Francine Segan brings true taste of undiscovered Italy to 92Y

BY BETH KAISERMAN

Food historian Francine Segan gives lectures at 92Y and throughout the city. This time, some very special friends helped her discuss her favorite region in Italy, Ascoli Piceno, or what Segan calls the “undiscovered Italy.”

Stuffed olives

The town boasts mountains, a beautiful riviera, great food and wineries, Segan said. To provide the freshest possible taste of the town, Chef Emilio Pasqualini flew in to prepare foods for the evening. Segan experienced an amazing meal at his restaurant, Cantina del Picchio, where she had many Italian foods she had never tried before.

Vegetable pasta

On his trip here for the lecture, Pasqualini brought so many olives that Segan couldn’t fit all of them in her refrigerator. The night began with stuffed, fried olives and sparkling wine from wine company Velenosi. Pasqualini also assembled a vegetable pasta with string beans, mushrooms, garlic and fennel. After cooking each veggie separately in Segan’s apartment, the fennel water was used to create a bechamel sauce, and the dish was topped with delicious mozzarella and pecorino. The mozzarella was incredible — it had an amazing, just-salty-enough bite to it. There was also a tasty cheese bread (known there as “pizza”) and a tuna focaccia.

The proof was there in liquid form, too, as representatives from seven of the region’s wineries brought an assortment of wines for guests to taste. These wines use the least amount of sulfites possible, Segan said. (And apparently don’t cause hangovers!)

Piero Celani, President of the province, was there as well, truly showcasing the pride locals have for their home.

So what good eats did Chef Pasqualini enjoy here after trekking across the ocean with all those olives? Pizza, no. He laughed at the thought of it. But a burger from Shake Shack and a Tsunami dog from Crif Dogs hit the spot. He was impressed with the balance of flavors; it was still fast food, but had something more to it, he said.

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