kitchen and the constant hand-washing with industrial strength soap is just simply wreaking havoc with my skin, darling.

Nothing too challenging or unusual there.Right?

We asked in both shops, they acted like they knew exactly what we wanted, we had a quick look, said ok, thanks, and made the purchases. Then we got home and looked a little closer. Fran said the cough mixture tasted weird. Cough mixture is always weird and full of unnecessary shit – like artificial sweeteners for example. Over-the-counter mainstream medicines have enough dodgy shit in them, so for me adding chemical sweeteners just seems like overkill. Plus medicine doesn’t need to taste sweet or nice, it’s not supposed to be a pleasant treat. The weirdness here? Vanilla and apricot flavourings. Vanilla? Is that really associated with cold rememdies?

As for my hand cream. It was okay, and when I tried it in the shop, its smell reminded me of our holiday on the Giglio last year as its primary ingredient is Helichrysum italicum, a herb that covers the island. But the weird factor was that the box says the cream is “Protective and Bleaching”. You what? Never mind the fact that something that bleaches is surely hardly good for you, why would you want a restorative skin cream to bleach your skin anyway? Perhaps it’s just a weird translation. Or not. The original Italian blurb is Protettrice e Sbiancante – protective and bleaching, or brightening, or blanching. It’s perturbing. I quite like my skin tone and don’t need it bleached or blanched thanks. A friend suggested it might be for old ladies wanting to bleach away liver spots. Thanks so much, lady in the shop, for lumping me with that demographic.

Other examples of this bewilderment include trying to buy some sort of basic antiseptic cream for small cuts, and being persuaded to buy something that, it transpired, contained antibiotics. Really, if I’m going to use antibiotics, I want to save them for when there’s a serious chance of serious infection, not when I’ve nicked my finger with a knife. We live in an era when antibiotics really really need to be used very selectively due to the rise of resistant “superbugs” and having them in an over-the-counter cream is arguably irresponsibly stupid.

Another friend also mentioned she’d asked for something for the flu. She came away with something, tried it, felt nothing, and only then discovered it was homeopathic. Whatever your feelings about homeopathy, when you’ve got a crappy flu, you really just want something a bit heavy duty than sugar water with unquantifiable magic vibrations.

Of course, the moral of the story is read the box closely before purchasing. But if you’re in a queue, or are dealing with a friendly pharmacist who behaves like they’re being very helpful and entirely understand your needs, or your Italian isn’t good enough for the medical blurb on the box, this can be tricky. Ultimately, sometimes all you want is something familiar. But tough – there ain’t no Lemsip in Italy.

5 Comments

Filed under Italy, Learning Italian, Rome

Italian names for fish and seafood

Since I moved to Rome in August 2011, I’ve been keeping a list of the names for fish and seafood I encounter on market stalls and restaurant menus. Then I try to learn the English name for said fish. It’s a challenge though. As not only do common names change from region to region in Italy, but the same names are often applied to different species, most notably merluzzo, which, according to Italian Wikipedia, can refer to 15 species.

Basically, I’ve been utilising both the English and Italian versions of Alan Davidson’s ‘Mediterranean Seafood’ (aka ‘Il Mare in Pentola’), the classic book that comprehensively tackles of the subject of seafood nomenclature. (Although I do occasionally carry ‘Il Mare in Pentola’ with me at the market, it’s not very convenient when I’m out and about and end up in a restaurant: this list, on the other hand, I can access through my phone.)

I’ve also been cross-referencing both the English and Italian language versions of Wikipedia. Say what you like about Wikipedia, but it is constantly peer-reviewed by a vast number of contributors, so it can’t be all wrong – plus Davidson’s first did his work in the 1960s and even with later imprints, the updating process just isn’t as dynamic as that on Wikipedia. I’m also using other sources, both online and offline (like a poster I bought of seasonal fish species).

Please note though, I’m doing this more for linguistic and bloody-minded reasons. I’m not doing it as an overt exercise in seafood ethics. That said, many of these species are not sustainable, and shouldn’t really be eaten these days. Seafood sustainability is an issue there just wasn’t much awareness of when Davidson first wrote his book in the 1960s, and it still doesn’t really get a look-in even in the 2002 English or 2005 Italian editions that I have.

Greenpeace produces a Red List of fish to avoid. It’s handy as it simply lists the fish. They are also US and NZ specific versions, among others. A more comprehensive Red List is produced by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It’s not as user-friendly for consumers as you have to search by specific name (preferably a Latin, scientific name). Their database does however provide very detailed information; look, for example, at the entry for Atlantic bluefin tuna, Thunnus thynnus.

Back to practicalities: I’m doing fish (including some of the fresh water varieties I encounter), crustaceans and cephalopods together alphabetically, not in any separate categories. And I’m not going to list all the regional, dialect names Davidson mentions, though if you search here they may well be included alongside the standard Italian name. I’m also including a few bits of terminology, just cos.

Italian names are given in the singular form. Though (very) generally in Italian masculine nous ending in –o are pluralised –i, and feminine nouns ending in –a are pluralised with –e, there are exceptions, so I’ve included some for clarity. Note, for example, pesce (“fish”) is masculine, and becomes pesci in the plural.

Caveat: This whole undertaking is a minefield, linguistically and ethically. This list isn’t comprehensive, expert or entirely accurate. It’s just me trying to learn the names of fish I see used in Rome, and relate them to common English names. I’m British, so I’m talking about relating them to British English common names (which are more standardised than Italian common names, though not entirely standardised). But I’m also giving the principle scientific name for species, which can then be utilised to find common names in say, American English.

Please do comment or contact me though if you see something that you really don’t agree with. This is an ongoing project and I plan to keep revising it and honing it.

A
acciuga (plural acciughe) – European achovy. See alice.
acqua dolce – “sweet water”, that is freshwater. So freshwater fish are called pesce d’acqua dolce.
alice (plural alici) – the European anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus). Some of the regional names are more similar to the English word anchovy or our more generic word for small, oily forage fish sardine, such as the Veneto’s anchiò and sardon, though this is an area of potential confusion as Engraulis encrasicolus isn’t considered a sardine species.
alalunga – see tonno alalunga.
alletterato – see tonno alletterato.
allevato in un vivaio – bred in a hatcher, fish farm
aluzzo – European/Mediterranean barracuda (Sphyraena sphyraena) aka luccio marino, luccio di mare, luzzo.
anguilla – eel, or more specifically the European eel (Anguilla anguilla – gotta love those tautonyms). Saw a big tub of these, alive, on the market just the other day.
aragosta – spiny lobster (Palinurus elephas). Also know as aligusta, aliusta (Lazio, Marche, abruzzo); agosta, langusta, grillo de mar (Veneto); ravosta, rausta (Campania); arausta, ariusta, laustra (Sicilia).
argentina – argentine (Argentina sphyraena).
aringa (plural aringhe) – herring, or more specifically Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus). Not a Mediterranean fish, but here in Rome there are smoked (affumicata) herring fillets available in the supermarket and I’ve even seen kipper-like affairs in specialist food shops or on the market in certain seasons.
astice – European lobster, common lobster (Homarus gammarus). Also known commonly as elefante di mare, longobardo (Liguria); grillo de mar (“sea cricket”, as in grasshopper, not the daft/dull English game involving balls and sticks; Venezia Giulia); lupicante, lupocantero, lupo di mare (another “sea wolf”; Toscania).
azzurro, pesce – see pesce azzurro.

