A Trip to Genzano and Forno a Legna da Sergio
Having made Pane Genzano and having found it to be a very interesting bread, I really wanted to experience the real thing on my recent trip to Italy with my wife. We had our hotel arrange a driver for us and rode went about twenty miles south from Rome to the town of Genzano. Since Pane Genzano pops up occasionally on this forum, it seemed appropriate to share my experiences.
We planned our destination to be Forno a Legna da Sergio, one of the bakeries featured in Dan Leader's book "Local Breads" in the section on Pane Genzano. For those not familiar with Pane Genzano, it is a huge, eight-pound sourdough loaf made from very wet (about 74% hydration) dough, coated with bran to solve sticking and baked very dark that has been made the same way in a wood burning ovens for many years. It is the only bread in Italy to have IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) status. There are about a dozen bakeries in Genzano that make Pane Genzano and each has a devoted following. More on that later.
Here I am in my red Forno Bravo T-shirt and Sergio (the silver haired gentleman across the counter) in his shop.
Here is the bread rack with the Pane Genzano in the upper right.
A close up of the loaf and the label.
And a close up of our light dinner to show the crumb!
After visiting the bakery took our driver to lunch at Trattoria dei Cacciatore (http://www.trattoria-cacciatori.com/ ). The food was outstanding - some of the best we had in Italy - and the house wine was excellent. A great deal! The bread served was clearly not Sergio's but in absence of good communcation ability I asked "Es Pane Genzano, No?" and the owner said "Si, es Pane Genzano!" So then I said, "Pane de Sergio?" and he said, "NO, NO, NO! Es impossible! No, Sergio! Must be Antichi!" This was, of course, accompanied by a generous acccompniment of arm waving and gesturing. And was what I had sort of expected! After lunch we wandered down the street to the Antichi bakery but alas, it was closed for lunch!
All in all we had a great adventure and a great day. Be warned, drivers are expensive. Ours cost about $200 and his English was pretty marginal. The end result was easily the most expensive bread I have ever bought. And I was able to verify that my Pane Genzano - based on Leader's recipe - is a good representation of the original! If you haven't tried Pane Genzano from Leader's book I highly recommend it! (It makes only about a 3 1/2 pound loaf instead of 8!)
One last aside! Genzano loaves are famous for their keeping abilities. We bought the loaf on a Monday morning and were to begin a week long cooking school on Saturday. We kept the loaf whole for three days. (Like many large loaves, the flavor is thought to improve for at least two days so this was planned.) Then we cut of just a bit for our light dinner and saved the rest for our cooking school companions as I was confident no one (even the instructor) would have had Pane Genzano before. Well, the bread made great bruschetta on Saturday and Sunday. And panzanella on Monday. And when the bag of bread got left behind on Wednesday, we used it for crostini. And finished it off as bread crumbs in stuffing ravioli. The giant loaf was extremely useful! And delicious!