n enticing list of aromatic herbs and greens ­ dandelions, chives, marjoram, angelica ­ and the welcome phrase "from our garden" adorn the menu at Lancellotti in Soliera, a town outside Modena, the gastronomic epicenter of Emilian cucina . The region is known for its rich, complex dishes, created with world-class local ingredients: Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, aged traditional balsamic vinegar, and such pork products as prosciutto, culatello, coppa and salami. If it doesn't contain at least two sources of cholesterol, the Emilians generally don't eat it. So the greenery at Lancellotti is something of a surprise, an unusual departure from the standard fare. A vegetarian could actually survive there.

The restaurant is propelled by Francesco and Emilio Lancellotti, who oversee the dining room, and their brother Angelo, who takes care of the garden and the kitchen. Dad cooks the first courses, while Mom deftly hand-rolls pasta with a yard-long, one-handed rolling pin and stuffs some of the world's best tortellini. Angelo's wife, Zdena, makes the desserts, and his daughter Ida waits on tables. And they serve the best salad I've ever eaten.

Called mischianza on the menu, it's a mix of cultivated and domesticated wild greens, herbs and flowers from Angelo's organic garden, dressed with salt and a choice of fine, extra-virgin olive oils. A hit of Lancellotti's own Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena can be had for an extra 3,000 lire, but I wanted to taste the individual flavors of the greens, and saved the balsamic experience for another course. I couldn't resist picking up with my fingers each tender piece of rucola (Diplotaxis tenufoglia , not the usual Eruca sativa ), chicory, dandelion, oak leaf and lamb's lettuce, chervil, lovage, burnet, chives, bronze fennel, nasturtium and borage. The greens, herbs and flowers served at Lancellotti change with the seasons. Salad lovers should plan a pilgrimage (via Grandi 120, Soliera; phone: 39-59-567-406).
November 17, 1995


Index of other Letters from Italy:



TOOLBAR

Eating | Drinking | Playing with Your Food | Bon Appétit | Gourmet
Home Page | Text-Only Home Page