B
barracuda ­– barracuda. Refers to the Mediterranean barracuda or barracouta (Sphyraena viridensis), though possibly also the European barracuda (Sphyraena sphyraena), which is also found in the Med. See aluzzo.
barracuda boccagialla – Mediterranean barracuda (Sphyraena viridensis).
baccalà – salt cod, that is dried salted Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua). See also stoccafisso. Note, Atlantic cod is categorised as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. Which is a problem for me, as traditional Roman trattorie frequently only have baccalà as the only alternative to red meat and offal. And I don’t much like red meat and offal.
bondella – see coregone.
boga – bogue, a type of seabream with one of the best tautonyms ever: Boops boops. It has a variety of cute regional names: buga, bacello, boba, boma, vopa, vova, vop, vopa, opa, uopa… you get the picture.
bottarga – related to fish roe, but I believe this is actually a product made from dried, compressed fish gonads, particularly from mullet (grey and red) and northern bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus). Used a kind of condiment, grated on certain pasta dishes.
bronzino – see spigola.
bianchetti – the young (fry) of certain oily fish; fish just past the larval stage. This name, and gianchetti, is more from the northwest, Liguria. Called neonata and muccu in Siciliano. Neonata means newborn. I’ve eaten polpette di neonate (the fishing of which is strictly seasonal) in a Sicilian restaurant and they were very much like whitebait fritters I ate in New Zealand.

C
calamaro (plural calamari) – European squid (Loligo vulgaris). According to Davidson, it’s also called totano in Liguria and Venezia-Giulia, but if you scroll down to totano, that’s primarily the name for Europoean flying squid (Todarodes sagittatus).
cannochia, cannocchia – a freaky looking mantis shrimp (Squilla mantis). I’ll let Italian Wikipedia provide the regional dialect names: “panocchia, pannocchia (Abruzzo); spernocchia, sparnocchia (Campania); canocia, canoccia (Friuli-Venezia Giulia); cicala di mare (Lazio); balestrin, sigà de maa (Liguria); cannocia, pannocchia (Marche); cannocchiella, cecala (Puglia); càmbara de fangu, solegianu de mari (Sardegna); astrea, cegala de mari (Sicilia); canocchia, cicala di mare (Toscana); canocia, canoccia (Veneto).” Though I’ve never personally seen cicala di mare (“sea cicada”) used in Rome.
cappasanta – scallop, pilgrim scallop (Pecten jacobaeus). See conchiglia.
conchiglia del pellegrino, or di San Giacomo, or di San Jacopo – scallop (Pecten jacobaeus). Has a lot of local names. I’ve seen cappasanta used here in Rome, and there are other variables on that and the general religious name (pellegrino = “pilgrim”) according to Davidson, such as: capa santa, santarela (Veneto); pellegrine (Liguria); cappa pellegrina (Marche), etc. Interesting story about scallops, and dubious fishing practices, here.
capone coccio – red or east Atlantic gurnard (Chelidonichthys cuculus). Coccio means “earthenware”, a reference to the red colour presumabloy. It’s a species I see a lot on the market, and also used to buy from the market back in England. I’ve seen it called the rather complimentary occhiobello (“beautiful eye”) in a restaurant in Toscana/Tuscany. According to Davidson, capone coccio is also used in Lazio for another member of the gurnard family: the piper (Trgila lyra).
capone gallinella – tub gurnard (Chelidonichthys lucerna / Trigla lucerna). Gallinella means “chick” (as in young chicken) and is also a Roman name for the salad crop lamb’s lettuce (Valerianella locusta). You know, just to add to the confusion. Also called cappone.
cappone – see capone gallinella.
cecinella – according to Norman Lewis in his superb account his wartime experiences in Italy, Naples ʼ44, this “tiny sand eels” eaten “fried in batter”.
cefalo – grey mullet (Mugli cephalus). In Lazio also known as mattarello, which also means “rolling pin”. Also muggine.
cefalopodo – cephalopod, ie those delicious molluscs in the Cephalopoda (“head-feet”) class that includes squid, cuttlefish and octopuses. I’m very sorry cephalopod populations but you provide some of my favourite seafood dishes.
cerino – literally “match”, “taper”, but also a name for a type of mullet. I’m not 100% sure, but possibly cefalo, grey mullet. Davidson says it’s also called cirinu in Sicilia, which is similar, and I think I’ve heard the pescivendolo use cerino and cefalo interchangeably at the market.
cernia – grouper, grouper family (Epinephelinae).
cernia bruna – dusky grouper (Epinephelus guaza). Also zerola (Lazio), according to Davidson, but again, I’ve only encountered cernia in Rome.
coccio – see capone coccio.
coda di rospo – what a great name. It literally means “tail of the toad” or “toad’s tail”. The other common name for this fish is rana pescatrice, “frog fisherwoman”. Slightly more prosaically, we call this type of monkfish “anglerfish” (Lophius piscatorius), though other English names are frog-themed. Some more colourful Italian names are: diavolo de mar (“sea-devil”, also a name used in English apparently), rospo di fango (“mud-toad”), pisatrice nera, etc. Novel names aside though, the angler is really one of the core species to not eat, and it’s been on the Greenpeace Red List since 2010.  Even the UK Marine Conservation society rates it as 4 (with 5 the worst).
coregone – name used for several species of freshwater fish, notably the bondella or coregone bianco (Coregonus macrophthalmus, which occurs in Lake Constance in the Alps). We encountered this word on a menu in a restaurant at Lake Bracciano, north of Rome, so it may also refer to other small lake fish.
cozza – mussel, or more specificalloy the Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis). Cozze (plural) is apparently the Lazio name. The more standard Italian name is mitilo,though of course there are numerous regional names including variations likes cozzica, cozzeca, cozzela, or peocio, peocchia and similar in northeast , etc.

D
dentice – generic name for the Dentex, but most commonly used to refer to the common dentex (Dentex dentex). The dentex family (Sparidae), is referred to as the seabream or porgy family and includes the sargus/sargo genus.

E
elefante di mare – see astice.

F
fasulari – another one from Norman Lewis’s Naples ʼ44, which he says are “bean-shaped bivalves” and a local speciality at Pozzuoli in the Bay of Naples.
fragolino – see pagello fragolino.
fellone – a name we encountered in Naples for a kind of crab; it turns out to be Eriphia verrucosa. Davidson says the full Campania name is rancio-fellone, while the standard Italian name is favallo.

