Have you ever heard of FARINATA? What about CECINA? Ok then, what about CALDA CALDA? No? Never? I knew it! These are just different names for the same dish. The name changes depending on the region but the dish is the same. Many Italian dishes have been exported, redone, in some cases abused. Despite this fact, there are still dishes that are well known to the average Italian but remain unknown outside of the Italian borders. This is the case of Cecina.
Cecina takes the name from Ceci, Italian for garbanzo beans. It is one of the many poor man’s dishes that are part of every old civilization. It is made of garbanzo beans flour, water, salt and olive oil. It’s a thin torta baked in a wood oven at high temperature in large round metal trays. It can be traced back to the time of the Etruscans, big lovers of garbanzo beans.
It’s a typical Mediterranean dish, not only Italian, but it is made especially well in the Tuscan and Ligurian regions. In Massa, where I grew up, it is called Calda-Calda (Hot-Hot) and it is sold only in winter time. I ate it many winter afternoons for “merenda” the afternoon snack. It is usually sold in Pizzerias. The only limitation to this delicious, simple delicacy is that it needs to be eaten hot right out of the oven; if it gets cold it loses its soft, chewy consistency and delicious flavor. I always ate it stuffed inside a piece of freshly baked focaccia, but it can be also eaten by itself.
This summer my friend Elena took me to her friend Antonella’s restaurant “Il Timone” in beautiful Portovenere. By the way, let me tell you, I hear so many American people are so impressed by Le Cinque Terre, but if they ever discovered Portovenere, a little seaside village just a stone throw from Le Cinque Terre, they would be blown away from the simple, ancient beauty of this hidden jewel.
Anyway, off we went to Il Timone, we were seated all snugged on a beautiful old wooden table with ceramic tile and the dishes started pouring out of the kitchen. To my surprise, for appetizers we were served slices of Farinata topped with Gorgonzola cheese, Stracchino (soft Italian fresh cheese), and more topped with Pesto. Totally unexpected but incredibly fun. That is how I found out that Farinata can also be topped with different flavors!
If your summer plans include a trip in the Tuscan or Ligurian region, I really suggest a trip to Il Timone. Tell the owner, Rima sent you and enjoy!
Ps: for desert order the Crema calda con Nutella. Wow! to die for!
If you don’t get to go to Italy this summer don’t despair, guess what? I have not tried it yet but you can now buy Farinata mix at local stores. I even saw it at Podestos in Stockton!