This summer Matt and I spent two weeks exploring less-tourist-laden regions of Italy. For one of those weeks we were centred in a beautifully renovated country house on the top of a steep hill just outside the small town of Urbania (in the region of Le Marche–it’s right over the mountains from Umbria). The house, Sant’Angiolino (run by Daniele and his parents Agostino and Rita), is what Italian’s would refer to as an “agriturismo,” where the food is as important as the accommodation. Sant’Angiolino featured local wines, organic olive oils, in-house salami (cured by Agostino), and spectacular breakfasts prepared daily by Rita.
Each morning we would be treated to numerous (and I mean numerous) freshly baked dolci, as well as plates of fresh meats and cheeses, and locally produced jams and breads. On truly momentous mornings we would be treated to Rita’s frittata with black truffles. We were, we knew, visiting the heart of the Italian truffle region out of season, and so we did not expect truffles to become such a large part of our daily existence while we there. I soon learned, however, that there are several types of truffles, and that summer is black truffle season. Less fragrant and “earthy” than the prized white truffle, the black variety is, nevertheless, very tasty. I should know, I ate a lot of them.
The presence of the delicious dish on the breakfast table was determined by two factors: first, Sheila (Agostino’s truffle dog) had to have found truffles that morning; second, the half-wild chickens raised on the property had to have laid enough eggs that morning to feed the four of us staying in the house. Just as there are few words to describe the taste of a freshly unearthed truffle (even a black one), there are few words to describe the taste of an egg from a half-wild chicken that spends its days wandering around and feeding itself on whatever it finds in the sunflower fields. Italian’s refer to the yolks of such eggs as il rosso, the red, and the frittata they produce is bright orange in colour. Rita’s dish consisted of a loose scrambled egg and sliced truffle concoction (sort of like an unflipped omelete) prepared in a cast iron skillet then topped, no heaped with more truffle slices, and served on a plate with another whole truffle to be sliced on top as desired. The aroma of the fresh truffle as it warms up on the bed of hot eggs is mind altering. After stuffing ourselves senseless each morning, urged on by Rita’s “Prego” and the hurt look in her eyes if we didn’t at least attempt to look like we were going to finish food enough for twenty, we would retire to the front porch and watch the sun finish rising over the not-too-distant mountains.