G
gallinella – see capone gallinella.
gambarello – common prawn (Palaemon serratus). Presumably the serratus in the Latin name is related to the English word serrated, and another name for this one is gambero sega – where sega (politely) means “saw”.
gambero – prawn, shrimp. Can refer to several species, including the three below.
gamebero imperiale – see mazzancolla.
gambero rosa – red Mediterranean prawn (Parapenaeus longirostris). Rosa means “rose” or “pink”. It’s also called the gambero bianco, “white prawn”. This and the below don’t seem to have even vaguely specific English names (or at least nothing I’d use), but I suppose I’d use the French name, after eating a lot of them while on holidays in Brittany: crevettes.
gambero rosso chiaro – “red-clear shrimp” (Aristeus antennatus). Another one with confused colour-related naming, presumably on account of how it changes when cooked, it’s also called gambero viola (“violet shrimp”) in Italian.
ghiozzo paganello – goby, rock goby (Gobius paganellus).
gianchetti – see bianchetti.
granchio – crab; generic name but also used to refer to common shore crab (Carcinus maenas). Too many different regional names to mention them all, but some are: granso (Veneto), rancio (Campania), vranzi (Sicilia).

L
lanterna – see pesce prete (Uranoscopus scaber).
lanzardo – or sgombro cavalla is the Atlantic chub mackerel (Scomber colias). Also known as macarello (Lazio), a name it shares with Atlantic mackerel.
latte di pesce – “fish milk” literally, but referring to soft roe, milt. I bought some fish from our pescivondolo one day and, when gutting it, he told me how lucky I was to get the milt. I wasn’t entirely convinced, but for some people it’s a delicacy.
latterino – small fish from the order Atheriniformes, silversides or sand-smelt. If memory serves, I’ve seen small ones served deepfried in Rome (the Romans do love to deepfry).
leccia stella – doesn’t appear to have a British English name, but in American English is apprently (according to Davidson) the pompano (Trachinotus ovatus). In the English version of Mediterranean Seafood Davidson also mentions an older BE name: derbio. I’m sure I’ve heard them referred to here in Rome as simply “stelle”, but Davidson says they’re called leccia bastarda (Liguria), lissa (Veneto), pesce stella (“star fish”, Toscana), ricciola (Campania, just to confuse things with Seriola dumerili), sdofereo, cionare (Sicilia) etc etc.
luccio – pike, northern pike (Esox lucius). Traditionally eaten at Lake Bracciano,  north of Rome but it was a pretty sorry affair when I tried it, small and most unlike the formidable predator freshwater fish of lore. Presumably fished too young.
luccio marino – “pike of the sea”, see aluzzo.
lupino – small bivalve, described to us as in a restaurant as a “small vongole”, where vongole really is just a generic word for members of the Veneridae (Venus clam) family. Specifically Dosinia exoleta and similar.

M
maccarello – see scombro/sgombro and lanzardo.
marmora – striped bream (Lithognathus mormyrus). Also mormua, mormora, marmarozza, marmolo, mirmora and other names that, helpfully, don’t sound at all similiar.
mazzancolla – a type of king prawn (Melicertus kerathurus), also commonly known as Gambero imperiale (“imperial prawn”), spannocchio. Davidson says mazzancolla is the Lazio name, though it’s also used on Italian Wikipedia.
mazzone – see ghiozzo paganello.
melù – blue whiting (Micromesistius poutassou). Davidson says it’s called stocco and stoccafisso in Tuscany, so perhaps this cod relative has a history of being used for “saltcod”. English Wikipedia says “The fish is usually not marketed fresh, but processed into fish meal and oil. However, in Russia and in southern Europe, blue whiting are sometimes sold as food fish.”
merluzzo – boy oh boy. This one is the one that’s quite possibly the trickiest. Just look at Italian Wikipedia and it says this generic word used to refer to 15 different species. Most commonly, it seems to refer to Atlantic cod, but also other cod, and other members of the wider cod family like hake (Merluccius merluccius; commonly called nasello in Italian) and also pollack (Pollachius pollachius; which isn’t common in the Med so is just legally known as pollack in Italy).
mitilo – mussel. See cozza.
moscardino – another type of octopus. It’s generally small when it’s sold or served, though my research seems to say it’s Eledone moschata ­–  a pretty large species (growing up to 74cm, compared to 24cm for the common octopus). So this is either wrong, or they get it when it’s young.
motella – shore rockling (Gaidropsarus mediterraneus). Davidson calls it the three-bearded rockling, but according to Wikipedia that’s a different species (Gaidropsarus vulgaris). It also says they’re “often confused.” Also known as mosella, moustella, mostella, musdea e’ funnale. Hence potential confusion with musdea.
muggine – see cefalo.
musdea, musdea bianca – forkbeard, greater forkbeard (Phycis blennoides). Some of its regional names are mostella, mustella gianca, mustia – which sound like motella and some of its regional names. The two species are in the same order (Gadiformes) and family (Gadidae; the true cod family) but not the same genus. My guess is that they live in similar rocky environments, so were, in days of yore, caught together and discussed together by twinkly eyed, rough-handed fishermen.

N
nasello – hake (Merluccius merluccius). One of the fish commonly called merluzzo, but has numerous dialect names, such as pesce lupo (“wolf fish”; Marche), mazzone, mazzune, nuzz (Puglia), mbarluzzu, milluzzu, miruzzu (Sicilia) etc etc.
neonata – see bianchetti.
novellame – a generic word for young fish, just past larval stage. Although it’s on Italian Wikipedia, I’ve run it past several Italians and they looked kinda blank, so it can’t be that common. See bianchetti.

orata – Sparus aurata, gilt-head bream

O
occhialone – see rovello.
occhi di canna – literally “eyes on stalks”, I saw this in a restaurant in Rome and it refers to small, young octopus, smaller than moscardini. Then I saw them on the market (pic below).Occhi di canna
ombrina – doesn’t have a British English name as far as I can see (presumably because it’s a Med fish, not one from the seas around the UK) but seems to be called the Shi Drum (Umbrina cirrosa) in various places online.
orata – gilt-head (sea) bream (Sparus aurata). In this picture, it says they’re pescate, meaning fished (in the wild) not farmed.
ostrica (plural ostriche) – oyster, European flat oyster (Ostrea edulis). Although the (Latin-derived) Italian word is not unlike the English word, it also sounds like ostrich. In Italian an ostrich is the entirely dissimilar struzzu. Clear? Good.

