When we were in Vercelli, we looked for a specialized delicatessen or fine foods store, so as to be able to see and buy all the specialty rice Vercelli has to offer.
In early March, the rice fields of Vercelli are cold
dusty and barren, as they await the planting
season in the early weeks of Spring. At times,
our souls feel as cold and as barren as these
Vercelli has been the center of the Italian rice production region for centuries. It was here, that Dino de Laurentis, filmed his famous movie, Riso Amaro, Bitter Rice, back in 1949.
At times,our souls feel as cold and as barren as
these rice fields.
So the woman at the Vercelli speciality-foods shop sold us several types of rice: Arborio, Nero Venere, Carnaroli, Sant'Andrea, Badio and Roma.
The mystics often have passed through a long
period, similar to this rice field, which some called
the "dark night of the soul" (Saint John of the
When she rang up the bill, I told her: "I have to drive up north this afternoon, towards Novarra. Could you recommend some place to stop and have lunch on my way up there, and enjoy a good plate of risotto?" The friendly lady behind the register answered one word only: "Confienza."
I was perplexed with her answer: I thought she was telling me to "confess." What would this lady want me to confess?
She must of understood the dumb look on my face, that she had uttered a proper noun: "Confiesa no!Confienza", she clarified : "with an 'n' and a 'z'.
"Confienza is about 20 minutes from here. Take the road out of town and head west, towards Novarra. In the center of the town there is a church. In front of the church, a restaurant. You can't miss it."
The city of Vercelli is in the center of the Italian rice industry, but you don't understand the first thing about Italian rice, until you go out to fields, in places near towns like Confienza, and stop by the processing plants, where they take off the shell, and polish the grain, pack it and getting it ready for the kitchen table.
A modern rice processing and packing plant.
The rice fields have canals and irrigation ditches. There are aqueducts, made of brick and stone. But this time of year, the fields were dry
Past the canal, the road leads to the center of
This street leads to the center
Instead of writing anymore, I will let the photographs we took finish the story of our visit.
The typical main street of a Piedmont town.
We found our way to our
destination: "in front of the Church".
The entrance to the restaurant.
Scales, old pans and other
memorabilia of the family in
the foyer of the restaurant.
An old-time meat grinder with a
The table dressed with cups, white tablecloth, and
underneath golden tablecloth.
"Vitello atonnato" was our
appetizer at the restaurant.
The "Vitello atonnato" is literally
"tuna-fish-ed veal", made with
veal, tuna fish, egg yokes,
mayonnaise, olive oil and capers.
Risotto Panissa, typical of the
Vercelli region: Sant'Andrea rice,
carrots, celery, fagioli (beans),
tomatoes, red wine, butter and
The "Panissa" is a hearty dish,
a peasant tradition, that only in
the last years has been revived
elegant restaurants as a
Panissa Vercellese sometimes is
seasoned with cotica di maliale
We finished our lunch with a
"Semifeddo Ofelia" and an
An assortment of homemade cookies were
our complimentary farewell gift.