We had many remarkable meals during our trip to Abruzzo, but the food I remember best isn’t the wonderful pasta, the great cheeses or the lamb. It’s the bread. The hot, round, crusty loaves that came to the table almost everywhere we ate were so good that they seemed not a mere accessory to the meal but a vital, life-sustaining food.
The two best breads we had were at Villa Maiella and Niko Romito’s Reale. At both restaurants, the loaves came to the table just out of the oven, with a thick crust and a soft, slightly gummy interior with a very pale gray color and a tangy taste. With olive oil or whipped lard from free-range pigs — another delicacy we discovered on this trip — they were absolutely irresistible. So I asked Arcangelo Tinari at Villa Maiella to explain to me why Abruzzese bread is so good. He seemed surprised by my question.
“For centuries, bread was the food that sustained us. We ate it at every meal, and we never wasted a crust or a crumb, which is why there are dozens of Abruzzese recipes that use stale bread. Even today our bread is made only with flour from locally grown wheat, water, salt and natural yeast. Its goodness is in its simplicity,” he said. “When I travel, I miss our bread terribly.”