Since 1983, Monte’s Trattoria has been up and running all thanks to the amazing Chef Pietro Mosconi. Chef Pietro was born in the Emilia – Romagna region of Italy in a small village, in the province of Piacenza. It was here that Pietro discovered his passion for the traditional Northern Italian cuisine, which has influenced his cooking to this day.
Each time I walk into Monte’s, I am overly welcomed by Pietro, his lovely and homey staff and the smell of his kitchen. Being so lucky to work with his fine establishment and having his restaurant be a part of our Heart of the Village food tour, I have come to really value and admire Pietro and his restaurant. So, I decided to ask him if he could teach me a few things about Italian Cuisine and his style of cooking. This traditional establishment is definitely a special one, so I am happy to now share a few recipes that Pietro has taught me.
Speaking of Tradition – Here is a little background info on the formal meal structure of a traditional Italian meal.
The following is eaten in order –
The opening of a meal, which usually starts in either one restaurant or bar and then moves to another to begin the actual first course of the meal. This is usually considered as something separate from the rest of the meal. The drinks for an aperitif include sparking wine (usually prosecco) or a cocktail (negroni, spritz or americano are the most common) or a martini with ice. Also, the Aperitivo always includes small bites such as olives, nuts, cheeses or small quiches while drinking.
Usually cold and lighter than the first course. Foods eaten could include salumi, cheeses, breads, vegetables or maybe even shrimp cocktail.
Basically your first course, consisting of hot food, a bit heavier than an antipasto and is usually a carbohydrate based dish. Some examples would be risotto, pasta, soup, polenta, casserole and lasagne.
This course may include different meats or fish.
A side dish if you will. Commonly a contorno is served along side a secondo and could be raw or cooked, hot or cold. Most of the time these are vegetables.
If your contorno consisted of leafy veggies, you may not have an insalata. But, if you did not have your vegetable contorno, an insalata would be served at this point.
Formaggi e frutta –
Probably the best part of the meal! An entire course dedicated to local cheeses & seasonal fruits coming from specific regions of Italy.
Tiramisu, panna cotta, pie, cake, panettone, gelato, sorbetto – these are all examples of the delicious desserts that may follow your meal.
Caffe & Digestivo –
The second best part of the meal (in my opinion) and the conclusion of the meal. Digestivo means exactly how it sounds – something to ease digestion after a long meal. First have your Digestivo, which could be grappa, amaro, limoncello or a fruit / herbal based drink. Afterwards you will have your caffe! Most often an espresso or macchiato. An important note – Never order a Cappuccino!
Thats a lot of courses, right? Unfortunately, we don’t always have this much time to enjoy a meal. So with that in mind, I decided to learn three out of 9 courses, which are most necessary when having a meal. Also, thinking about the average American meal, this would be a bit more of a typical dining experience whether at home or in a restaurant.
The three recipes I will be sharing with you via Pietro are …
Antipasto – Mozzarella in Carozza
Secondo – Frutti di mare – Mare Chiaro
Dolce – Zabaglione al Marsala
Mozzarella in Carrozza:
(Literally meaning mozzarella in a carriage) traditionally in the shape of a pinwheel
Recipe for 1-2 people (double ingredients for bigger parties)
Preparation time: 15 min
* Mozzarella or Muenster cheese
* Grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
* Any fresh Italian white bread – crusts removed
* vegetable oil – for frying in deep fryer or butter or olive oil for at home in a skillet
Pietro begins by cutting both the Mozzarella and bread in the shape of a circle. *Cheat with a glass cup or jar*
(You will need two pieces of bread and one piece of cheese to make make this into a sort of sandwich)
With a platter of flour, Pietro tosses around the circles of bread and mozzarella until covered with flour on both sides. With the bowl of egg whites, he dips both the flour covered bread and mozzarella into the egg whites. After covered and wet, Pietro puts the bread and mozzarella together like he is making a sandwich. Once together, he transfers them over to a platter with grated parmesan cheese and covers both sides equally.
Lastly, Pietro places them in the fryer for one minute until lightly crisp and golden in color.
If you are like me and do not have a deep fryer, just sauté on the stove using either vegetable oil or butter!
Simple as that and your done! Time to eat!
*Side Note – Pietro likes to serve his with a slice of lemon on the side.
He also told me that people have been known to serve the carrozza with a red sauce or maybe even a pesto.
To be honest, no added sauces are even necessary as there is so much flavor coming out of these fresh ingredients.
This is melt in your mouth tastiness 😉
Frutti Di Mare – Mare Chiaro:
(meaning light sea) opposed to Mare Scuro (meaning dark sea) which usually consists of chopped tomatoes
Preparation time: 20 -25 min
* 2 tablespoons Virgin Olive Oil
* 1/2 tablespoon chopped garlic
* Pinch of hot pepper Flakes
* Your choice of clams, shrimp, mussels or octopus (3 – 4 of each)
To start, Pietro heats the water for the pasta. When the water is boiling he adds the pasta and a touch of salt. Cook pasta al dente.
In a separate sauté pan, Pietro mixes the olive oil and chopped garlic. Once the garlic begins to brown, he adds fresh parsley, hot pepper and fish stock. He then sautés everything together, while adding his chosen seafood.
Pietro sautés the mixture between 2-3 min or until clams / mussels have opened up.
When the pasta is cooked and the seafood is sautéed, Pietro removes everything from the heat.
He places the pasta on the plate and pours the mixture of seafood and sauce over pasta!
Simple and delicious!
Zabaglione al Marsala:
(often spelled Zabaione a Marsala)
Preparation time: 10-15 min total
Chef Pietro has been serving this simple Italian dolce for years so he basically eyes everything! Anyway, here is how he does it!
He starts with one large bowl. He adds 1 spoonful of sugar, a touch of vanilla and three egg yolks. He then shaves off a small piece of lemon skin from a lemon and tosses it into the mixture. From there Pietro takes one of the broken egg shells, fills it up with Marsala wine and pours it in. With a spoonful of water to finish it off he whisks the ingredients together. From there Pietro is ready to walk the mixture over to the stove. He switches from a whisk to a wooden spoon, which is the traditional way to stir the mixture over the double broiler. (TIP: You want to make sure to keep mixing, otherwise it will start to boil or curdle). As he stirs, the mixture thickens more and more gaining a fluffy and soft consistency. You want to keep it over the double boiler for only about 30 seconds or until smooth.
Continue stirring mixture even after it’s taken off heat. Pour into a champagne or cocktail glass. The Zabaglione can be served warm or at room temperature. Pietro likes to serve his with some sort of berry. You can have the berries lay at the bottom of the glass for a little surprise at the end of your tasting or a top of the dessert. A little wafer or cookie could be a tasty accompaniment too!
Now you too know just how simple Italian cooking can be! With minimal and fresh ingredients you can create the best meal possible!
Now start Cooking!