On our arrival in Varese New Year’s Day, slightly lost and looking for the B&B, we walked past the polentoteca and said “Ooohhhh…..” It was closed, but we took note: we wanted northern Italian food on this trip, and the menu looked amazing. Polenta is not something you see so much on Rome menus: it demands cold weather, ruggedness, skiing trips. Or just being very hungry. And here the sign said polenta alla spina, polenta on tap…… So this was Friday night dinner.
Choices, choices…….. The cheese ones sounded amazing. The owner explained that those are served with a layer of polenta, then cheese, then polenta. “La gorgonzola e nata per morire nella polenta!” (The gorgonzola is born to die in polenta…..). You can choose between classic polenta and taragna polenta, which is the one below. It is a fast food place, but the food was amazing! Really friendly as well, and in the center of Varese.
The taragna polenta is darker, due to inclusion of a local saracen wheat. It’s buckwheat, like they use for pizzocheri in Valtellina. Lovely flavour! This polenta was made at a local mill, stone ground. Very good with cheeses, or with lardo, or with sugar, we were told. I was very tempted by the Nutella or honey dessert option.
I had capriolo e funghi trifolati, roe deer and mushrooms, which was just wonderful, on taragna polenta. My husband had gulash Trentino with funghi porcini, on classic polenta, which was also superb. Excellent beer as well.
Polenta is solid food. We could not finish our plates, and got our leftovers wrapped in foil to eat for lunch the next day. Too good to waste. Wonderful conversation with the owner about polenta. He was bemused why we had chosen to come to Varese, especially when living in Rome. We explained that we had heard about the Sacro Monte, wanted some days near mountains but in not a ski resort, without many foreign tourists, with different food and easy to reach by train. After visiting Foggia we have had great trips to places like this, and Varese was very pleasant indeed. 52 minutes by regional train from Milano (Porta Garibaldi).
And this is the taragna polenta from Mulino Bernasconi, in Malnate (just outside Varese), with buckwheat.
Now we are back in Rome, after bringing back some puff pastry camels for dessert last night, and the first loads of laundry are drying in the afternoon sun. Last day of my holidays, and we have finally unpacked and caught up with Christmas cards and news. Tomorrow is the Epiphany, the giorno della Befana and a public holiday in Italy. I’m packing away tinsel and suitcases and looking forward to cooking again. With polenta and gorgonzola from Varese, and paella spices and chorizo from Spain, there are lots of options. Good to be home again!