Every month Il Fornaio explores the food and wine of a different region in Italy with a regional menu. For two weeks, a specially crafted, regional menu is available along with wines from the region. In May 2012, the regional menu is available through May 20th, and Puglia is the region that is being explored this month.
Puglia is located in southern Italy and is the “heel” when picturing the map of Italy as a boot. The cuisine of Puglia is focused on bread, wine, and olives, and olive oil production presents a significant part of Puglia’s economy. Commonly used vegetables are potatoes, asparagus, beans, and tomatoes.
Il Fornaio takes great pride in creating authentic regional menus. This month’s menu was created by Giuseppe DiMola, who grew up in Puglia and went to culinary school in the region. Before moving to America, he spent time in various kitchens in Italy and Germany. DiMola became a chef because of the food he grew up with, and many of the dishes on the regional menu are inspired by his family recipes.
The dishes on the regional appetizer menu are all vegetarian or vegan. There is a vegan lentil soup with farro, barley, carrots, celery, and tomatoes. A vegetarian option is burrata cheese served with tomatoes, oregano, and baby arugula. Finally, there are thin zucchini slices that are lightly fried and layered with mozzarella, tomato sauce, Parmigiano, and basil. The dish is baked in the oven.
The regional pasta menu features a vegetarian pasta dish with fava beans, dandelion greens, garlic, peperoncino, and aged ricotta cheese. There is also a penne dish with meatballs, spaghetti with sausage, and a risotto with scallops and shrimp.
Main course choices include boneless chicken breast with artichokes, served with potatoes and broccolini, skewers of grilled Italian sausage, beef tenderloin, and chicken breast, as well as a wild cod filet. Finally, there is a mixed seafood grill with salmon, sole, a giant prawn, a scallop, and calamari.
The regional dessert is a warm chocolate-almond cake with crème anglaise, rum chocolate sauce, and vanilla ice cream.
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[Note: An earlier version of this post was published on Examiner.com.]