Pasta & Pinot Dinner with Apolloni Vineyards, May 10

Join us at Burrasca on Wednesday, May 10 at 6:30 pm for a festive dinner featuring chef Paolo Calamai's pure Tuscan take on pasta. Apolloni wines will be highlighted and well-matched for your maximum imbibing pleasure. Both chef and winemaker will be on hand for a lively evening of carbs, wine and revelry!

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Insalata di Medici

Highgrove Farms field greens with capers, raisins, and shaved parmigiano-reggiano

Tagliatelle alla norcina

ribbon pasta with house fennel sausage, light béchamel, and fennel pollen

Tortelli alla mugellana

large ravioli filled with potato & herbs in a rich duck ragù

Tuscan cookie trio

featuring biscotti, cavallucci & zuccherini with alkermes, crema sorpresa

Price is $50 per person exclusive of gratuity. To purchase your tickets, please fill out the form on our Reservations page or email us at mangia@burrascapdx.com.

We look forward to seeing you!

Join us for a Spring feast!

Come shake off the cold, clammy grip of Old Man Winter. Join us and our favorite drinking partner, the inimitable Bruce Bauer of Vino Wine Shop, on Wednesday, April 12 at 6:30 for a Tuscan feast in celebration of Spring.

Menu details are below. Tickets are $95 per person all-inclusive. (Note: this will be an omnivore's feast; no dietary substitutions).

These are lively events full of good cheer and they fill up quickly, so nab your spots soon! Reserve via our website's contact form or email us at mangia@burrascapdx.com. We look forward to feasting with you!

Inzimino: bold & beautiful

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We've been serving this classic Florentine dish for years, and it's one of the most perennially popular things on our menu. It's a weird, wild dish and one that is strangely addictive; in fact, one of our out-of-town customers regularly orders three servings whenever he can get to us, and he gobbles them blissfully, one after the other.

The origin of the word zimino (in zimino meaning "in a sauce of zimino", hence inzimino), as with that of so many foods, lies somewhere far back in the dusty recesses of history. Under murky layers that evoke the not-so-far-away Arab world, the exotic scent of cumin (cimino in outmoded Italian parlance), or even the unleavened bread of the Jews (azzimo), the word's etymology has been the subject of some debate. The most general consensus is that zimino is of Arabic origin—samin or zamin meaning "fat, fleshy"—and is linked to the concept of a fatty or rich condiment or sauce. Moreover, the traditionally liberal use of spinach in this dish also points East, to Persia, wherein lies the august ancestry of this beloved and nourishing leafy green. 

Though the precise etymology may evade our grasp, we know that the recipe itself is very old, traces of which go back at least as far as 1300. Inzimino was a classic piatto povero, or poor man's dish, one that made up for its lack of silk-purse ingredients by beefing up with vegetables and bread. Originally the dish was scattered with bits of salted, dried fish such as baccalà (salt cod; Florence being land-locked, after all)—a cheap ingredient that packed a whole lot of flavor punch and stretched to help fill many bellies at a time. The fish's strong flavor demanded an equally muscular sauce in order to achieve the proper balance; clearly something even the most impoverished medieval Florentine was unwilling to forego. And so, with characteristic Tuscan ingenuity, a richly layered and zesty sauce was born, for which the Arab word zamin was adopted and Italianized over time.

Other versions in other regions have since evolved: in Liguria, Sardinia and even Corsica. Some with chick peas instead of calamari (or totani, or seppie); or some with swiss chard instead of spinach—and they are all worthy of our praise. But the classic, über-Florentine recipe remains that of squid simmered at length in umido, a rich stew of tender squid, abundant spinach and red wine along with a bit of tomato, to be sopped up with toasted, garlic-rubbed Tuscan bread. It's a bold, inky dish—as wine-dark as Homer's Aegean—lusty and redolent of both earth and sea. Exactly the kind of thing a famished, humble laborer in the age of Petrarch would tuck into, and feel himself a richer man for having eaten it.

