Anne's Blog

  • in-le-marche-golden-serpents-lace-wonders

In Le Marche, Golden Serpents, Lace Wonders

Date: February 2, 2012 - categories: , , , , - 1 Comment

Offida's Ristorante Ophis, was once a brick-vaulted stall below a noble palace

Lost in time are the origins of Offida, medieval hilltown of Le Marche, certainly inhabited in the Bronze Age, later by a local Italic tribe, then finally by the Romans. The town’s name might derive from the temple dedicated to the serpent Ophis/Ophite, sacred edifice, where worship took place before a golden snake. Legend relates that the high priest of the temple could miraculously cauterize open wounds and bites by passing his wrist, wrapped with a writhing sacred snake, over the injury. The legend lives on in Offida: il serpente aureo (“golden snake”) recurs again and again in place names of the town: after visiting the nineteen-centruy frescoed theater, Teatro Serpente Aureo, we walked down Corso Serpente Aureo to the Ristorante Ophis (ah, that snake again!)

In the tastefully restored brick-vaulted stall of a 17th-century noble palace, nobility lives on in the cooking of appassionato young chef/owner Daniele Citeroni. He turns out the best of specialita’ offidane: I wanted to try the local favorite pollo ncip nciap (garlic and rosemary star in this savory chicken dish) but Daniele’s taccu’ satiated: homemade thicker-than-usual tagliatelle with a tangy tomato/local pancetta (salt-cured bacon) sauce. Pino’s quadrotti (“little squares”) – chunks of veal simmered in radicchio, garlic, and olive oil, topped with slivers of local pecorino cheesel- tempted: I had to try a bite. No room for more – not even for the famed Offida dessert, funghetti: no, not mushrooms but a small cookie of that shape made with anise, flour and sugar. Our young waiter, also Daniele, offered us their house liqueur before we left, Amaro Serpente (logicamente!)

Restaurant menu on the tombolo

As we left, we noticed the menu in the entryway: it was pinned to a tombolo or “small pillow” – mounted on its tripod (called “prepenna”). The tombolo is not usually pinned with a menu but with bobbin lace intricacies, the exquisite handicraft drawing visitors to Offida as much as the culinary traditions do.

Some local experts cite the fourteenth century as the onset of merletto al tombolo in Offida, others a bit later. in the sixteenth century the intricate lacework first appeared on the collars of personages painted by Marchigiano master Simone De Magistris. On a wooden door of the early seventeenth century St Augustine church, an Angel wears a transparent gown bordered with the delicate – truly angelic – bobbin lace of Offida. By this time, bobbin lace from Offida was in great demand all over Europe and when offidane soldiers headed off to battle, even their armor was trimmed with merletto al tombolo!

Rosina at work

Rosina at work

In summertime, the local signore sit in the shade of the main piazza’s porticoes, chatting, hands and bobbins flying, as they create miracles of intricacy and finery. We visited Offida in the winter and a friend took us to meet the most famous merlettaia, Rosina, at work at the tombolo just inside her little shop, appropriately name “il Gioiello”. Rosina learned to create lace “jewels” from her mother who had learned from her grandmother and has been creating masterpieces since she was ten years old. This three-generation span of lacework artisans is immortalized in a sculpture not far from the shop: grandmother, mother and daughter diligently working, heads bowed over their tomboli. The walls of Rosina’s shop are lined with photos of her masterpieces, including bridal trusseaus for world-famous people. There was even a photo of Naomi Campbell in a short dress made only of Offidana lace!

Signora Rosina unfolds her masterpiece

Rich merchants no longer leave Offida, horses laden with lace. Visitors purchase little: Offida laceworks are masterpieces requiring hours of labor. Rosina picked up a delicate little lace little butterfly which she sells for 6 Euro: “lo vede, Signora? Due ore di lavoro. Chi oggi lavora per tre Euro all’ora? Il nostro merletto finira’”
(“Do you see this, Signora? Two hours of work. Who will work today for three euro an hour? Our lacework will end…” She proudly unrolled for me two of her most stunning masterpieces, a black lace shawl, a centerpiece masterpiece. “No one will ever be able to buy these……so I will just keep them.”

Her sons were outside talking with Pino when I came out of the shop. We talked about their idea for a new small museum of merletto (the town does have one), centering this one on their mother’s story and her handwork.
Then we walked down Via del Merletto, passing lace-curtained windows, to our car.

