With the 50th Anniversary of Barcolana successfully celebrated and relegated to the annals of history with a record-breaking 2700 boats and more than 250,000 visitors — summer is now officially over and mother nature seems to agree.
Gone are the warm breezy days of early fall, and now grey skies, red sumac and a more tempermental sea are the order of the day. It gets darker a little earlier every evening and the only comfort to the thought of the coming winter is the warm scent of roasted chestnuts wafting throughout the city streets. In Italian, Caldarroste is the term for roasted chestnuts and Castagnari is what they call the vendors.
Chestnuts are everywhere — both in the streets of Trieste as in the stores, but there is a difference! On the left are Horse Chestnuts which are abundant locally but are not for human consumption while on the right are the edible Chestnuts which are cooked and sold as caldarroste. The roasted chestnut vendors of Trieste kicked off their season this week opening their kiosks around town and they will work into Christmas. There are 4 kiosks left in Trieste, one in Via Carducci, two in Via Battisti and one in Largo Barriera.
Probably the most famous one is in Via Carducci, known as “Da Ricky” which was the first to open last Friday to coincide with the throngs of Barcolana attendees.
So what is is about caldearroste? Roasted chestnuts are the OG of street food. Chestnuts have been cultivated since 2000 BC, and both the Greeks and the Romans used chestnuts to feed their armies. People dwelling in the forests with limited access to wheat, used chestnuts as their main source of carbohydrates. The reason for their popularity is not just taste. Chestnuts have low-fat and high fiber content and they are packed with vitamins and minerals such as manganese, potassium, copper, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. At this time of year, shops and homes throughout Italy are laden with variations of chestnut breads, cakes and confections — from castagnaccio, to chestnut cake, mont blanc not to mention the endless savory dishes featuring this rich creamy nut. One of the best versions I’ve had was a bean, mushroom and chestnut minestrone with wild boar meatballs at Ruj in Slovenia… heaven!
Since moving to Italy, chestnuts have replaced popcorn for snacking during our “Netflix & Chill” time in the fall.
We score ours and soak them in water for 20 minutes, then we pre-heat the oven to 400F or 205C and cook for 20 minutes. Then we take them out and put them in a cloth lined bowl, cover and let sit another 5-10 minutes (the steam helps the shells separate more easily from the meat).
You can check out this site for 4 ways to cook chestnuts. https://www.wikihow.com/Cook-Chestnuts