Zidarich Vitovska and horse meat dinner

Tonight I’ll be in Friuli (more on that later) but the weekend between the two working legs of this trip was spent in Padua, as a guest in the lovely home of my wonderful friends Sita and Steve, whom I’ve known since I was a junior at the Università di Padova (remember them [click and scroll down]?).

Sita knows how much I love and miss the horse meat of my beloved Veneto (more on that later) from my days as a grad student in Italy and so she prepared a wonderful dinner of horse meat for us on Friday night.

Steve knows how much I love the tannic white wines of Carso and so he grabbed a bottle of 2007 Zidarich Vitovska from his Eurocave. As it turns out, Sita’s uncle was the architect who designed the Zidarich winery!

The first course was horse meat salamino, ripe olives cured in olive oil, and taralli.

Next came my FAVORITE: sfilacci di cavallo, cured and shredded horse meat, dressed with olive oil and lemon and served with griddle-fried polenta. The horse meat bresaola and raw figs were equally delicious.

As the Vitovska came to room temperature and gently aerated in the glass, its tannic structure began to reveal itself. The floral notes on the nose and the mineral character of this wine blew my mind, so unbelievably good.

Sita really outdid herself with this spezzateino di puledro, pony and horse meat sausage stew, served over polenta (of course).

Horse meat became popular in Italy and France in the 1960s as an affordable source of protein for young families. Today, the Veneto is the only place I know of where it’s common to find horse meat butchers.

By the end of the meal, the Vitovska had opened up gloriously, the white fruit (apple and pear) singing to the rhythm of the wine’s acidity and tannin.

An acoustic guitar was produced and dutifully tuned and a chorus of John Lennon’s “Imagine” and some ubriaco brushed with Prosecco must made for the ideal coda to a meal of happy memories shared with good friends.

I could eat a horse (and I did in Legnaro, PD)

From the “keeping it real” department…

Last April, I hooked up with my really good buddy Gabriele “Elvis” Inglesi after Vinitaly for one of our favorite traditions: meeting the “gang” at the horse restaurant. Yes, the horse — equine meat — restaurant. Horse meat is considered a delicacy in the Veneto (where I lived, studied, and played music for many years) and when Gabriele (aka Lelecaster for his mastery of the Telecaster) and I used to tour as a duo there, we would often spend Sunday evening with our friends at one of the many family-friendly horse restaurants in the hills and countryside outside Padua (btw, Padua is English for Padova, like Florence for Firenze, Rome for Roma, Naples for Napoli). That Sunday night, we went to Trattoria Savio (since 1965) in Legnaro.

Here’s what we ate:

Risotto with sfilacci di cavallo. Sfilacci are thinly sliced “threads” of salt-cured, smoked horse thigh.

Griddle-seared horse salami, sfilacci, horse prosciutto, and grilled white polenta.

Pony filet. Very lean (yet tasty), horse meat became popular in Europe in the 1960s when it was promoted (in particular by the French government) as a nutritious and inexpensive alternative to beef. In Verona, pastissada de caval — horse meat, usually the rump, stewed in wine — is the traditional pairing for Recioto and Amarone (check out Franco’s alarming article on Amarone, overcropping, and excessive production in Valpolicella, published in the February issue of Decanter magazine).

At Trattoria Savio, we drank pitchers of white and red wine. I’m not sure but the white tasted like Verduzzo to me, the red was probably stainless-steel Piave Cabernet and Merlot.

Gabriele is one of the meanest chicken pickers I’ve ever heard. Great friend, great times.