From time to time I get e-mails from Americans (and I mean Argentineans as well as US Americans) asking for some particular Italian recipe their grandmother used to make. I am happy to help whenever I can, I love those trips down memory lane, but occasionally I feel terribly sorry for not being able to lend my hand in their recipe search. Sometimes it is because, while I know the dish well, I have no idea of how the recipe looks like. Yet more often, I simply have no idea what dish they are talking about: the name might be familiar, but the description of the dish is not. The problem is that Italy simply does not have a national cuisine, but rather a collection of local ones that at times can change dramatically just going over the next hill. So, even for a born and raised Italian like me,m Italy remains an immense cooking school, with a promise of something new around the next road bend.
Shortly before leaving for my Italian break, I had one of these ah-ah!/I am learning something new moments. I was reading William Black's "Al Dente", a very well written and enjoyable book about Italian food and history, and stumbled upon his description of Tiella Gaetana, the stuffed "bread" typical of Gaeta . Now, I spent many of my childhood summer holidays in the area near Gaeta, so I had heard the name before, but I must admit I had no idea what the dish was. Black describes food in such a delicious way – something he definitely has a knack for – that I knew I had to get a bite of tiella as soon as I could. I also wanted to learn more about it.