P
paganello – see ghiozzo paganello.
pagello fragolino – common pandora (Pagellus erythrinus), which is in the same family as sea bream (Sparidae). It’s a cute name though as fragola means “strawberry”, and fragolino is means little strawberry, or wild strawberry. It’s presumably named for its red-pink skin.
pannochia, pannocchia – see canocchia.
palamita – Atlantic bonito (Sarda sarda), from the Scombridae family, that is related to mackerel and tuna. Despite the Latin name, not to be confused with sardines.
paranza – small fish such as ling and others. It literally means fishing boat, trawler. So small fish that’s trawled up and served up before its time.
palombo – a kind of houndshark, which Davison calls the Smooth hound. He says this can refer to the Mustelus asterias and Mustelus mustelus. The former is called the Starry smooth-hound on Wikipedia, the latter the Common smooth-hound. I often see fillets of palombo on the market, though have never tried it. Which is probably a good thing, as Mustelus mustelus is “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List.  Such is the tragic irony of many species with “common” in the name.
passera – European flounder (Platichthys flesus).
pelagico – pelagic. Not a fish, but a word commonly used to describe oceanic species that shoal near the surface, such as mackerel. Handily it’s basically the same in English and Italian.
pesce azzurro –  a generic Italian term for the smaller species of marine oily fish, from anchovies to mackerel. But also used to refer specifically to pesce serra (Pomatomus saltatrix).
persico – generic name for perch, also used to refer specifically to the European perch. See persico reale, below.
persico reale – European perch (Perca fluviatilis).
pesce castagna – Atlantic pomfret or Ray’s bream (Brama brama).
pesce persico – see persico, persioc reale.
pesci piatti (plural) – “plate fishes”, generic name for flat fish.
pesce prete – literally “priest fish”. This is the Atlantic stargazer (Uranoscopus scaber). This is the fish that started me on this mission. I’d asked the pescivendolo for something to make a stew and he sold me these ugly buggers. Some posting of pictures on Facebook led to long discussions, with ultimately the more helpful identification input coming from the Sicilian friend of a friend and from a British friend who’s an experienced diver, and drew on his diving community’s knowledge. I’ve seen them also called pesce lanterna and Davidson says regional names include pesce lucerna and lumera, though even in English “lanternfish” is very generic. A few other nice regional names from Davidson: bocca in cielo from Abruzzo and Campania, boca in cao from the Veneto, and pappacocciula, which I’d hazard mean the same thing: “mouth in the sky” (cielo means “sky” or heaven in “standard Italian”).
pesce sciabola – see spatola.
pesce serra – bluefish, blue fish (Pomatomus saltatrix). Had this in a restaurant in Sorrento. The waiter said it was also known as bandira, though Davidson doesn’t mention this name.
pesce spada – swordfish (Xiphias gladius). Spada does indeed mean “sword”, despite how much it might sound like “spade”. Greenpeace includes swordfish on the Red List, sayingSwordfish stocks… are fully fished in the Mediterranean.”
The IUCN Re List also says, “Globally, this species has shown a 28% decline over three generation lengths (20 years). The only stock that is not considered to be well-managed is the Mediterranean”.   So really, the Med fisheries particularly need to pull their fingers out.
pezzogna – red (sea) bream or blackspot sea bream (Pagellus bogaraveo). Also known as rovello (see below).
platessa – this name, handily, directly relates to the Latin name Pleuronectes platessa, which is European plaice. Davidson says it is “not really a Mediterranean fish” and Italian Wikipedia says ” È rara nel Mediterraneo” (“it’s rare in the Mediterranean”) though I’ve seen it offered in restaurants here in Rome. Presumably not freshly caught. Or trawled to be specific: it’s also on the Greenpeace Red List, for the damaging bottom trawling, though the IUCN says ” A widespread species which is vulnerable to overfishing in the sea, but this is not currently thought to be causing a decline great enough  to qualify the species as threatened.”
polpessa – this octopus seems to have a lot of names in English too: Atlantic white-spotted octopus, white-spotted octopus, grass octopus or grass scuttle. Its Latin name is great: Octopus macropus. Other regional Italian regional names include vurpessa, pruppessa, vurpàscele etc.
polpo, polpo commune – common octopus (Octopus vulgaris). Also polipo, piovra, folpo, tolbo, tulbo, fulbo, fulpo, vurpe, pruppu….
potassolo – see melù.

R
razza – ray.
razza bianca – bottlenose skate, white skate (Raja alba/Rostroraja alba). The IUCN Red List categorises it as “Endangered”.
razza chiodata – thornback ray (Raja clavata). Davidson says it’s called Arzilla pietrosa in Lazio, but on my local market’s fish stall in Rome, ray is just ray, razza, they don’t make distinctions. This species is categorised as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List.
ricciola – greater amberjack (Seriola dumerili). Our first year in Italy, we asked the pescivondolo for something for Christmas Eve, when fish is traditionally eaten in Italy. They offered us a substantial ricciola, though we had no idea what it was. A white, very meaty fish it made a serious meal.
rombo – turbot; generic name for several species of flat fish (pesci piatti) not just Scophthalmus maximus; see below.
rombo liscio – “smooth turbot”, or brill (Scophthalmus rhombus). Also known as soarzo/soazo, rombo minore (Veneto); rombetto (Marche, Abruzzo); rombo d’arena, rombo piccolo (Lazio); linguata mascula (Sicilia).
rombo chiodato – “spiked turbot” (chiodo means “nail”, “spike”) turbot (Scophthalmus maximus, also Psetta maxima). Also known as rombo maggiore, rombo gigante, and several regional names like rombo di pietra (Lazio); rombo di sasso (Veneto); rummo petruso (Campania); romolo, rummulu pitrusu (Sicilia) and various names evoking stones and rocks (sasso, pietra, pitrusu etc). If it’s line or trap caught, it’s possibly okay to eaet, but frankly most vendors and restaurants won’t want to or be able to provide provenance information, and it’s likely it’ll be trawled. Trawling is not good.
rombo giallo – megrim, whiff (Lepidorhombus whiffiagonis).
rombo di rena –wide-eyed flounder (Bothus podas). Among the regional names are the delightful rumbo bastardo (Liguria) and quattr’occhio (Toscana). Inevitiably, variations on these names are used for different species in different regions.
rombo quattrocchi – “four-eyed turbot”, or four-spot megrim in English (Lepidorhombus boscii). Also known as suace, suacia etc.
rovello – another member of Sparidae (seabream, porgy) family: Pagellus bogaraveo, which seems to be known as red sea bream and blackspot sea bream (according to Wikipedia) and blue-spotted bream in English (according to Davidson). Also known as occhino, besugo, bezugo, mupo, mupa, occhialone, pampuni, pampini, pezzogna etc etc (Davidson gives many others). Even Italian Wikipedia concedes “anche se i vari nomi locali possono creare confusione tra le diverse specie di pagelli che si pescano nel mediterraneo” – that is, “the various local names can create confusion between the diverse species of the pagellus (genus) that are fished in the Mediterranean.”