—Elizabeth Petrosian

 

 

 

 

Il Cacciatore Toscano - The Tuscan Hunter : a feast in celebration of wild things

Mark your calendars! On Wednesday, December 14th at 6:30pm, we're rejoining forces with the inimitable Bruce Bauer of Vino Wine Sho to bring you a festive dinner of Tuscan-style game. Some of you may remember our collaborations from our food cart days: we'd cook four-course Florentine feasts and hustle them next door to Bruce's shop where he'd pour out perfectly-paired wines to accompany. 

Paolo's family hails from the mountainous, forested Mugello region just north of Florence, which is prime hunting ground: boar, deer, fowl: you name it, they shoot it and eat it. We'll be featuring venison "in dolceforte", which is a preparation for game meat very rarely seen these days even in Tuscany. Literally meaning "sweet and strong", this sauce dates back to the noble palazzos of Renaissance Florence, where it was served to an elite whose palates were used to now-bizarre combinations of spices and flavors influenced by New World and Far East conquests. The venison will be slow-stewed till tender with cocoa, red wine vinegar, clove, cinnamon, pine nuts, and candied fruit. Unusual, delicious, and remarkably subtle, it's a great gastronomic counterpoint to your typical Tuscan cucina povera.

Il Cacciatore Toscano - The Tuscan Hunter: a feast in celebration of wild things. Four courses with wine pairings, $95 per person including gratuity. ($25 deposit required) Reserve your spot now by emailing Elizabeth at mangia@burrascapdx.com

Gelato Social August 17, 6pm

Join us on Wednesday, August 17 from 6pm onward for Tuscan-style celebration of summer and all things gelato. Master gelataio Sandro Paolini of SE Division Street's Pinolo Gelato will debut a delicious new gelato flavor exclusive to Burrasca: zabaione, the traditional marsala-infused egg custard cream dear to Italian hearts. He'll be on hand to chat all things gelato, along with our chef Paolo Calamai. We'll also be featuring Pinolo Gelato in our boozy, alpine amaro float, Messner Climbs McKinley, as well as serving up a unique Alkermes float (Alkermes being a traditional and ancient Florentine elixir). Pinolo's fabulous lemon sorbetto will be served in a killer grappa-charged sgroppino cocktail: an irresistible summer quencher.

Servings (three scoops) of zabaione gelato will be $7 for the Social and $8 on our dessert menu in the following weeks. Enjoy our amaro float at $1 off regular price. In addition, there will be prizes: just bring your phone and be ready to share your #GelatoSocialPDX photos on Facebook or Instagram for a chance to win Burrasca and Pinolo gelato treats and gift certificates!

No reservations needed, and no need to purchase other food items or a full meal; you're welcome to show up and simply enjoy the gelato and drinks :-) We're proud to collaborate with fellow Tuscan Sandro—look for more Pinolo-Burrasca events in the future!

5 & 5 (cinque e cinque): the street food classic of Livorno

Every time I sit down to write about Italian food, my research unceremoniously chucks me down a rabbit hole and I stumble out the other end, a drunken Alice, into an impossibly raucous, ancient and labyrinthine paese delle meraviglie. Surely Italy possesses the lion's share of history: feuding city-states, warring republics, teeming ports flush with Far Eastern vice, savage families, greed-steeped consiglieri, nefarious popes, festering plagues, exploding volcanoes. Her scientists and philosophers deftly probed the dominion of God, while her artists littered the centuries with jaw-popping masterpieces. She presented the learned and civilized men of the world with an ermine-cloaked Latin and flung a far more richly-loomed vernacular on the groundlings. Her voice soars above the mutterings of other nations in spectacular song, her operas transform the dull ceaseless drone of human comedy into a sweet and sublime music. All of this from a country more or less the size of California—why, the lifespan of an entire continent appears to have been crammed into the confines of its diminutive borders.

