With hundreds to choose from, here's where to start in a world of sliced, Italian cold meats!
The 'banco della gastronomia' is a wonderful place.
Translated into English,the 'Gastronomic Counter' sounds a little dry, but truly it's an awe-inspiring feast for the eyes. Depending on your shop, the glass counters will typically stock selection of Italian cold meats, cheeses, appetisers and some will include cooked food, like trays of lasagne or cannelloni. Standing in the glow of the busy 'Banco della Gastronomia' may feel a little overwhelming, while Italians swiftly move through the numeric, paper ticket system, rolling off their requests, and we have no idea what to choose, or how to ask for it... Niente paura! No worries! Have a read of our blog post "One hectogram and a half" for a detailed look at what you'll find, and how to order from the 'Banco della Gastronomia', today we're delving into affettati.
Affettare - 'to slice'
You can have una fetta di torta - a slice of cake, for example, or una fetta di pizza!
In Italian 'affettati' (sliced) refers to an extensive culinary grouping of thinly sliced meats. These are known to us as lunch meats cold cuts, luncheon meats, cooked meats, sliced meats, cold meats, and deli meats but in Italy it's all affettati. And then we can add the adjective misti - 'mixed' meaning 'a selection' - Affettati misti.
Before slicing, the affettati are known as salumi or insaccati, depending which part of the animal is used. Il salume would be from one part of the animal, like Prosciutto (the leg). Insaccato, like soppressa or salami, is produced from a mixture of cuts thus needs a casing, another of its traits.
All getting a little technical?
Here's a guide:
Our affettati guide
If you're not sure where to start, start here:
Cotto - cooked
Prosciutto Cotto - numero uno! This is traditional, cooked ham - rosy pink, delicate and unsmoked, Italian kids fondly grow up with 'cotto' on their panini and adults love the ham just as much - on pizza, in pasta and classically in tramezzini with funghi.
Porchetta - Spit-roasted pork, rolled with herbs and sliced thickly. Porchetta is packed in juicy flavour, feels rather medieval and is best eaten at room temperature, perhaps on warm ciabatta.
Mortadella - Aaah, la Bologna! This gigantic, pale-pink polony is affectionately known in Italy as 'la Bologna' - an ingredient in Tortellini Bolognesi's very precise recipe, the versatile Mortadella can be minced, chopped, sliced or cut into wedges and comes with pistacchi or without. Like Porchetta, its best eaten simply on a slice of beautiful bread.
Roast Beef (all'inglese) - pronounced with an Italian accent 'rrrosta biif' - it's cooked, but very rare, sliced extremely thinly and often eaten as a light, summer dish, drizzled in olive oil.
Crudo - raw/cured
Speck - lightly-smoked, cured pork from the Alpine Alto Adige region - Speck is used in regional recipes like canederli (traditional bread-based dumplings) we also love Speck sliced on a tagliere or chopped into a risotto or pasta, like our Lasagna Montagna - Speck, mushrooms and smoky scamorza cheese - buonissimo!
Prosciutto Crudo - the queen of all Italian cold meats - melt in your mouth, pink, cured pork leg. The most popular are San Daniele and Parma, both protected geographically, you can read all about Prosciutto, cotto o crudo in our blog post.
Bresaola - salty, lean, cured beef/horse meat. Sliced thinly and served typically with rocket, parmesan and balsamic vinegar as an antipasto.
Coppa - a thick, pork salame made from larger cuts of meat puts tasty, red chunks, marbled with white in every slice.
Salame Milanese - Finely-minced pork and beef/veal made traditionally in Milano. It's seasoned lightly and sliced very thinly onto delicious bread - always a hit with the bambini!
Salamino Piccante - Spicy salami, typically from southern Italian regions like Calabria, where chillies are abundant and pack a punch! This beautiful, flavourful salami is dark red in colour and sliced or diced into dishes to add a tasty little kick. Similar in size to Spanish Chorizo, we love salamino piccante on pizza, bruschetta or in Mangia Mangia's Lasagna Piccante.
We always talk about how dishes change from region to region and one of the best ways to sample these regional differences is to order a tagliere - cold meats/cheese board.
We do love a tagliere, often mentioning this as a shortcut into regional food culture. Perfect to order when you're not sure what starter to have or if you're simply a good ol' foodie who loves to discover local specialities - ask for yours with or without cheese:
Un tagliere di affettati misti (con formaggi) grazie. (See there's that affettati misti!) Big smile and don't worry about any mistakes, chances are your waiter is dying for a chance to practice his English and proudly show off his region's beautiful produce.
Plus, in Italy you've always got your hands to talk!