S
salmone – salmon, Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). These days, most of the salmon you eat will be farmed. I avoid it, as although fish farming has its place, it can be dubious, particularly when it involves carnivorous species (like salmon and bass) that have to be fed with other fish, at an inefficient rate of exchange. So for example, for 1kg of salmon you have to process 4kg of wild fish.  Personally, I’d rather eat the wild sardines, anchovies etc than the salmon. Again, it’s a question of sense and sustainability.
sarago – generic name for Diplodus genus. Most commonly refers to Diplodus sargus, the white seabream or sargo, aka sargo maggiore.
sarago sparaglione – annular bream (Diplodus annularis). Here’s one where a  lot of the regional dialect names at least sound similar (ish): saragu, spareddu, saraghetto, sparleto, sparlotto, sbaro, sparinole, sparo etc etc.
sardina – sardine (smaller, younger), pilchard (larger, adult). As in English, a generic word for small oily fish, but also used to refer specifically to the European pilchard(Sardina pilchardus). Most European langauges call it some variation on “sardine”, and there are also many Italian dialect names like sardon, saraghina, sarducola, but there are also plenty that are completely different sounding, like palassiol, renga, falloppe, biancomangiare, sfiggiata, nunnata. The later is Sicilian and sounds like neonata (see bianchetti).
sargo maggiore – white seabream or sargo (Diplodus sargus). Among the many regional names are: cappuccino (“hooded”; Abruzzo, Marche); saricu monica (Calabria); saricu tunnu (Sicilia).
scampo (plural scampi) – the prawn family member most commonly cooked up and known as scampi in the UK (though monkfish tail has, illegally, also been served up as scampi). This is the Dublin bay prawn, langoustine or Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus). Italian regional names include: arancio, arganello, astracio, scampolo.
scombro/sgombro – mackerel, Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus). Also maccarello (Lazio; I see both names in Rome), lacerto (Liguria).
scombro cavallo – see lanzardo.
scorfano – scorpion fish. Refers to seveal species. I wrote my first investigations prompted by buying scorfano.
scorfano rosso – red scorpionfish (Scorpaena scrofa). Also called cappone in Toscana; cappone means “capon”, ie a castrated cockerel, but in the fishy world is also used for capone gallinella (tub gurnard).
seppia – cuttlefish or common European cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis). Regional names include sepa, seccia, siccia, purpo siccia, pruppusiccia, so at least there’s a pattern. Though Davidson says it’s also called a scarpetta in Puglia. A scarpetta is a ballet shoe or trainer, and one nice Italian expression for when you mop up the sauce in your plate with a piece of bread is “fare la scarpetta” – make the ballet shoe – just to confuse things.
sciabola – see spatola.
seppioline – little cuttlefish.
serra – see pesce serra.
soace – see suacia.
sogliola – sole, or more specifically the common sole (Solea solea). Italians do catch other species, but this is the main variety, and one Brits will know as Dover sole. Another problematic species due to beam-trawling.
spigola – bass, European seabass, Mediterranean seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax). Also known as bronzino (Liguria); ragno (Veneto, Toscana); lupasso (Davidson says this is the Lazio name, but I’ve only ever seen spigola in Rome); lupu de mari (Sicilian); and pesce lupo, though frankly variations on the latter names (“wolf fish”) seems to pop up for various species, including Anarhichas lupus. These days, it’s commonly reared in fish-farms, something I’ve got very mixed feelings about (see salmone).
spatola – silver scabbard fish, frostfish, beltfish (Lepidopus caudatus). Pesce bandiera (Lazio).
squalo – generic noun for shark.
stella – see leccia stella.
stoccafisso, stoccofisso – like baccalà, dried salted cod, Gadus morhua. The difference between the two seems to be a matter of argument, but It’s possibly a question of where the Gadus morhua is sourced: baccalà being Atlantic, stoccafisso being Norwegian/Arctic. It’s also a question of a different salting process.
suacia – Mediterranean scaldfish (Arnoglossus laterna), a flatfish related to flounder. A lot of the northern Italian names seem to be variations on petrèe, petrale, pataracia, peteracchia, but in the south things just spread out and have no apparent similarities. Also commonly known as zanchetta. My poster also lists it as soacia, though I can’t find any reference to that name in Davidson or online.
sugarello – Atlantic horse mackerel, scad, jack mackerel (Trachurus trachurus). Confusingly, the fish that’s literally called “horse mackerel” in Italian, Sgombro cavallo, is a different species – see lanzardo. (Note, mackerel is one of those vague terms that doesn’t exclusively include members of the same family of fish. So while the true mackerel, Scomber scombrus, and the chub mackerel,  Scomber colias, are members of the Scombridae family, this one is instead a member of the Carangidae family. They’re all, however, oily fish or pesce azzurro that have certain cosmetic similarities, notably the sheeny-shiny skins.) Scad isn’t generally eaten in the UK.
suro – see sugarello.

T
tellina – wedge shell, a type of bivalve (Donax trunculus). Apparently also known as fasiola and trilatera in Lazio, though in her book The Food of Rome and Lazio, Oretta Zanini de Vita just uses tellina, while Italian Wikipedia says they’re also called arsella. I had them in a pasta dish very much like spaghetti alle vongole, except that they’re small so it takes a lot longer to get the meat out of the shells. Tellina is also the French name. Strangely, Donax trunculus isn’t in the Tellina genus of bivalves – I can only assume it was scientifically reclassified after the Latin name became commonly used (via Vulgar Latin) for various edible bivalves.
tilapia – tilapia. Farmed tilapia is found in Italy, such as in my local DOC supermarket where they have it in packets, smoked. Unlike the aquaculture of salmon, which requires wild fish for feed, tilapia can be fed on a less unsustainable food source: algae. But they are also fed maize, a controversial crop (intensive monoculture, GM etc etc). Never mind the questions of hormones and chemicals. It’s a tricky one. I would say “try to buy organically reared tilapida” but a) you may not be able to get the relevant info and b) people will moan about it being pricier. You know what you – saving human civilisation in the face of environmental meltdown requires us to recalibrate their food consumptions habits. Anyway, back to tilapia in Italy. The farmed species found here are Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) and Mozambique tilapia(Oreochromis mossambicus).
tonnetto – see tonno alletterato.
tonno, tonno rosso – tuna, specifically northern bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus). I’ve tried not to eat this perenially popular fish, well, for most of my adult life really as it’s the poster boy of over-exploited marine life. Indeed, most tuna species are firmly Red Listed these days, despite what supermarkets may sell you about line-fishing or even “ranches”, which are fish farms that don’t raise tuna from eggs, but instead still deplete natural stocks by taking young fish from the wild. Insanely, “Ranching also uses high amounts of other wild fish as feed – about 20kg of wild fish to produce just 1kg of tuna.” (from Greenpeace, here). Here is it too on the IUCN Red List.
tonno alalunga – albacore, longfin tunny (Thunnus alalunga). It’s on my poster of seasonal fish, but even the albacore is on the Greenpeace Red List these days, while the IUCN Red List categorises it as “Near Threatened“, having undergone an estimated 37% decline in the past 20 years.
tonno alletterato – little tunny, little tuna, false albacore (Euthynnus alletteratus). This one’s not on the Red List (at the time of writing, Feb 2013), and Wikipedia gives its status as “least concern”. Also known in Italy with other diminutives like tonnetto, tunnella, tonnello, plus loads more dialect names like sanguinaccio in Tuscany (this also happens to be the name of a blood sausage and a chocolate pudding made with blood); ‘nzirru (Campania); alittratu, littrata, culuritu (Sicilia) etc.
totano, totano commune – European flying squid (Todarodes sagittatus). Totano may also be used for the southern shortfin squid (Illex coindetii), notably in Sicily. See discussion in comments, below.
tracina –general name for fish from the Trachinidae family, weevers.
tracina drago – greater weever (Trachinus draco). Also (Davidson): agno, aragno, dragena, ragna, ragno, varagno, tracena, parasaula, antracina, tracchio, ragnas, aragnas. Although drago means “dragon”, a lot of these names are related to ragno, standard Italian for “spider”. It would also seem to indicates a lot of interchangeable nomencleature with the tracina ragno (Trachinus araneus), below. Unless Davidson was getting in a muddle too.
tracina ragno – literally “spider weever” in both Italian and Latin (Trachinus araneus), though in English it’s called the spotted weever.
triglia – generic name for red mullets, goatfish.
triglia di fango“mud mullet”, in English one of the two fish called red mullet (Mullus barbatus).
triglia di scoglio – “rock mullet” or “cliff mullet”, also known as red mullet in English but  a different species to the above (Mullus surmuletus).
trota – trout, brown trout (Salmo trutta).