A case in point is the story behind the Tuscan port town of Livorno and its classic two-nickel sandwich, the 5 e 5 (cinque e cinque, or five-and-five). It is made of a thin chick pea flour cake called torta di ceci, or simply torta, in Livorno (it's called cecina in Tuscany's Versilia, farinata in Ligurian Genoa, and socca in not-far-away Nice). The torta comes nestled in either focaccia (also called schiaccia in Livorno) or pane francese, a French-style roll, and nowadays is usually offered with melanzane sotto pesto, which in Livorno means eggplant marinated in abundant olive oil, parsley, garlic and chili pepper. The sandwich's unusual moniker came about in the 1950's, when hungry and frugal Livornese could get 5 lire's worth of torta to tuck into a 5 lire roll, making for a nourishing snack or light meal. It became expedient to flick a couple of nickels over the counter and simply say "Gimme five-and-five!"

The torta is traditionally, ideally baked in a shallow copper pan in a wood-burning oven, enhancing the flour's natural smokiness. The batter, made of chick pea flour, olive oil and salt, ferments for hours beforehand and gets cooked at high heat in order to crisp nicely on top and bottom while remaining creamy in the middle. The oven-hot cake then gets dusted with abundant cracked black pepper before it's served on its own or betrothed to a piece of bread: simple and nourishing. Ask any denizen of Livorno where to get the best 5 & 5 and the response will invariably be, "Va' da Gagarin, dé !" A hole in the wall near the old port, Torteria Gagarin is an institution.

But if we really want to understand what makes this sandwich tick, we need to delve into the torta's origins: how did the savory little wonder come into being? As legend has it, the torta was born in 1284 out of the Battle of Meloria, a naval skirmish in the Ligurian sea between warring factions in the Genovese-Pisan War.

The Pisan fleet was destroyed and their surviving sailors taken prisoner on a Genovese galleon. While trying to get back to port, the ship was caught in a fierce tempest that raged for days and days. Provisions ran perilously low. At the mercy of the storm-tossed sea, the ship rocked wildly and took on water; sacks of chick peas spilled their contents, a barrel of olive oil broke open, and the whole lot mixed with salty sea water, becoming essentially a fetid purée that continued to macerate in the hold. Finally, hunger gnawing at their ribs, the Genovese were reduced to eating the rather unappetizing mess. The Pisan prisoners, however, pigheadedly refused*.

Once the sea was calm, the slop was spread out in the sun to dry and it turned into something rather palatable: a sort of crisp chick pea flat bread, and the Genovese sailors gobbled it happily. Back on land in Genoa, it wasn't long before the recipe was perfected and—with perfect irony—baptized as l'oro di Pisa (the gold of Pisa).

All of which brings up another vital organ in the seething belly of the Bel Paese: rivalry. In Italy, apparently, once you've established who your enemies are they're your enemies for a lifetime. Hundreds of lifetimes. These rivalries are hard-wired into Italian DNA and manifest themselves to this day, usually in the form of good-natured ribbing but sometimes—particularly when it comes to soccer—in more crossbow-and-mace fashion. Genoa and Pisa—as we've seen—harbor an ancient animosity toward one another. Ditto Florence and Siena. But undoubtedly the most famous ongoing rivalry in the whole of the peninsula is the one between Livorno and Pisa. To the Livornese, Pisa is a moldering backwater of bungling half-wits whose buckets keep coming up bone-head dry from the intelligence well. Pisa ain't exactly singing Livorno's praises, either.

Livorno graffitti

Livorno graffitti

But Livorno has built this rivalry into a monument of brilliant, outrageous, dialect-riddled piss-taking: the ferociously satirical journal called Il Vernacoliere. For example, right after the Chernobyl disaster its headline read: "First effects of the radioactive cloud: a clever Pisan has been born." Below are some other examples of headlines that leave Pisans—and politicians and popes—much the worse for wear (my rough translations are underneath).

See what I mean about a rabbit hole? Okay, history and enmity aside, the 5 & 5 is a seriously good sandwich. So make like a seriously good Livornese and come on down and try it.

A big grazie to our longtime customer and friend, Manuel Cantone (aka Mano), for pestering us ceaselessly to bring his beloved hometown nosh to Portland way back when we had our food cart. We've been serving it ever since, much to the delight of everyone who tastes it—a fact of which he constantly reminds us.

