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October Enticements in Trevi

Date: October 11, 2014 - categories: , , , - Leave your thoughts

You might associate October with pumpkins in the US, but in the medieval hill town of Trevi, October is the month of celery. Not just any celery but the famous sedano nero (“black celery”), characterized by long dark green stalks without filaments. Once loaded onto ships leaving Genoa for the New World as food for the passengers – for this celery maintained its freshness and flavor at length – il sedano nero now stars in the dinners cooked by local volunteers in Trevi’s medieval taverne during October.

Trevi hugs the hill

Trevi hugs the hill

The month’s celebrations open with a sort of “moveable feast,” a progressive tastings dinner in the taverne of Trevi’s three terzieri (the medieval districts of the town) and the three districts compete in a culinary competition (celery starring in the competing dishes, of course). On the following night, the trevani bring to life the Middle Ages as they solemnly parade through the torchlit medieval alleyways in period costumes. Throughout October the three Trevi terzieri will compete in an array of contests: the race of the carts, archery competitions, drumming contests – and the re-enactment of scenes of medieval life. In mid-October, the Sagra del Sedano Nero e Salsiccia takes over the town as the main square fills with farmers selling huge bunches of celery and in the piazza center, local sausages are roasted on the grill. The music of a brass band entices the visitors munching sausage sandwiches to pause for a dance. La Castagnata at the end of the month fêtes roasted chestnuts with hot mulled wine and October closes with the antique market.

Celery vendor snips off the tops

Trevi’s famous celery on sale at the Sagra del Sedano Nero e della Salsiccia, Trevi

When Pino and I headed to our favorite taverna, Matigge, last week for dinner, we weren’t surprised when our waiter, Mimmo (retired steelworker), proudly announced that the Matigge terziere had won this year’s culinary competition with their stuffed celery dish. Seated at wooden tables under stone-vaulted ceilings, many diners around us were savoring the prize-winning sedano ripieno, others savored steak with a sauce of the famed Umbrian red wine, Sagrantino and finely-chopped celery or the thick spaghetti (strangozzi) with pork cheek and lava beans. But Pino opted for snails (often his dish of choice) and a superb celery bruschetta and I wanted to try the celery flan with porcini mushrooms. Buonissimo! As was the potato baked in the coals and served with a tasty celery sauce. We shared a favorite dish of this festival, pinzimonio, crisp celery stalks served with a dipping bowl of olive oil whipped to a foam with salt, pepper and – sometimes – a touch of vinegar. On the dessert menu, the panna cotta with celery sauce seemed to be the diners’ first choice.

Mimmo, retired steel worker, serves us our celery dishes

Mimmo, retired steel worker, serves us our celery dishes

Pino never passes up snails at a festival

Pino never passes up snails at a festival

Simple pinzimonio starts at this festival

Simple pinzimonio starts at this festival

Baked potatoes with enticing celery sauce

Baked potatoes with enticing celery sauce

Pork shank in sweet-and-sour sauce

Pork shank in sweet-and-sour sauce

The Matigge taverna winning dish: sedano ripieno

The Matigge taverna winning dish: sedano ripieno

Pajata tempts many

Pajata tempts many

Celery bruschetta: buonissima!

Celery bruschetta: buonissima!

Celery/porcini flan was my choice

Celery/porcini flan was my choice

Strangozzi pasta with fave beans and pork cheek

Strangozzi pasta with fave beans and pork cheek

Panna cotta topped with celery sauce

Panna cotta topped with celery sauce

The taverna filled quickly with ebullient young people, chatting families and the volunteers serving at table zipped back and forth between the taverna kitchen and the tables backed by wall murals of medieval life. Young Marco and Alice handled the filling of terracotta pitchers with wines and I asked them which terziere would win the most events this year. “Matigge will win the drumming contest for sure,” Marco affirmed with a smile, adding “we’ve won many times in the fourteen years of this festival.”

Marco and Alice serve up the vino

Marco and Alice serve up the vino

Fried potatoes coming up!

Fried potatoes coming up!

Friends share the Matigge taverna goodness

Friends share the Matigge taverna goodness

A medieval jousting match fans out over the vault

A medieval jousting match fans out over the vault

A young couple feasts under a medieval couple courting

A young couple feasts under a medieval couple courting

Three Trevi friends savor the goodness in the Matigge taverna

Three Trevi friends savor the goodness in the Matigge taverna

He’ll do his part: he’s one of the Matigge drummers, after all.

Read more about Trevi’s October celery celebrations

Read about Trevi’s olive oil celebration

Read more on this magical Trevi festival

See the famous Trevi celery here

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