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Want a Change Of Pace? La Sagra del…

A Sagra Poster

A Sagra Poster: Come Eat Wild Boar!

If you visit Italy during the warmer months (spring through October) you’ll no doubt see posters announcing the “Sagra del Tortello,” “Festa della Fettunta,” “Sagra delle Sarde,” or some such, with the name of a town and several dates, usually weekends. This is to a certain degree an Italian equivalent of the country fair, something put on by a town to draw tourism and (often) gather money for some cause. There’s usually a market, and maybe a livestock show, if the town has that sort of farming, a carnival with rides for the kids, and a food tent, serving up local specialties. It’s come-as-you-are, first-seated-first-served, with long tables that you share with other diners, the food’s usually on plastic plates.

A Sagra Poster

A Sagra Poster

Why in the world am I suggesting this, you wonder?

Because the food, though simple, can be very good – it’s generally prepared by volunteers who love to cook. And because it’s a side of Italian life few tourists see, the groups of teenagers getting together for a night out, while parents with younger children and the elder generation gather instead for a family meal, then dance, explore the fair, or simply sit at a table under a tree, sipping coffee or an after-dinner cordial, enjoying the cool night air and talking while the kids run around.

You will need a car to get to most sagre; read the notices you will find posted on poster boards in the city you’re visiting (or ask someone at your hotel), and select one that sounds interesting. Then drive out to the town where it’s taking place, aiming to arrive around 7 PM (a visit to a sagra is also the perfect closure for a day trip out in the country). Once you reach the town you will find signs to point your way. The menu will be posted outside the tent; you select what you want, pay the cashier, find seats, and hand your order stub to the waiter assigned to your area. Then you enjoy!

A few words on the menu items:

 

A Sagra Poster

A Sagra Poster

Antipasti: If the sagra is in celebration of newly pressed olive oil (i.e. in the fall), expect to find bruschetta prominently featured. Otherwise there will most likely be cold cuts, or a seafood appetizer with octopus, crustaceans, clams and such if you’re on the coast.

Primi: If you’re inland, expect stuffed pasta, for example ravioli or tortelli di patata with your choice of sauce (usually tomato or butter-and-sage for the former and meat for the latter); if you’re in luck they’ll be home made and wonderful. If it’s a mushroom festival, or if it has rained recently, there will also be tagliatelle (linguini) ai funghi. And, of course there will be pasta with meat sauce, and perhaps lasagna or polrnta. If you’re on the coast expect spaghetti alle vongole, spaghetti with clams, and perhaps spaghetti allo scoglio, reef pasta, which has clams, crustaceans and more.

 

A Sagra Poster

A Sagra Poster

Secondi: The grill reigns supreme: grilled chicken, spare ribs (usually pork), steak, pork chops, sausage, mushroom caps… Assuming, of course, that the sagra isn’t dedicated to something that’s good stewed, for example wild boar. Assuming also that the sagra isn’t dedicated to fish, for example cuttlefish in greens (seppie in inzimino) or fried fish. In either case side dishes will include french fries (often from peeled potatoes), mixed fried vegetables, fried polenta (about 1/2 inch thick, and cut into 2-inch squares), and tossed salads.

Dessert? Very often it’s commercially prepared ice cream.

To drink? The local wine, by the carafe, and mineral water, followed by coffee and a coffee killer such as limoncello. It’s a wonderful way to spend an evening.

Good Food & Drink!

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