How chestnuts are roasted in Italy

Cart and I were in Bracciano last weekend to see the la Sagra della Castagna, or Chestnut Festival. It was reported to be quite crowded due to lunch time, so we made a little detour.

Our first stop was in Anguillara Sabazia.

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This is another little town facing Lake Bracciano. We’ve already been to Martignano, a little town facing the lake, in the middle of this year, as well as Bracciano itself. And here in Port of Molo, like the other towns, is very tranquil and beautiful.

I like seeing families chilling out with their kids, taking in the view and listening to the waves.

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And of course the ducks and the seagulls … waiting patiently for crumbs of bread … Greedy little bastards.

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As we were both ravenously hungry, we stopped at a restaurant called Nonna Carolina. It was a charming little restaurant where you could dine and admire the view outside.

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The restaurant specialises in fish caught from the lake. I had a difficult time in choosing between fish pasta or the secondo piatto.  Eventually, knowing how bloated I’d feel if I ate too much, I chose the mixed fried fish platter, so I could try almost everything.

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And here was my meal. At the bottom, the roundish shaped one is Anguilla – Eel. The orangey fillets are Luccio – Pike fish and the small ones on the right is Latterino.

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Don’t be deceived by the simplicity of the dish. It was wonderful. I love the eel especially as it was wonderfully succulent and meaty.

Below, the latterino is basically baby-fish. I really liked eating this. It was slightly crunchy, a little chewy and salty. Not the same, but still not too dissimilar with anchovies.

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The only fish that I didn’t really like unfortunately was the Luccio though. While it wasn’t bad, I thought that the fish would taste much better if it were baked of grilled.

An interesting thing to note, is that all these fishes were Freshwater fishes. And freshwater is called “Aqua dolce” in Italian which literally means sweet water.

Cart had bruschetta with eggplant.

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He also had an interesting pasta with Radicchio – the red vegetable that you see below. Cart loves it.  Not one of my favourite vegetables though as it tends to be bitter.

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I was admiring the tablecloth at the restaurant and casually commented to Cart that it looked nice enough to be turned into a dress.

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An amusing thing I noticed was this sign in the bathroom. The original word was in red ink and someone corrected the word BOTTOM to BUTTON.

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After we had our lunch, we then headed to the Sagra della Castagna, the Chestnut festival which was held in Manziana.

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Unfortunately, it was just a small festival, probably because of the strange weather that we’ve been having that time in Italy affecting the crops.

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There was a bigger one up North, but it was a little too far for us. Nevertheless, there were still a number of interesting things to see. Like foodstalls which uses chestnuts in their dishes.

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Jams and preserves made of chestnuts.

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As other non chestnut related stands.

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So many amazing foods here! Like doughnuts and this twisted dough of tomato and basil.

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There were a lot of street performers too.

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The air definitely felt festive, as like the feeling that I had during the maratona di Roma, earlier this year.

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These was also a group of soldiers performing. Look at their hats all covered with feathers. Cart told me that this was an official outfit.

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But I think the most wonderful performer was this one that we came across. He’s amazing! How does he whistle like that? Just take a listen!

I only knew later that his name is Claudio Montuori, more commonly known as Birdman and he’s famous! Just take a look in youtube and you’d see his other amazing performances.

Eventually we reached the end of the piazza and came across this delectable looking stand. I love roasted corn, but we didn’t stop here.

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Instead we queued up behind this large group of people to get roasted Chestnuts. After all, how can anyone go to a chestnut festival without eating some chestnuts?

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So while Cart was queuing up, I stood in front of the fire. Mainly to keep myself warm but it was also interesting to see how the chestnuts were made. There were at least 4 men around a big tripod with a huge roasting pan attached below it.

First, sticks and kindlings are thrown into the fire

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Then the first man pours the chestnuts in the pan and he’ll let the fire singe the shell. See how the shell looks dark here?

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Eventually the chestnuts will expand inside and the shell will mostly pop away to reveal the yellow flesh. And then the pan will be rotated round and around.

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And then it’ll be passed to another person, taking turns. The pan must be very heavy.

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Eventually, one of the men picks a chestnut to see if it’s ready and when they’ve agreed, the chestnuts are thrown into an already waiting sack.

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And these will be quickly served to the impatient queue.

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One of the nicest feeling is to have a warm chestnut in your hand during the cold season. I felt like a squirrel somewhat after that, sitting at a corner peeling away the shells and nibbling every chestnut till it was all finished!

There was also the boiled chestnut version. I think I’ll try that the next time we come here 🙂

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3 thoughts on “How chestnuts are roasted in Italy”

  1. I love chestnuts! But it’ll be even nicer if it’s already peeled open and ready to eat ;p This Sunday, there’ll be the Festa d’Autunno (Autumn Festival) in our little town and I’ll be helping to sell the chestnuts to the crowd. I miss those fresh chestnuts you find in Singapore..so crispy and juicy!!

    1. Wow, do you have a friend who is managing a stall, Sally? That sounds like a lot of fun! Just be careful of the many hungry paws that will be reaching for you when you sell them!

      1. There’s the local cultural association of our little town which organises this autumn festival every year. So there are the stall selling cakes to raise funds (cakes are donated by whoever wants to give a helping hand, I’ll be making an apple cake!), roasted chestnuts, drinks etc. For the 1st 2 years I was here, I paired with a kind signora but the last 2 yrs I couldn’t help out. So this year I managed to make free time to help out. Yes… it can get quite pawwy when you have a crowd waiting to get a pack of hot chestnuts!

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