Here in the Veneto region of Italy’s northeast, where Prosecco — fast becoming the world’s preferred sparkling wine — hails, comes another joy that springs forth from the earth to la tavola: radicchio rosso (red chicory).
A winter vegetable, its leaves range from deep red to crimson with a well-defined midriff of snow white. Radicchio rosso, with its signature bitter taste, comes in several different varieties with each distinct to their growing zones: Treviso, Verona and Chioggia.
Whether in pinzimonio — dipped in a vinaigrette and eaten fresh — added to a risotto, or rolled inside a crespella (crepe) covered in besciamella (white sauce) and cheese then baked in the oven, radicchio rosso is a great friend to have at the ready in the kitchen during wintertime around these here parts of the Bel Paese.
Now, I’ve got radicchio rosso in the ice-a-box, but lack the culinary acumen to pull off this delicious first-course dish in my galley; so, I take the easy way out and head down to il Ceppo, my fave gastronomy shop along Corso Palladio in Vicenza, where I pick up and carry home a healthy portion of Crespelle con Radicchio e Morlacco del Grappa.
I just pop the aluminum tray in the oven, pre-heated to 185 C, and wait until the crepes brown slightly and the white sauce and morlacco cheese merge and begin to ooze out.
Plated, I’m pairing the dish with another local favorite, Il Brolo from Società Agricola Colle di Bugano in nearby Longare. A Tai Rosso (f.n.a. Tocai) varietal grown in the Colli Berici (Berici Hills) that surround Vicenza, it’s ruby-red in color, intense and has pronounced notes of strawberry and cherry. Dry and harmonious, Il Brolo is slightly tannic with a pleasant bitter note at the finish.
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