Walkthrough Bakery

September 18, 2009 / Food & Wine
Rome, Lazio

Having a forno (bakery, literally “oven”) just down the street has its advantages and disadvantages. The most obvious advantage is having fresh, hot crusty, wheels and loaves of delicious bread available at all times, not to mention the pans of pizza prepared with fried eggplant, real mozzarella and rughetta, or with boiled spinach and parmigiano, or tiny cherry tomatoes smothered in fresh oregano, etc. etc.

This all leads to the greatest disadvantage; it is impossible to get anything accomplished with the perfume of baking bread wafting non-stop through the air, especially if meal time is approaching.
renella2A serious treatise on the saints of the Middle Ages doesn’t stand a chance against the call of the forno. Would the saints themselves have resisted, or would their temporal selves have hollered “Uncle!”, put down their plumes, resigning themselves to the temptation like this modern day mortal?

On top of it all, this particular forno (Forno Renella, Via del Moro, 15) has an unusual advantage/disadvantage to it. Via the back door, it is the locals’ in-the-know shortcut to the other side of a long block, essentially connecting one street to another. Therefore it is on the daily route to and from Trastevere to the rest of the world. Who can resist?!

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– Thanks to the anonymous, mystery writer (Medieval scholar?) who submitted this fun note!


9 Responses to “Walkthrough Bakery”

  1. Rosemary

    my mouth is watering!I can smell the bread! Well done anonymous! I would probably weigh 300 lbs if I had this bakery down the street from my house!

    Reply
  2. Angelina Limato

    I won’t mention weight here. Something so unfair about being Italian and brought up to love food and having a weight problem. I will however comment on the love of Italian bread. It is the most wonderful thing there is. The smell alone is a bit of heaven. I miss it greatly. In NYC you used to get the real wheels and I remember watching my Grandfather carve it. He could put away some bread with his pasta! My Great Grandfather when he came to America built my Great Grandmother her brick oven here like she had in Italy (well sort of…different country and all). My Dad used to tell me how he and my uncles would snitch a loaf when she would bake and set them on a rack to cool. She would yell at them in Italian but they knew (his words) that she would have been insulted if they hadn’t. I tried making it here with an old recipe and it was pretty good but the water here is too hard so it doesn’t come out quite as well and of course I don’t have the proper oven. What they sell in this area as “italian” is awful! Paints a poor picture for those who don’t know the real thing. A loaf of real Italian bread is pure Heaven. I miss it greatly. This mortal wouldn’t be able to resist the smell at all nor would I be able to work until I had some. I guess it is a weakness but one I don’t want to overcome. Thanks for the article.

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  3. I love the idea of a mystery writer! And I will make it a point to avoid going around the block by slithering through the secret passage. I love learning new wonderful things of my city!

    Grazie anonimo,
    Lola xx

    Reply
  4. Bob Augelli

    Imagine, if you will, a 21 year old first generation American walking down a back street of Genoa after spending several weeks at sea on an aircraft carrier (this particular 21 year old’s uncle came to America from Genoa years earlier and prepared epicurean feasts in his Jersey City kitchen and bought his bread from an Italian bakery in Hoboken.) Now, imagine this 21 year old ensign, having lived on Navy fare since leaving Norfolk months earlier, picking up the unmistakable scent of freshly baked bread emanating from a bakery down the street. Imagine this 21 year old ensign counting out some lire, entering the bakery, and in fractured Italian purchasing a loaf for immediate consumption. Even after 50 years, this entrance into heaven is still fresh in my mind. It doesn’t get any better than this.

    Reply
  5. Gian Banchero

    Dear Angelina;
    Though our water here in Berkeley, California is “soft” and we are lucky enough to have very good bakeries that compete well with what is found in the south of Europe, I still make Italian loaf breads and focaccias. I suggest that if your water isn’t compatible to bread making do as I do when I want to really be authentic and use bottled water from Italy. This method works very well.
    Usually I make the dough in the morning, place it in a plastic bag (sealed) which is left on the kitchen sink, during the day when passing the bag I deflate the dough, this happens about 10 – 15 times throughout the day, the bread is placed in the oven in the early evening, all this fussing with the dough makes for a wonderful product. At my local market can be bought from bins Italian “00” flours for bread and pizza, see if stores in your area sells this flour and try it, it will not disappoint. If you cannot find “00” flour try mixing 2/3 unbleached white flour to 1/3 pastry (cake) flour.

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  6. I am not Italian, but my mother used to make what she called yeast bread or light bread. I can also agree, nothing better than smelling bread baking and then sit down at dinner and enjoy it.
    After 55 years,like BOB said it’s still a fond memory.
    We are very limited, where I live on the kind of flour I can buy.
    Thank you so much GIAN for the flour substitution.
    I am anxious to try that and share that idea.

    Reply
  7. Stanley Crabb

    Oh wow! I couldn’t resist saying something about this “sight”. When we lived in Matera in 1962-3, we got to love the famous pane di Matera. At that time the flour was not “refined” as it is everywhere today. NO, rather it was the kind of flour that is good for you. The farmers and their families literally lived on this bread…all day long when they were in their tiny plot of land (20 tomoli or less). That was all they had, but because it was sooo “heavy” they could work all day with only a section of the entire loaf. Loaves of bread in Matera weighed about 4 kg. each. The batter was made up by the mother or wife at home with her recipe. A boy on a bicycle went by and picked up the raw loaves (seven at a time balanced on a wood plank on his shoulder) and take them to his bakery. The baker would bake them in the brick oven and the boy would deliver the loaves in the afternoon! Fantastic. It is impossible now to describe the taste and the sensation of eating that bread because (1) no one bakes with un-refined flour and (2) bread, even “Matera bread,” is baked in modern ovens. It is a memory one wishes he could recreate, but it’s gone forever. I’ve been back and looked for it, but could only find the modern kind. Too bad. Civilization is wonderful, but the ancients had some things that were better. That bread was much more nutricious than ours now. A slice of the real stuff, anyone?

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  8. Gian Banchero

    OK… Even without the traditional flours of years past and not baking bread in a wood oven you can get a good facsimile with the recipe for Piemontese biova bread at: http://italianintheus.blogspot.com. Once on the site look to the left of the page and click on “tipi di pane/breads” and once transferred click on “Biova/Italian white bread.” I was amazed how this recipe produced a bread similar to what is found in the Italian countryside. Delicious!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply

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