Gemma and the Langa tajarin – Italian Cuisine


It is eight o'clock on a Thursday morning and Roddino, a tiny village with just over 400 inhabitants, is wrapped in the silence and mist that hides the hazel groves and the rows of vines, those of Dolcetto and other great Piedmontese wines. The Unesco hills of Barolo a few kilometers away, Sunrise, capital of the Langhe, about twenty, but in Roddino, hidden, it comes on purpose. Hundreds of people do it every week, from every place and for years, but not to visit one of the many castles in the area.

181499Here the monument is L'Tavern by Gemma, keeper of the most genuine Langa cuisine, and the work of art is his pasta, made by hand. In the laboratory there are large wooden tables juxtaposed to be able to roll out a thin and very long sheet, about 15 meters, as smooth as a piece of silk, which Gemma works with two large rolling pins made especially for her, one to spread it and one to wrap it by hand. but no.

181511The work goes on with the preparation of the tajarin, the thin threads of sun eggs and flour, which are his special masterpiece and who move in groups of gourmets towards this previously unknown village. And that Gemma seasoned with Piedmontese simplicity: butter and sage or meat and mushroom sauce. The fixed price tavern menu (veal with tuna sauce, Russian salad, tajarin, agnolotti del plin, braised in Barolo, bunet) is the same as when in 1986 Gemma took over the village club, a spartan tavern for local customers, relying on the most authentic cooking school, the family one. Soon the fame of the club crosses the hill of Roddino and attracts more and more customers.

In 2005 Gemma fulfilled her dream: a place of her own, wider and more welcoming, with a more functional kitchen, but with the same atmosphere. One example is the interior of the tavern, chock full of photographs: the mother Pina, who helped her to make the "raviole”(As agnolotti are called here) and Carlin Petrini, the creator of Slow Food; his son Davide (who helps her in the restaurant) and famous actors. In these photos there is all Gemma: whoever arrives here is treated in the same way, without distinctions. The heart of the place is the laboratory. There every Thursday morning an unusual collective cooking ritual is celebrated. Gemma, with Carla, Luciana and Alfa gets to work in the preparation of the "raviole". Then Piera, Elsa, Antonietta and Lidia, 88 years old, arrive in dribs and drabs. "They work for free" Gemma points out, "when they arrive they arrive". They put on their aprons and start to cut and stuff the sheets that Gemma has prepared in the meantime, folding and spreading them thinner and thinner until the last notch of the machine. Ogtay and Luigi pass the wheel to separate the agnolotti.

181529"Men have them cut," says Gemma with an eloquent smile. All follow the same technique, collecting the filling from a spoon with the tip of a knife to distribute it in perfectly aligned piles on the pasta. Yet each has its own personal way, imperceptibly different in closing and pinching the tiny agnolotti. Until noon, when customers arrive, work goes on and on and on, "as long as there's stuffing," says Gemma. There are about 35 kilos of agnolotti sufficient for the week, made with 12 and a half kilos of flour is 150 eggs. The atmosphere is relaxed, with the story of country events, the playful hint of Luigi who found the mushrooms and the comfort of an apple pie that has arrived in the meantime. In the end, we all eat together "at the table of Mum's friends", as Daniele calls it, strictly reserved every Thursday, despite the full of customers.

A few husbands join their wives, a couple who has come here from Frankfurt are hosted at the same table, and lastly a nephew of Gemma is added. After lunch we chat for more talk and a game of cards, like at the club. Meanwhile, Gemma watches over the kitchen. "It is our support" confides the sweet Lidia, the veteran. And it is understood that the perfect amalgam that Gemma has managed to create is not only that of her tiny agnolotti, so good already so that they can be enjoyed only with a round of oil. Someone called them "social" ravioli, a term that is fashionable today, but which fits perfectly with a collective work, of aggregation and true sharing, "mixed" with friendship and solidarity. As authentic as Gemma's cuisine.

by Paola Mancuso
photo by Michele Tabozzi
from Sale & Pepe Magazine January 2020

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