I’ve met Italians who don’t eat pasta and I’ve met Italians who won’t touch wine; but I’ve never met an Abruzzese who doesn’t like arrosticini.
Have you ever tasted them?
Do you know what they are?
They are lamb skewers cooked on a spit and they taste and smell divine.
Now here’s the weird thing – apart from a casual reference in two other posts I’ve never mentioned them before. Here’s the really weird thing – initially I didn’t really like them!
Well I’m a convert now. Such a convert that if I get a whiff of arrosticini being cooked anywhere nearby I start feeling hungry and want to have some.
But I didn’t always feel this way. If I was in a restaurant and I wanted to eat a meat secondo I tended to go for agnello alla brace or cotoleta alla Milanese – arrosticini never got a look in.
But things have changed over this last year. I’ve started to look forward to this typical Abruzzo dish and I make sure I have room for them – not always an easy task!
Arrosticini look like lamb kebabs with the lamb meat separated by small chunks of lamb fat. The fat might put you off but it’s necessary to keep the meat tender and moist, add flavour and enhance that irresistible smell. Usually most of the fat has melted away when they are ready to eat but they certainly won’t be fat-free. Don’t let that stop you, eat them anyway. Grab the skewer in your hands and tear or slide the meat off with your teeth. Don’t let them go cold.
Bread soaked in olive oil and a glass of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo can turn this very rustic traditional dish into something exquisite. One of the best articles I’ve read on the dish is the Arrosticini! post on the Aglio, Olio and Peperoncino blog. There you can read more details about the arrosticini tradition, how they’re prepared and how you can make them yourself.
Earlier I mentioned arrosticini and the word restaurant in one sentence. Most of the arrosticini I’ve eaten have been in local restaurants in or near Loreto Aprutino. But the most arrosticini I’ve ever eaten in one sitting, and possibly the best, was on a neighbour’s plot, not too far outside the town, where P and I had been invited to a traditional family gathering. Pacing myself was crucial. Just when I thought nothing more to eat could possibly arrive, along came another course. But the arrosticini were so succulent it was impossible not to get stuck in.
The most picturesque place I’ve ever had them was at Rifugio San Francesco, Campo Imperatore.
The photographs only tell part of the story.
Feeling a little tired and beginning to get a little peckish we arrived at the restaurant having entered the Campo from the Rigopiano side. We decided to stop for a coffee and something small (perhaps a salad) to keep us going.
Once we sat down we started taking in the surroundings, we noticed the plates of food going by and then we were hit by the enticing smell of arrosticini – we were hooked. As the sun fought an ultimately losing battle with the rain clouds we decided to have lunch.
Campo Imperatore is one of my favourite places in the world and as I munched arrosticini, ate some bread and oil and had a little Montepulciano d’Abruzzo – I felt as though I was in paradise.
Just simply delightful.