Leonardo was one of the world’s greatest geniuses and Italy’s most famous Renaissance man, but have you ever wondered what was on da Vinci’s menu when he put down his paintbrush and picked up his fork?
Even in Leonardo’s day, Italian food was famous for its freshness, quality and creativity, so the painter and inventor probably ate deliciously diverse meals. While he didn’t have the tangy tomatoes that grace Italian menus today – they wouldn’t make waves in Italian cuisine until about a century later than Leonardo’s last meal sometime in 1519 – he did enjoy many of the items that you’ll still find on a great Italian menu.
Mushrooms and wine to make a version of chicken Marsala, lemon for veal piccata and all of the classic Italian cheeses like mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano would have been on the table. He surely would have had access to minced, spiced beef that probably tasted a good bit like modern meatballs even if he had no tomato sauce to put on them. He probably would have had pasta, and he certainly would have enjoyed his meal with garlic and onions, two ancient seasonings.
Fish in many forms would have been on the table. Italians still love great seafood, and they would have loved it in Leonardo’s day, too. Simple preparations with lemon and butter as well as complex pastry-covered, baked versions would have been popular for every meal of the day.
Although these foods would have been served, he probably wouldn’t have eaten all of them. It’s a little known secret that Leonardo preferred a vegetarian diet and probably feasted on sautéed vegetables with eggs and cheese, two foods that would have been abundant for the relatively prosperous painter. He would have had plenty of delicious breads to spread with soft cheese, fresh butter and fig preserves. Italy’s wealth of citrus trees would have added flavor to his food.
Leonardo ate a lot of spinach, too. Any food labeled “Florentine” means with spinach, and that’s where he lived. Catherine de Medici made it part of the world’s culinary vocabulary by bringing her Florentine chefs with her when she went to France. Although she and Leonardo never crossed paths, her cooks were faithfully reproducing the delicious food of Florence, including its spinach-based delights.
In his own writings, Leonardo recommended that everything people ate be “well-cooked and simple.” He never got to sample a classic pizza Napolitano, but he probably would have approved of the simple, but delicious formula of a great crust, perfectly spiced tomato sauce, creamy mozzarella and fresh basil. He may well have eaten something that we might recognize as a pizza. Oven-baked flat rounds of bread brushed with olive oil and dusted with spices and herbs were popular even before pizza as we know and love it was first made in Naples.
The next time you visit Carlino’s, keep Leonardo’s advice in mind and enjoy something well-cooked and simple yourself.Tweet read more
Classic Italian food conjures up images of pizza, spaghetti with meatballs or meaty tomato-infused Bolognese sauces, but these beloved dishes are only part of the country’s culinary history. Carlino’s goes beyond the traditional favorites and common perceptions of what it means to eat Italian to give you a taste of the true Italy.
“French” food originally came from Italy. France has a deserved reputation for turning out some of the world’s finest chefs, but before Italian consort Caterina de’ Medici joined the French court in the 1500s, the rustic fare of the French countryside held sway. It was her longing for the elegant dishes of her homeland that led her to import Italian cooks to the French court. When the French nobility got a taste of the vibrant flavors and fresh ingredients that were the hallmark of Florentine cooking, they adopted it to local produce, forming the basis of classic French cuisine. Although southern Italian food is Carlino’s specialty, you’ll also find Florentine dishes on the menu in homage to the region’s culinary tradition.
Pasta has a Roman history. When you think of a Roman feast, you might not imagine pasta or polenta on the table, but chances are it was. The words “pasta” and “polenta” derive from the Latin word “puls,” a word for ground grains. Etruscan mosaics show cooks grinding meal and water and cutting the resulting thick dough into strips — the precursor to modern pasta. Marco Polo wrote about the Chinese use of pasta, but it wasn’t an unfamiliar dish to him, nor to his Roman forefathers. When you eat pasta, you’re enjoying a taste of real Roman history.
The Romans wrote the book on cooking. Famous Roman gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicius lived in Rome during the rule of the emperor Tiberius. He may or may not have written the cookbook that bore his name, but the collection of ancient Roman recipes has survived into modern times. While some of the food looks decidedly unusual to modern tastes — the Roman love of fermented fish sauce is no longer on a modern Italian menu — other recipes look remarkably modern. The original Apicius cookbook features a version of pesto and a “vitellina fricta” that looks similar to modern veal scallopini.
Italian food is good for your health. Low-carb aficionados might want to order something other than a platter of pasta, but ingredients like olive oil, antioxidant-rich tomatoes and the freshest greens for Italian salads fit well into any dining plan. The Mediterranean diet takes its inspiration from the fresh, robust meals served at Italian villas. Lean chicken, pasta primavera and vegetable-laden panini are as satisfying as they are healthful.
Tomatoes were once thought to be poisonous.When you think of a hearty plate of spaghetti with meatballs, a piquant pasta puttanesca or a saucy pizza, tomatoes come instantly to mind. No other cuisine uses tomatoes as inventively as southern Italian cooking, yet the plant was strictly ornamental in Italian gardens until the mid-1700s. A few exploratory tastes eventually proved that tomatoes were not only safe, but delicious. Italy’s love for the tomato has grown ever since.
We at Carlino’s Restaurant offer our best wishes to you for a wonderful holiday season filled with family and friends, laughter, love, peace and happinessTweet read more