The wild boar, or cinghiale, of central and southern Italy, is an agricultural threatening nuisance to vegetation, much like deer to the United States, but is readily hunted as an asset to chefs who serve the cinghiale for the palatable pleasure of their carnivorous guests.
This autumn day finds me in Montalcino with my Italian companion Pierangelo. It’s a sleepy time of year in Tuscany, fireplaces perpetually alight, their scents filling the town with signs of life. It's magic.
A gentile yet talkative local man, whom we later warmly call 'con la Parlatina' for his anecdotal nature, leads us to the doorstep of Cesare, a quiet force de cuisine. It’s in Cesare’s tiny unassuming namesake restaurant that he quickly understands I’m there to honor his country’s Sephardic pig with the written word, thanks to Pierangelo.
Brutto in appearance, yet buono in flavor, this swine satisfies, but today I am fortunate beyond my expectations.
After sampling a variety of cinghiale in the form of salame and prosciutto, it’s soft texture melting on my salivating tongue, Cesare surprises us with the rarest of cinghiale sausage, displayed proudly in his palm, prepared with pure cinghiale only for consuming at home or with friends. I barely have time to savour the last slice, when Cesare reappears with his signature black sauce made from the cinghiale’s lung, liver and heart, seasoned with the subtle tanginess of lemon and oil. Served on fresh toasted bread, my own innards and soul are nourished, and I’m grateful for this delicacy nary a tourist is ever offered.
Cesare’s young son dashes in to grab his backpack, off to play with his friends, and most likely to later snack on the sauce of three organs, a normal daily routine. Cesare’s easy green eyes patiently await my own respective hazel roll of appreciative ecstasy, confirming he chose well in sharing his coveted, reserved for friends and family only, sacred preparation.
And yes, we washed it all down with Brunello.
Giggling with delight, fortified, knowing we’ve ingested a special secret, Pierangelo and I brace for the late afternoon wind swirling through Montalcino’s winding streets. Born and bred in Montepulciano, Pierangelo admits that thirty minutes earlier, he too, had been a virgin to this purest offering of the treasured black beast. And, I feel privileged.
da Cesare e Mara
Via Ricasoli, 52