October Enticements in Trevi
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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