Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Eastside Road, February 22, 2011—
LUNCH WAS VERY GOOD, I'm sure, but odd, I thought. Fried finger-sized pieces of cardoon to dip in aioli, yes, certainly, I could nibble at those for hours. But rocket salad with smoked sardines, pickled raisins, and Marash pepper; that was a bit like eating in a very good restaurant in Sicily with a Swedish cook in the kitchen. And from there we went to "gnudi," which word I set in quotes because I don't quite believe it.

Google.it turns up a few hits, but the first sets the word in quotes; the second parenthesizes "gnudi" as "(ravioli nudi)". English-language websites claim that "gnudi" is the Italian word for "nude", but that leading "g" isn't there in any Italian dictionary I've consulted: the word's nudo.

I think the initial "g" (in fact, "gn", since it's not the letter but the phoneme that's at issue) is by analogy with the beginning of gnocchi, at least if today's version is typical. It consisted of ricotta and semolina flour rolled up and simmered — at least that's my guess; I didn't verify the technique. The result is in fact a bit like a raviolo lacking its pastry shirt, but it's also like a gnoccho — is that the singular of gnocchi? — substituting cheese for potato.*

It's also, or was today, like an Italian approximation of a typical Austrian dumpling, except that it was more digestible, especially accompanied, as it was, with wild mushrooms, asparagus, peas, and little fronds of chervil: very springy, for weather as cold as this.

That was of course the Principle Meal of the Day, so we supped tonight, back home, on baked potatoes, and basta così.
Roero Arneis, 2009
• Chez Panisse, 151 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; 510.848.5525

*Yes: gnoccho is the singular, I find at the Italian wiktionary. And the etymology is fascinating: from the Veneto dialect word gnòco, "protuberance," possibly from the [early] Lombardic knohhil, "knot" [of wood].

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