February 5, 2015 / Food & Wine
Rome, Italy

Uh-oh… nothing in the fridge except the usual suspects. Some bread, half a lemon, a miserable piece of butter (in central Italy, who uses that?!), a wilted bit of lettuce, jam, etc. etc. It’s all very disheartening.

Hmm.. what else? Ah, yep. Ever-present… the two Italian nods to the “food in a tube” concept. Concentrato di pomodoro (tomato paste), and the tube of Balena, your pasta d’acciughe (anchovy paste) that no house, at least in Rome for sure, is ever without.

M-huh. And what’s that in the back there? Uch… it’s still there. It’s like that last guest that just won’t leave the party… a withered mozzarella. Actually, since this one is made with cow’s milk it’s technically a fior di latte (lit. milk flower/blossom)… blech, no taste at all. No wonder it’s still in there. Had it been mozzarella di bufala (made with buffalo milk) it would have disappeared immediately. (And regardless, would NEVER have been placed in the fridge.)

AHA! Moment of illumination! “Mo’ t’aggiusto io,” as we say. (Now I’m going to sort you out/put you in your place.) Its fate is sealed, its destiny decided. The insipid cow’s milk palletta (little ball) might just have its glorious swan song yet.

Turn on the oven (medium). Oh boy oh boy.

Out comes the bread, the poor fior di latte, some butter, and the tube of anchovy paste…


Slice some bread and the cheese. Arrange both in alternate layers. In the oven it goes.


Melt two tablespoons of butter and some anchovy paste (you can use whole anchovies too) on a low flame in a small pot. By this point salivary glands are already blowing their gaskets…


When the bread and cheese have symbiotically become one, remove from oven and dribble the “burr’e alici” (Roman for butter and anchovy) across the top.


Mind you, you might not want to serve this to someone who’s not quite fond of anchovies maybe. But for those who are, the simplicity yet ENORMOUS flavor of this unique dish (with roots in Ancient Roman cuisine, see garum) is an absolute hit.

Phew.. emergenza averted. In honor of that sad fior di latte, which came through and redeemed itself afterall, now’s as good a time as any to remember that great Jireček quote;

“We, the unwilling, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.”

(Now just don’t kiss anyone for the next 24 hours.)



by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

17 Responses to “Emergenza!”

  1. Peggy Corrao

    GB, this is only one of the many reasons for our love of all that is Italian. You write it so beautifully. Delicioso!!

  2. Mary Ann

    OMG–this looks simply delicious! Thank you for bringing Italy to us every day.

  3. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    many times I too have been delighted with such simple pranzo, but certainly also caffe…..

  4. And here was I wracking my brains about what to have for dinner tonight……

  5. Candace Utroska

    GB, that was your best ever! And you did just that! I love to read your writing.

  6. Carol lundin

    You tickled my memory, thank you! So delicious, so simple – so how could i have forgotten its existence for any lenghth of time?

  7. Pat Carney Ceccarelli
    Pat Carney Ceccarelli

    An almost empty fridge, our Editor takes a look, and eccoci! Creativity, transformation and magic happens. I’m going out now to find anchovy paste! Many thanks!

  8. David Bridges

    YUM1 We had such cuisine as you concocted in Roma and Firenze the times we visited there. Very good. And you are SO right about the mozzarella!

  9. Alan Mackenzie

    You forgot the ‘Concentrato di pomodoro’ What do you do with it? Answers please! Meawhile saliva is dripping from my chin!


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