Abruzzo may not be one of the first regions to come to mind when one hears “Italy,” but its green mountains, high altitude air and endless pastures (one-third of Abruzzo is protected in the form of national parks, nature reserves, etc.) make for excellent cheese production. In the isolated mountain village town of Anversa degli Abruzzi, sheep and cows graze on mountain greens and wild herbs like mint, fennel, oregano, juniper and more. From their milk, the Marcelli family makes intriguing cheeses like fragrant ricotta that’s been cold smoked overnight. Further, the younger generation imports these farm cheeses, along with bounty from other small producers in the region, to NYC restaurants like Del Posto, Marta, Locanda Verde, The Gander, and Eataly. But you don’t only have to dine out for a rare taste of Abruzzo; the Marcellis also deliver it straight to home fridges across the country via their online store Abruzzo Pantry.
One of the products on offer is an olive oil range made by the Fossacesia, Abruzzo-based company Ursini, and the one to try is this year’s “olio nuovo” (the first extra virgin olive oil harvest of the season, typically unfiltered and the freshest there is). “Olio nuovo” is always a little bit of a celebration in a bottle, meant to be consumed seasonally and with haste, as it has a much shorter shelf life than other olive oils. The intensity and butteriness of Ursini’s 2015 “Olio Fresco Novello” hits you in the face with one whiff, and is best experienced as a finishing oil drizzled over simple ingredients or foods like bread.
From snail-shaped Lumaconi pasta primed for exceptional sauce-clinging to organic chestnut honey (gathered from bees that drink nectar from chestnut blossoms), the offerings from Abruzzo producers are the pride of a region that might be unfamiliar to some. Due to the unforeseen demand this holiday season, much of their stock won’t make it in time for holiday parties, but keep Abruzzo Pantry bookmarked for a tastier New Year.
First image courtesy of Marcelli Formaggi; all other images by Cool Hunting