U
Uova di pesce – “fish eggs”, meaning roe, or specifically hard roe. For soft roe, milk, see “latte”.

V
vongola – clam, generic name for various members of the Veneridae (Venus clam) family. In Italy, for dishes like spaghetti alle vongole, it usually refers to to Venerupis decussata, in English the carpet shell, or cross-cut carpet shell. Davidson also gives Italian names vongola nera (black clam), vongola verace (true clam), and says it’s call capa incrocicchiata and archello in Lazio, though I’ve not seen or heard this.

Z
zanchetta – see suacia.
zerro –  picarel, blotched picarel (Spicara smaris/Spicara maena). I’ve never actually seen this one, or heard of it before now, so I’m not even going to go there with the dozens of regional dialect names Davidson lists. Life’s too short.

Coda: If, like me, you enjoy eating seafood, but want to see stocks managed and fished sustainably, I’d urge you to get involved with organisations that campaign for changes to policies and law. In the UK, for example, there’s Fish Fight.

I’d also recommending  watching the film The End of The Line, which has a global swep, and checking out the related charity, the Blue Marine Foundation.

If you’re based in the UK, another notable body is the Marine Conservation Society, which tries to provide consumer information via FishOnline and its Good Fish Guide.

17 Comments

Filed under Food misc, Italy, Learning Italian, Rome

Baladin’s Nora at Le Café Vert, Monteverde, Rome

Thursday night, difficult week. Me and Mrs BC&A, aka Fran, decided we deserved a drink. Though we couldn’t be bothered to range beyond our Roman neighbourhood, Monteverde Vecchio. It’s not a best hood for a beer, but one café-bar-bistro has a reasonable selection of bottled craft beers (or whatever you want to call microbrewery fare. It’s called birra artigianale here in Italy – artisan beer). This is Le Café Vert, which opened not much more than a year ago, demonstrating how Italy’s urge to eat and drink continues to defy The Global Depression. As King Silvio said back in November 2011, “The life in Italy is the life of a wealthy country: consumptions haven’t diminished, it’s hard to find seats on planes, our restaurants are full of people.”

Quite why this bar has French name, and the lady serving us kept saying voila not the Italian equivalent ecco, I don’t know, but rest assured it’s in Rome, with great Italian beers and aperitivo snacks included in the price of the drink for a period every evening. According to their site, they stock beers from four Italian microbeweries: Baladin (which is Piedmont, NW Italy); Birra del Borgo (which is in Lazio, the central Italian region around Rome); ‘na Birretta (which is also in Lazio); and Birra di Fiemme (which is in Trentino, NE Italy).

We entered, glanced around, and I saw Baladin’s distinctive labels. I’ll be honest and say I don’t really like Baladin’s design style, which pervades Open Baladin bar in Rome and the labels on the bottle. It’s kinda scrappy, cartoony, vaguely Keith Haring, vaguely hippy, like someone’s mate did it, someone who’s not a professional designer. But remember kids, don’t judge a beer by its label. Baladin beers remain among my favourites, in part because Open Baladin was my entry point to birre artigianale. It’s not cosy like a nice British pub, its food is middling (especially if you’re not a fan of beef burgers on brioche buns), but its beer selection is stupendous, with dozens of craft beers, mostly Italian, on tap, and there are some very knowledgeable, helpful staff there too.

Anyway. We chose a Baladin “Nora” – we had to, as it was our friend Nora’s birthday, so we could drink it in her honour. This beer was named after another Nora – the wife of Teo Musso, the founder and master brewer of Baladin. Musso is a big name in the Italian beer scene, and for good reason. Baladin is apparently the biggest microbrewery by volume-produced in Italy (according to my chum, who is the brewmaster of the second-biggest, Mastri Birrai Umbri). Baladin brewery produces around a dozen varied, fascinating brews. Musso and his colleagues aren’t afraid of experimenting, of unusual ingredients, and Nora is no exception.

At first glance and sip, Nora’s a wheat beer, relatively pale, aromatic, slightly sickly-sweet (in a good way – if that’s possible. I’m not a big fan of wheat beers, so maybe that’s just me). But it’s not made with wheat, or at least it’s not made with a modern wheat strain. Instead, it contains both malted barley and “Kamut”, which is a branded version of Khorosan wheat (Triticum turanicum), an ancient strain. (I discuss wheat strains here.)

There are other ingredients too that make their presence felt in a certain spiciness and perfume: ginger and, get this, myrrh. Now we all know the latter was one of the gifts the Baby J got in Bethlehem, but did you know it’s a resin from the thorny shrub Commiphora myrrha. It’s an ingredient more commonly used in medicine and for incense (ah, memories of being the thurifer). As such Nora, is a beer that’s both sweet, citrussy and easily drinkable, and complex and slightly confounding. It’s also quite strong, if you’re British, but not that strong if you’re Italian: 7%ABV.

Final geek detail, it also alta rifermentata in bottiglie, which literally means “high-re-fermented in the bottle”, but I believe we’d say it’s top-fermented and bottle conditioned. Though I need to double-check that.

