Above: I brought handmade tortillas, canned salsas, pickled jalapeños, and black beans with me on my recent trip to Italy. The quality of the photo reflects the brio of “taco night” at bromance Giovanni’s house in Brescia.
From a cultural perspective, Mexican and Italian cuisines have a lot in common. Both are “world” cuisines. In other words, they both represent gastronomic traditions that have traveled beyond their original borders and woven themselves into the fabric of cookery across the globe.
When I first moved to New York City in 1997, it was tough to find a decent taco there. But today, Mexican restaurants — high concept and fast food — are as ubiquitous as pizza by-the-slice.
Despite its popularity throughout the world, la cocina mexicana still hasn’t caught on in Italy, except for a spattering of low-quality pseudo-Mexican joints that cater to foreign students in university towns there.
With two trips to Texas and California under his belt, my bromance in Brescia Giovanni Arcari has had the opportunity to sample some of my favorite authentic Mexican as well as Tex Mex and Mission-style cookery.
So it was only natural that I would pack some handmade flour tortillas from Central Market in Austin, cans of my favorite commercial salsas (Herdez), pickled jalapeños, and black beans in my bag to share with my friends in Brescia where I stayed for five nights.
For the taco filling, Giovanni griddle-fired chicken breasts and he sautéed some onions.
But because we didn’t have access to the appropriate queso, we decided to grate up some Asiago. And we were pleasantly surprised by how well it worked with the dish.
On hand to enjoy the new Chicken Asiago Taco were Brescia deputy mayor Laura Castelletti, who also serves as the superintendent of culture for the city, and sommelier, novelist, and journalist Adua Villa.
My time spent with Laura and Adua in Brescia was extraordinary and I have much to report on our conversations and visit.
But for now, I’ll merely reveal that Venezuelan-born Adua and I share a passion for la música ranchera and we ended the night listening, despite Giovanni’s protests, to multiple versions of “Canción Mixteca.”
What a night it was!