On YouTube, see the intricate work of the exquisite merletto al tombolo
Read more about the coastal area of le Marche
Read about other hilltowns of le Marche

Quadrotti di Vitello al Daniele
(“Daniele’s small cubes of veal”)

Quadrotti of veal at Ristorante Ophis

Quadrotti of veal at Ristorante Ophis

Ingredients for 8 persons:
(Note / all ingredients approximate – as quantities in Italy are ofteh “q.b”., i,e quanto basta (“as much as you need”)

about 2 1/2 llbs of tender, top quality veal , cut into – 2 -1/2 in. cubes, roughly (- these are the “quadrotti”)
a handful of pinenuts
a head of radicchio, sliced into julienne strips
olive oil / q.b.
salt, pepper, q.b.
Parmesan / 1/4 lb or q.b…shaved into strips

Cover stainless steel deep frying pan with olive oil and heat but do not burn. Put in veal cubes and brown til golden, stirring with wooden spoon. Cook 5 mins, approximately. Add salt and pepper, q.b. Stir in radicchio, cut into julienne strips. Add a handful of pinenuts. Adjust salt and pepper quantities, if needed.Serve with slivers of Parmesan on top.

1 Comment

  • Dwight Stanford says:

    Thanks for giving us some wonderful publicity! Offida is a beautiful little Marche hill town.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Privacy Policy

Privacy Italian Legislative Decree n° 196/2003 Under Article 13 of the Italian Legislative Decree no. 196/2003, regulations with regard to the Protection of Personal Data, this is an informative report to all interested parties on the modality of the treatment of personal data, arising from interaction with our website www.annesitaly.com
THE PRINCIPAL FOR DATA TREATMENT During site consultation, personal data referring to identified or identifiable persons can be processed. The principal for data treatment is Anne Robichaud Pian della Pieve Assisi 06081 (PG) Italy. The data will be mainly processed at the mentioned head office by the people responsible for the website or by other people appointed for occasional maintenance operations, provided that their actions conform to of the guarantees enshrined in the Legislative Decree 196/2003.
TYPE OF DATA TREATED
Web navigation The information systems and software procedures required for the functioning of this website, acquire some personal data during their normal service, the transmission of which is implicit in the use of web communication protocols. This information is not collected with the purpose of identifying interested parties, but due to its very nature, the information could lead to user identification through processes and relations with data held by third parties. In this data category there are IP addresses or domain names belonging to computers used by users who connect to the site, addresses with URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) notification of the requested resources, time of the request, used method in submitting the request to the server, dimension of the file obtained in replying, the numeric code mentioning the reply status given by the server (successful reply, error, etc?) and other parameters referred to the operation system and to the user’s information environment. This data is used with the sole purpose of obtaining anonymous statistical information on the use of the site and to check the correct functioning; immediately after processing, the data is erased.
Data voluntarily supplied by the user The voluntary optional and explicit e-mail transmission to the addresses mentioned in this site implies the subsequent acquisition of the sender’s address, necessary to reply to the queries, as well as the other eventual personal data registered in the message.
OPTIONAL PERSONAL DATA SUPPLY Except for the above mentioned navigation data, the user may be asked to supply his own personal data through queries or messages to the email addresses shown in the contact pages. Failure to provide such data may be the cause of the inability to obtain the requested information from the company.
TREATMENT MODALITY The personal data is treated in compliance with the Legislative Decree no. 196/2003 and held only for the time necessary to achieve the aim for which it has been collected. Specific safety measures are taken to prevent any data loss, illicit or incorrect use and unauthorized access.
RIGHTS OF THIRD PARTIES The data subjects are at any time entitled to obtain confirmation as to whether or not data relating to him are held, to know the contents and the origin, to check the correctness, to ask for integration, updating or change (art. 7 Decree Law 196:June 2003). In accordance with the same article, they are entitled to obtain the erasure, conversion into anonymous form or freezing of all data used in breach of the law, to object, on legitimate grounds, to the processing of data relating to him. All requests have to be transmitted to the e-mail address anne@annesitaly.com

Agenzia Viaggi Stoppini in Assisi handles all technical support for my guided visits (bus transportation, organization of meals, etc)