— Elizabeth Petrosian

* Of course, a dyed-in-the-wool Livornese would say the Pisan sailors simply refused to eat, idiotically preferring death by starvation—though a few Pisans less wouldn't be such a bad thing.

 

Tuscan Wine Dinner, May 5

Join us for a wonderful evening of Tuscan food and wine!

Elia Pellegrini, from his Super Tuscan estate Aia Vecchia, and Davide Redondi from the Vino Nobile de Montepulciano estate Poliziano, will be chatting vino and pouring five delicious wines to go along with chef Paolo's three-course menu of pure Tuscan comfort food:

Polenta lardo e funghi (fried polenta with lardo & mushroom compote) 

Lasagne del Mugello

Panna cotta con frutti di bosco (mixed berries)

 

Price: $75 per person all-inclusive (includes gratuity)

6:30 pm Thursday, May 5

Burrasca, 2032 SE Clinton St., Portland

For reservations: please contact Elizabeth via email at mangia@burrascapdx.com

Crespelle alla Fiorentina: Catherine de' Medici & the great crêpes debate

The origins of foods and recipes are often the subject of heated nationalistic argument. I won't go as far as to say that wars have been fought over who has the right to call puff pastry their own, but who knows? Swarthy men with fiery tempers working long hours on their feet over smoking pots, knives in hand—the concept probably isn't too farfetched.

Sometimes benign and good-natured, sometimes bloody and fomented, the rivalry between Italy and France has been there for centuries. So when an alliance between the two was born by way of the marriage of Florentine lass Caterina de' Medici and teenage King Henry II of France in 1533, it proved a fertile field for cross-cultural pollination.

Compared to Medici-bankrolled Florence, 16th century France was practically a backwater. Or so it seemed to young Catherine who possessed a sophisticated palate and—eyeing the natives' trencher-and-shank cookery askance—brought her own culinary posse to the French court. This included several pastry chefs, a gelato-maestro, three cooks from the Tuscany's Mugello region, among others. She brought the fork with her, too, no doubt having been scandalized by the French mode of hacking at victuals with knives or tearing at them with hands and incisors.

One of the delicacies she introduced to the French was the Tuscan salsa colla or colletta (colla = "glue"), which was a sauce of milk tinged with meat broth and spices and used to bind flavors together in various dishes. This sauce essentially became the Frenchified velouté and later dropped its carnivorous guise altogether, becoming the creamy white marvel of chemistry that was re-christened béchamel in honor of one Marquis Louis de Béchameil (by all appearances a useless fop who didn't know a ladle from a riding crop or a scullery from a hole in the ground). By the strange, circuitous routes of history, this delicate, delightful sauce has long since made its way back to the Bel Paese—sporting a French accent, as it were—and is there called besciamella. It's the glorious glue that snakes between layers of lasagne in Emilia-Romagna, and locks spinach-and-ricotta-filled crêpes in a lover's embrace in Florence's own crespelle alla fiorentina.

And speaking of crêpes, it seems Catherine brought those to the great Gallic palooza, too. French or Italian, the word's origins come from the Latin crispus, meaning rolled or curled, and from the more modern Italian crespo ("kinked, creased"; a word with which I was unfortunately made all too familiar by my Florentine hairdresser). Now I know you're probably thinking that crêpes are as French as Louis Malle and a bright blue pack of Gauloises, but ask any Italian and he'll tell you evenly and with no trace of rancor whatsoever that the French are full of sh** and crespelle belong to the Boot. In the 5th century, long before Catherine threw off her stays in the Louvre and contemplated her new home, legend has it that an alarmed Pope Gelasius—seeing the thronged French pilgrims newly-arrived in Rome, hungry for both bread and redemption—had cartloads of flour and eggs brought in and voilà! A future vehicle for Nutella was born.

But regardless of which flag you care to fly over this piece of culinary terroir, we can probably all agree that a crêpe—whoops, strike that—crespella by any other name would taste as sweet.

You'll find crespelle alla fiorentina as a frequent special at Burrasca during the winter months; it's warming and comforting and absolutely delicious.

—Elizabeth Petrosian