San Daniele is a magical place that satisfies all the senses, combining breathtaking panoramas with the taste of its delicious products. Surrounded by mountains and the Adriatic Sea, San Daniele is an elegant town, rich in history and culture. By day tourists can visit ancient churches, art patrimony located in venetian-gothic chapels or appreciate the famous Guarneriana Library (where you can find ancient Bibles of the XII Century and many volumes of medieval and classical literature).
In earlier centuries, people came here from other parts of the world and their influence still remains today in the beautiful architecture, history and gastronomy. The most famous product of this area is the San Daniele Ham D.O.P. By tasting these sweet ham slices, everyone can discover the beauty of the place – even if they cannot visit it in person.
The king of taste
San Daniele ham is rooted in deep traditions and a long gastronomical history. In the past, pig farming was a normal activity in Friuli, especially in San Daniele. Celts were the first inhabitants of this land and maybe they were the true forefathers of the ham’s production: these populations were able to preserve the pig’s meats for surviving during cold months. Roman populations improved the celts’ experiments, introducing new techniques of preservation and maturing of the pig’s meat. This product remained a delicacy for aristocracy until the end of the 1800s. Throughout time the quality level of San Daniele’s ham got higher and higher. An important factor was also climate and conditions. Cold Alpine winds and humid Adriatic winds create both the right temperature for the meat’s preservation. Now distributed all over the world, only the San Daniele Consorzio (syndicate) can decide if pigs legs will become San Daniele’s Ham D.O.P. as a guarantee of authenticity.
Cooking San Daniele’s ham D.O.P.
Eating San Daniele’s ham is a joy for the taste buds. Its sweet, raw and aromatic slices melt in the mouth, soft because of the white fat running through each slice, and the mix of dark and light pink colors display its maturity level. It is important to know how to slice and serve it – with a good quality wine, for example. In San Daniele del Friuli there are many “osterie” and restaurants where tourists can sample this delicious ham, and discover a new way of tasting it, whilst drinking excellent Friuli wines. From all of them, I recommend Tancredi’s Osteria.
… But its favorite husband is Friulano!
Even if San Daniele’s Ham D.O.P can be tasted with several products and different wines, Friulano marries best. This wine is the most representative of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. In San Daniele last summer there was a famous wine competition called Gran Noè Friulano & Friends: where the jury agreed upon Friulano’s winning qualities and its wonderful pairing with San Daniele’s ham. Tourists and inhabitants enjoyed this union of taste during the famous event Aria di Festa: an important gastronomic meeting which involves the whole city annually at the end of June for ham tasting. Friulano is a white and perfumed wine: its bouquet smells good and tastes like bitter almond. Its color is light yellow; its balance of acidity is very important for cleaning the palate after eating ham.
To Tancredi’s the exclusive marriage between San Daniele’s Ham and Friuli’s wines
While San Daniele’s Ham can be enjoyed with a variety of accompaniments, we would recommend a glass of fresh local wine. We went to a small osteria (tavern), Tancredi’s, located in the heart of the city, in a quiet street in front of the Saint Anthony Abate church. Tancredi’s is one of the most well known places to eat ham and taste wine in San Daniele. The restaurant looks elegant with its stone pillars of XIII Century and wooden furnishings. It is also famous for the high quality of products. Here, Silvia Clochiatti and her daughter Guendalina took us on a journey through San Daniele’s gastronomy.
Tancredi’s is a lovely place to go to if you want taste good and genuine products, old traditional dishes of Friuli region and sample fantastic wines of the area. It has a unique feminine touch, warm atmosphere, beautiful table linen candlelight and fragrant flowers. Silvia is a good sommelier and she loves Friuli wines. In her osteria you can find several bottles, your eyes will run from those who belong to the most famous winemakers to the smallest.
Silvia invited us to taste delicious slices of Coradazzi’s ham. Coradazzi’s ham is 18 months old and a glass of Friulano (of Venica winemaker) brought out its sweetness. Silvia suggested versing extra virgin toscan olive oil on ham… only for gourmands! After that, she arrived with a beautiful dish of “Tagliolini alla San Daniele”: a nest of pasta (made with flour and eggs) served with cream and enriched by roasted pearls of ham. Eating it whilst drinking a glass of Friulano Venica will make you feel like you are in heaven. Another delicacy was her creation of slices of chicken breast filled with San Daniele’s ham and Grana Padano cheese sauce and crispy oven grilled potatoes. She served this with a glass of Chardonnay Vie di Romans 2009 (Doc Isonzo); this is the right type of wine for dishes as complicated in taste as this is. The main characteristic of this Chardonnay is that of maturing in barrels. Finally we were given a surprise: white asparagus of Tavagnacco served with cream cheese and slices of San Daniele’s ham, accompanied by a fresh glass of Sauvignon (Specogna winemaker, 2010). This wine has a deep, intense bouquet: its floral notes running across the nose and mouth created the right balance between the asparagus, ham and wine.
Good chef, able sommelier: what else? Silvia has created a kind of eno-gastronomic culture reign summarizing her 35 years of career in a lovely place. Tancredi’s client knows what quality is. –“To offer high level products is a lifestyle choice”- says Silvia: -“it means work harder and harder. My mission is to give all of my professional competence to others. It is difficult but at the end of the day I feel satisfied”-. And if we look upon her wallpaper full of client’s signatures and lovely dedications, we can be sure that Silvia will win her mission.
Tagliolini alla San Daniele (ancient recipe)
What you need (for 4)
55 gr butter
40 gr flour
0,5 dl soup
70 gr cream
50 gr Parmigiano
100 gr ham (in little pieces)
300 gr tagliolini (pasta)
Cream (another spoon)
Salt (as necessary)
Execution: Dissolve butter in a pan, add the flour and cook it for 2 minutes. Pour on the boiled soup and cook for 5 minutes always mixing. In another bowl, mix the egg-yolk with 70 gr of cream and Parmigiano cheese; add this into the pan which contains butter, flour and soup mix. At the same time cook pasta and browned ham pieces with butter in another pan. When pasta is cooked put it in the pan with all ingredients. Add another spoon of cream, a little more Parmigiano cheese and grill in the oven for 10 minutes until it is crispy on the top.
Chicken roulade filled with San Daniele’s ham and Grana Padano.
What you need:
Chicken breast slices
8 ham slices
2 spoons Grana Padano cheese
½ glass white wine Verduzzo
½ glass olive oil
40 gr butter
Execution: Fill a chicken breast with San Daniele ham slices and the mixture of eggs and Grana Padano cheese. Roll chicken breast slices, adjust salt, pepper and cover them with flour. Put oil in a pan and cook the chicken. After few minutes add Verduzzo wine, soup (as necessary) and cook until they’re ready. Serve them with slivers of Grana Padano cheese and oven grilled potatoes.
Article written by Simona Attico, journalist and correspondent for the Friuli Venezia Giulia Region (Italy)
Photography by Nicolò Gambarotto