1 Comment

Filed under Ale, beer

32 Via Dei Birrai brewery’s Atra beer at Oasi della Birra

One of the reasons I started this blog was to keep a record of all the wonderful Italian artisan beers I’ve been trying. I’ve been remiss.

I won’t say I’m going to “review” these beers. I might have reviewed several hundred films and videogames in my time, but I’m really not sure I have the right vocab for appraising alcohol. So yes, it’s just a record, and hopefully a source of some useful info for other anglophone beer enthusiasts who might find themselves in need of a good brew while in Italy.

Anyway. We had this one last night, in the wonderfully named Oasi della Birra (“Oasis of Beer”) in Testaccio in Rome. It’s a pretty cool place, basically a shop that’s expanded sideways and crams in dining tables among the wares (which can give it a feeling of eating in a warehouse, though at least that’s novel).  In all honestly, though, a better of oasis of Italian craft beers in Rome is still Open Baladin bar, for the simple reason it has dozens on tap, whereas the Oasi, disappointingly, only has German beers on tap. Go figure.

The Oasi does, however, have an extensive menu of bottle beers, and a fairly epic menu of wines. Why it’s not called the Oasi del Vino I don’t know. It also does a reasonable aperitivo buffet, where you can pile up a plate for a fraction of what a restaurant meal would cost you, that is €10 for a drink and a plateful. (The cost of eating out is something that continues to confuse me in Rome – restaurants, and even most trattorie, are not cheap. Broadly, the only cheap way to eat sitting down in an establishment is an aperitivo buffet. There don’t really seem to be many options half-way between, in terms of price, bar a few genuinely cheap trattorie, mostly outside touristy areas, or the occasional good tavola calda. This literally means “hot table”; wordreference.com translates it as either “cafeteria” or “hash house”, neither of which is quite right. The former makes me think of British caffs, the latter sounds like “crack house” or “opium den”. They’re places that are generally defined by seating and a glassed-in counter displaying various dishes you can select. Volpetti in Testaccio has a good one, but it’s overpriced. The yummiest I’ve tried food-wise is Pasta… e pasta on Via Ettore Rolli near Ponte Testaccio, but I don’t want to get into the habit of eating there there I have an ethical problem with the throwaway plastic plates, cutlery, cups etc. Every diner creates probably around 50g of waste with each meal. It might not sound like much, but imagine the pile after just one busy day, say, and think of all that plastic sitting in a landfill for millennia. It’s a waste of resources, full stop. I know food and catering is all about overheads but we just have to think more sustainably in the 21st century.)

Anyway. Back to the beer.

So last night I tried to get a Sally Brown, a lovely brown (yep) beer that I’ve had at Open Baladin. It’s from Birrificio del Ducato, and on their site here it’s described as Birra di alta fermentazione, a cavallo tra le oatmeal Stout e le Porter inglesi – “A top- fermentation beer that straddles the styles of oatmeal stout and English porters.” The Oasi, however, had run out. This seems to be a typical factor of drinking from the Oasi beer menu. They don’t generally have what’s on the tatty photocopy, but are always happy to give advice about an alternative. It’s a process I really enjoy actually, as it usually involves trying something new.

This time, that something new was, well, I couldn’t work out what it was called last night, so had to check online today and in my Guida alle birre d’Italian 2013. The 75ml bottle is very elegant, with a minimal design. But as I’d never encountered this beer or this brewery before, I wasn’t sure immediately what was what from the label. Now I know though. The brewery (birrificio) is called 32 Via Dei Birrai.

The blurb on the homepage of their site says:  32 Via dei Birrai è il primo micro birrificio artigianale italiano a ottenere la certificazione di qualità ISO 9001:2008 DNV e la certificazione CI, a testimonianza di un prodotto 100% Made in Italy. / Passione, per 32, significa infatti selezione di materie prime e accorti procedimenti che rendono onore al nome stesso di essere e fare birra. Which means: “32 Via dei Birrai is the first Italian micro bewery to obtain the certificate of quality ISO 9001:2008 DNV and the CI certificate, testimony to a product that’s 100% made in Italy. Indeed, passion, for 32, first and foremost means the choice of materials and a grasp of how to make beer that honours our name.”  (I know I could just put my [not Google translate’s] English translation, but I like the two side-by-side, it helps me learn Italian. Plus, my translation is probably a bit shonky, so if you speak Italian and English, you can likely do it better.)

Anyway, 32’s beers. Atra is from a range of nine beers, most of which are made with top fermentation and bottle conditioned. Atra itself is, well, molto buono, as the waiter who recommended it said. But then he also said it’s non troppo forte, “not too strong”, when in fact it’s 7.3%ABV. I love how that’s not strong in Italy. In the UK, anything above about 5% is considered strong. To give some context to the Italian attitude to beer strength, Tennent’s Super is popular here, and that’s 9%. Apparently, it’s even considered kinda classy, as it was among the first import beers to make inroads here. The mind flippin’ boggles, as in Britain Tennent’s Super is basically a beer for alcoholic tramps on park benches. I’ll say now, so as not to confuse things, it’s popular among undiscerning Italian beer-drinkers, in much the same way as Fosters, say, is popular among British drinkers despite them having so many wonderful quality beers to choose from; hell, even if you like lager, you can choose a better lager… (I’m trying not to get started.)

Okay, Atra itself. It’s dark (“the colour of friars’ habits”), with a taste that’s charcoaly (ie from well-toasted malt) and surprisingly sweet. It’s very pleasant indeed. We had no idea whether it’s the done thing to drink such beers while eating, but it went very well with a plate of salads and cheese and salumi and bread. Indeed, now I’m reading the brewery’s own description, it seems like it’s fine to drink it with food. But as with wine culture, Italian micro-breweries are very specific in their descriptions of their beers and what to drink them with. So here it says, Abbinamento suggerito: contorni di lenticchie e fagioli, minestre con legumi, stinco con cotenna caramellata, torta al cioccolato, crème caramel, panna cotta. “Suggested accompaniment: lentils and bean sidedishes, vegetable soup, shin with browned bacon rind, chocolate tart, crème caramel, panna cotta [‘cooked cream’ desert].”

If you want a more in-depth appraisal, the Guida 2013 says it has scents of coffee, cocoa, liquorice and toasted cereal and a taste of barley coffee, cocoa and caramel. I’m not sure I got the liquorice, but I can’t argue with the rest. Delicious. And also remisicent of my friend Michele’s Cotta 74 from Mastri Birrai Umbri brewery, which I talked about here.

Hopefully next time we go to the Oasi, they’ll have more from 32 Via dei Birrai, as I’m keen to try the others. And I do like the design of the bottles. Especially now I know 32 is the abbreviation for the name of the brewery.

4 Comments

Filed under Ale, beer, Rome

Roman parking – shame on you!

