Located right on the border with Slovenia, Trieste, in the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, has all the characteristics of a frontier town. The city has always been at the centre of an historical crossroads with the Venetians, Slavs, Austrians, and Italians all laying claim to it during its two-thousand-year history. Unsurprisingly all of these people have left their mark on the city, its culture, and of course, its food.
I recently spent a weekend visiting friends in the city and wanted to start Saturday morning like a local. So, I went to the local patisserie in search of tradition and was recommended two things beginning with ‘p’: presnitz and pinza.
Presnitz looks like a coiled snake. It consists of a type of puff pastry stuffed with—take a deep breath—walnuts, almonds, and pine nuts; figs, prunes, dried apricots, and sultanas; chocolate, cinnamon, and cloves; and as if that wasn’t enough, rum.
It tastes as good as it looks. The spices give it a sort of Christmas flavour reminiscent of good Austrian lebkuchen. Pellegrino Artusi (the Italian Mrs Beeton) tried it in Trieste in the nineteenth century and asked for the recipe which he included in his famous book. I will translate and post it at a later date.
Pinza shares its name with a kind of sugary bread pudding from Venice, but all similarity ends there. It really a kind of enriched bread, from the same stable as French brioche and just as lovely. There’s not much more to say about it apart from the fact that it goes very well dipped into fresh espresso.