Chapter 55: Fettine di Maiale alla Sorrentina

Pork_chops_servedIn September 1968, we went to Milan to cover the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Once again, I arrived early with Vittorio Della Valle.  We stayed at Hotel Duca near the railway station.

Dellavalle knew a restaurant down the Via Luigi Galvani.  Inside the front door of this corner site, the restaurant seemed quite small.  The kitchen, like the Golfe de Naples, was sited in the middle of the restaurant so that anyone could see what was happening.  However, when one walked past the kitchen, one entered the garden of the restaurant which was the size of a Badminton Court.

There was a large pergola from which grapes were hanging down and the vine leaves made an almost complete sun shade, covering the whole garden.  We sat out there for a meal and I was asked by the waiter what sort of food I would like.  I said “Fish”.  I was introduced to a Marinara al cartaccio, a mixture of fish cooked in white wine wrapped in parchment.  First class.  Dellavalle had  Orata al Cartoccio which looked to me like raw beef.  I kept looking the other way while he was eating.

The next day, we dined on the pavement outside the restaurant when I had Fettine di Maiale alla Sorrentina, Sorrento-style Pork slices.

Here’s a recipe:


2 tablespoons of oil
I clove of garlic, cut in half.
4 boned pork loin chops
Salt and Pepper
1 large green pepper, seeds removed, and sliced thinly.
1 x 227gram can of peeled plum tomatoes.
175 grams of button mushrooms, thinly sliced.


Heat the oil and garlic in a large frying pan.
Add the loin chops  and brown lightly on each side.
Put a lid on the pan and cook gently for fifteen minutes.
Remove the chops from the pan and keep hot.
Add the pepper and tomatoes, with their juice, to the pan, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Cover and cook gently for fifteen minutes.
Stir in the mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and cook for five minutes.
Return the chops to the pan, baste with the sauce and simmer for a few minutes.
Serve the chops with the sauce pour over.

Vittorio Dellavalle ordered Half a Pig’s Head, I cannot remember the name of it in Italian.  I could hardly bear to watch him eat and yet I was fascinated as to how he was going to go about it.  He was obviously well practiced at it.  He removed much of the skin and then carefully picked out the meat from the cheek.  He was relishing the experience.  It is from the pig’s head that brawn is produced and I like brawn, but I don’t think I could tackle half a pig’s head.

We were making use of our local freelance cameraman named Bonetta.  He lived in the centre of Milan and he invited us to lunch.  Bonetta was separated from his wife, long since, and had a housekeeper to look after him.  At that time divorce was against Italian law and he had to declare that his “de facto wife” was his housekeeper.  She kept well out of our way while we were there, but it was she who had cooked lunch.

Bonetta collected miniature works of art and they were displayed on the walls of his apartment.  Some were the size of postage stamps.  They would be worth a fortune.

However, back to eating.  As a starter, we had spaghetti without sauce, but a combination of butter and garlic poured on to the hot spaghetti.  Interesting.

This was followed by food that I had never seen before or since.  It was rolled lamb that had been steam cooked.  It was not a breast, there was hardly any fat to be seen.  I did not catch the name of the recipe, if, indeed, one had been offered, but  the intriguing part of the meal was that the lamb was served warm.  Dellavalle pointed out that this was deliberate.  It was another wonderful meal.

We still had time before the Grand Prix to visit the home of Bonetta’s family.  They lived in Saronno, a small town north of Monza.  The house was a real Italian family house which is built round a cobbled courtyard in the round.  Each floor is in the form a gallery and there were three galleries.  It seems that the grandparents of the family lived on the ground floor, their offspring occupied the first floor and their offspring the third.

As the elders shuffled off their mortal coils, the younger members of the family  would all move down a floor.

There Bonetta’s father introduced me to Grappa.  Absolute firewater.  I don’t know how I got it down.  It is powerful stuff made from distilling Pomace, which is the crushed left-overs from wine making, including stalks, seeds and skins

This results in a spirit of between 37.5% and 60% alcohol, enough to blow your head off.

Fritto Misto

Fritto Misto

We went off to lunch on the banks of Lake Como, a bit further north.
We sat  at a table overlooking the lake.  Bonetta said that beef or fish were specialities of the region.

For the first time, I chose Fritto Misto.  A variety of fish and shellfish deep fried in batter with chips.  For a wine, Dellavalle chose a local (ish) red wine called Inferno and it was four years old which, he said, was the best age of this wine.

This trip was a real introduction to Italian food and it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Next Chapter: Chapter 56: Back to Milan

© Terence Gallacher 2015.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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