Rome has as pretty much many cars as London*. Problem is, it’s a city a third the size, around three million compared to nine million inhabitants. And much of the historical centre consists of tiny windy cobbled streets, some of them – nominally at least – off-limits to vehicles.

Hence, there’s an issue with parcheggio: parking.

We’ve always laughed a bit about the absurdity of Roman parking, about how if the road’s full or somehow off-limits, the pavement seems to be an acceptable alternative. Even if that means pedestrians have to squeeze by – and people with prams, or, god forbid, wheelchair users, cannot fit by at all. (I seriously feel for wheelchair users in Rome: the pavements are in a terrible state, even when they’re not garlanded with dog poo.) Even the cops up the road park on the zebra crossing. While many, many car owners don’t seem to care much about their tyres and ride up onto the kerb if they can’t be arsed to concentrate on parking well, or there isn’t quite enough room.

I even asked an Italian friend about it, and he was bewildered when I said it was largely unheard of, or at least thoroughly frowned on, to simply park on the pavement in London. I don’t think he was being ironic.

Frankly, though, it’s not funny – the packed parking reflects the vehicle ownership situation, and these levels of personal vehicle usage just shouldn’t be happening in the 21st century, here or anywhere else. It’s not viable. Not with all we know about climate change. Not with the basic fact that an environment dominated by vehicles isn’t an environment well suited to people.

I feel very strongly about this sort of thing; always fantasised about writing a book about how vehicles radically compromised the human environment through the second half of the 20th century. I never get my shit together but this guy, Taras Grescoe, has. Must read his book, even though it apparently doesn’t consider the major city I know best: London.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about blogging about Roman parking for ages. Never quite reached that point where stimulus outweighs laziness though. Until today, when I saw a note shoved into the windscreen wiper (tergicristallo – new word for me) of a car nearby. telling the owner off for blocking the route to buggies and wheelchairs. So apparently not all Romans are blasé about random, inconsiderate parking.

This particular location has been bugging me for weeks. There’s a lovely flight of steps near where we live. It cuts through a patch of semi-wild land, dropping down between the hairpins of a street. At the bottom, a zebra crossing – frequently parked on – cuts straight across the road to, well, nothing much: more parked cars, a wall, no pavement. So you have to go diagonally, to a break in the wall, where the pavement resumes.

Except that someone had parked a car across the break in the wall, so you have to climb around. One form of protest I’ve seen here is to pull up the tergicristalli. It’s a quiet, vaguely polite form of protest, which would probably give the driver some irritation, but not really irritation commensurate with that of innumerable pedestrians.

The wiper protest was taken to another level with this particularly vehicle, as it has been there for so many weeks. Someone has broken the wipers. Gosh. This flyer, meanwhile, was left by a woman with a buggy I suspect. (Questo spazio non e’ un parcheggio. Vergognati! – “This isn’t a parking space. Shame on you!”) How she negotiated the blockage I don’t know.

 

Shame on you flyer

The increasingly knackered-looking car in question has been there so long, however, I’ve come to suspect it’s been dumped. Two other cars opposite were burnt-out earlier this week, so maybe it’s a popular spot for delinquents, joyriders or somesuch. But my suspicions were aroused mostly by the fact that the car doesn’t have Italian number plates. They’re Swiss. A Swiss would never park like that, surely?

 

 


* Time Out Rome 2008 quotes a Eurostat survey, that shows Rome to be the most dangerous EU capital for road safety: 8.37 dead and injured accidents per 1000 population. Next in the list is Copenhagen, with 1.4 per 1000. It says there are 950 vehicles per 1000 population, compared to London’s comparatively sane 300 per 1000 population. I don’t have TO’s source material and can’t find anything more recent. Hey, it’s a blog – don’t expect journalistic standards!

1 Comment

Filed under Italy, Rome

Rome: closed for the holidays

We’ve lived in Rome for nearly a year now. We arrived last August, and soon became familiar with shuttered-up shops and restaurants adorned with various signs saying “Chiuso per ferie”: Closed for the holidays. People, very sensibly, avoiding the heat, humidity, traffic fumes, and stench of garbage cooking in the dumpsters and dog shit dry-fried on the pavements.

Having said that, there’s also something pleasant about Rome in August: it calms down, marginally.

As summer rolled around again this year, the shutters started coming down. In July, the woman in our local pet supplies shop said to me: “When are you going?” “Going where?” I responded, slightly confused. “Vacanze!” Oh, right, of course. She was checking what supplies I needed for our cats as she was going away at the start of August, and wouldn’t be back till the end of the month.

It’s not like every business closes for the entirety of August, but a reasonable proportion still do. Apparently Rome used to be even quieter in August, especially from Ferragosto – the 15 August holiday that traditionally marks the hottest point of the year. (I reckon it’s heading for 40C ish this year.) The word, like ferie, is close to the Latin for festivals, Feriae, but I like to think of it as “ferro agosto” – iron august, when it’s so bloody hot, it’s like being hit with a metal bar. Or metal getting so hot you can’t touch it. Or something.

Anyway, the fruit and veg vendors I favour said bye in late July, and now the market is half-empty, the various metal shacks totally locked down. When we moved into our current flat on 4 September 2011, the big, popular restaurant on the corner was all closed still, but this year I spotted a sign proudly stating they’re open for August. Though maybe they’ll be staggering their holiday, and closing for September.

As a Brit, this continues to tickle me. It’s just such an alien concept. We have a different work ethic, and a different work-life balance. You’ve got to admire these people for retaining the sanctity of holiday, of time with family and friends. If Sunday is the week’s day of rest, then August is the year’s equivalent.

My only point of reference in British culture is from stories by the likes of W Somerset Maugham and EM Forster, describing a very middle-class, or upper middle-class milieu in Edwardian Britain. But even most well-off Brits wouldn’t consider taking a whole month off these days. It’s not like it’s a comparable class issue here though. Many Italians I speak to, from different walks of life, have seaside or country houses, including our neighbours, who aren’t wealthy by any stretch of the imagination (she’s a perpetually stressed single mother, for example). Maybe it’s a bit more like the New Zealand culture of the “bach”, a second property to retreat to for a break, be it a shack in the hills or a nice pad on the beach. (Oh, and many Brits are confused by “bach” – well, it’s short for bachelor pad, innit.)

I don’t know whether my friendly grocers have gone to a country retreat, but they’re certainly having a nice long holiday.

A few weeks back, in July, I wanted to get some chocolates for a present from a cioccolateria, and found a sign saying they were off for nearly three months.

Nearly three months! Respect. Is selling handmade chocs really that profitable? This is in Trastevere, a favourite location with tourists, so maybe it is. Or maybe it’s just a practicality. Perhaps it’s just too messy trying to sell handmade chocolates in the summer.

7 Comments

Filed under Main thread, Rome