Monday, August 21, 2017

Confienza, rice fields and the Panissa, a gastronomical gem.

When we were in Vercelli, we looked for a specialized delicatessen or fine foods store, so as to be able to see and buy all the specialty rice Vercelli has to offer.
In early March, the rice fields of Vercelli are cold dusty and barren, as they await the planting season in the early weeks of Spring.
Vercelli has been the center of the Italian rice production region for centuries. It was here, that Dino de Laurentis, filmed his famous movie, Riso Amaro, Bitter Rice, back in 1949.
At times,our souls feel as cold and as barren asthese rice fields. For centuries, pilgrims havewalked by these fields, and may have done so at times with a heavy heart, with a feeling of remorse, at the loss of a love one, or a person ill left back hom.
So the woman at the Vercelli speciality-foods shop sold us several types of rice: Arborio,  Nero Venere, Carnaroli, Sant'Andrea, Badio and  Roma.   
The mystics often have passed through a long period, similar to this rice field, which some called the "dark night of the soul" (Saint John of the Cross).
When she rang up the bill, I told her: "I have to drive up north this afternoon, towards Novarra. Could you recommend some place to stop and have lunch on my way there, and enjoy a good plate of risotto?" The friendly lady behind the register answered one word only: "Confienza."
I was perplexed with her answer: I thought she was telling me to "confess." What would this lady want me to confess?
She must of understood the dumb look on my face, that she had uttered a proper noun: "Confiesa no!Confienza", she clarified : "with an 'n' and a 'z'.

"Confienza is about 20 minutes from here. Take the road out of town and head west, towards Novarra. In the center of the town there is a church. In front of the church, a restaurant. You can't miss it."

The city of Vercelli is in the center of the Italian rice industry, but you don't understand the first thing about Italian rice, until you go out to fields, in places near towns like Confienza, and stop by the processing plants, where they take off the shell, and polish the grain, pack it and getting it ready for the kitchen table.

These irrigation ditches, canals and aqueducts are everywhere in the Vercelli plains. 
A modern rice processing and packing plant.

The rice fields have canals and irrigation ditches. There are aqueducts, made of brick and stone. But this time of year, the fields were dry

Past the canal, the road leads to the center of Confienza.
This street leads to the center
of Confienza
Instead of writing anymore, I will let the photographs we took finish the story of our visit.
The typical main street of a Piedmont town.

We found our way to our
destination: "in front of the Church".
The entrance to the restaurant.
Scales, old pans and other
memorabilia of the family in
the foyer of the restaurant.

An old-time meat grinder with a
The table dressed with cups, white tablecloth, and underneath golden tablecloth.
Restaurants in rural Piedmont
many times give you a feeling of
being in your grandmother's
house: elegant, good taste in the
furnishing and decoration tranquil,
and full of delicious aromas
pouring out from the kitchen door.

It was close to two o'clock in the afternoon when we arrived to the restaurant, and we were concerned that they might tell us that the kitchen was closed for midday service.
To the contrary, our hostess, wife of the chef, sat us down at a table and made us feel at home.

The chef offered us this antipasto, which looked so beautiful, that we did not want to eat it.

Breadbasket with breadsticks and
 homemade rolls on a lace napkin

"Vitello atonnato" was our
appetizer at the restaurant.

The "Vitello atonnato" is literally
"tuna-fish-ed veal", made with
veal, tuna fish, egg yokes, 
mayonnaise, olive oil  and capers.

Risotto Panissa, typical of the
Vercelli region: Sant'Andrea rice,
carrots, celery, fagioli (beans),
tomatoes, red wine, butter and
Parmesan cheese.

The "Panissa" is a hearty dish,
a peasant tradition, that only in
the last years has been revived
elegant restaurants as a
gastronomical gem.

 Panissa Vercellese sometimes is
seasoned with cotica di maliale
(pork rinds).

We finished our lunch with a
"Semifeddo Ofelia" and an

The ambiance on the late winter afternoon was dark but very cozy.

Estela had a cappuccino with her assortment of desert biscotti cookies

A hearty lunch or "pranzo" as it is called here in Italy, is  essential for a good pilgrimage.

An assortment of homemade cookies were
our complimentary farewell gift.



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