Feel there’s no such thing as too many truffles? Then January is your month at Ristorante Lucia (in Winchester and Boston). That’s because the owners of this Abruzzo restaurant recently bought a 60-acre truffle farm in the Abruzzo region known for its alpine and coastal cuisine, and their winter black truffle crop has just arrived.
“Last January we did a chestnut-amaretti tortelloni and, depending upon the availability of ingredients, [we] may do that again with shaved truffles,” says Anna Frattaroli. She and her husband, Filippo, own the restaurant and truffle farm. “We have about 300 oak trees and cultivate a variety of black truffles—the kind you find in Tuscany—that we harvest twice a year with the biggest crop in January.”
Ever since Ristorante Lucia opened in Boston in 1977, the Frattarolis have been importing ingredients from Abruzzo to give their dishes an authentic flair. But their dream has always been to produce the foodstuffs themselves. In 2001, they bought an old palazzo in the town of Sulmona, where Filippo was born, and turned it into a bed and breakfast. Then they searched for additional land in order to cultivate truffles and make their own olive oil.
“We were working with a wonderful company called Pignatelli Truffles from Sulmona,” explains Frattaroli, “and were constantly talking with the owner and his staff about where to buy land and the age of oak trees to look for.”
In the spring of 2018, the couple found the perfect plot in a lush valley surrounded by mountains. In addition to hundreds of mature oak trees, it also had an olive grove. “Last year was the first pressing of the olive oil and it’s all organic extra-virgin, and vibrant green,” says Frattaroli. “It has a hint of tomato and a hint of almond and grass and is very delicate. We use it at both Lucia’s, not to cook with, but to finish dishes.”
Last year also marked the first time the couple harvested their exotic, prized fungi. A local truffle hunter and his curly-haired Lagotto Romagnolo dogs, bred to hunt truffles due to their keen sense of smell, unearthed the musty, aromatic bounty nestled only six inches below the soil.
This past November, the couple traveled to Italy to witness the second pressing of their olives and gauge the success of their upcoming truffle crop. Aside from no grass around the base of the oak trees, indicating copious truffles lay beneath, the truffle dogs went crazy. So, the couple flew home, leaving the truffles to grow even bigger. Now, these seductive black nuggets are available to enjoy.
While Filippo Frattaroli and executive chef, Federico Zampieri are still contemplating how best to showcase these coveted, fresh morsels, some dishes they’re likely to serve include a house-made tagliatelle topped with butter, fresh grated truffles, and aged Pecorino cheese. They’re also planning to offer a creamy cheese risotto topped with freshly shaved truffles.
When their fresh truffle supply runs out, no need to panic. As with last year, the restaurant has turned much of their harvest into delectable truffle products, including Fette di Tartufo, fresh truffle shavings steeped in olive oil with herbs. They’ve also made Crema di Tartufo Nero, a blend of minced black truffles, olive oil, cheese, and cream and preserved whole truffles in spring water and salt. “Truffles are a treasure, yet the yield is completely dependent upon the weather. Once we run out, though, we run out.”
For more information, visit luciaw.in.