Italy's Livorno prides itself on chickpea pie

Fri Feb 5, 2010 8:54am EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Roberta Giaconi

LIVORNO, Italy (Reuters Life!) - Venice has St Mark's Square while Rome offers the Colosseum. But should visitors come to the Italian town of Livorno, its tourist office suggests a gastronomic chickpea pie tour as a main attraction.

Simple street food that looks like a large pizza only thinner and more yellow in color, the "torta di ceci" is a delicacy favored all along the Tyrrenic coast, but particularly popular in the Tuscany and Liguria regions.

In Livorno, which lies on the central coast of Italy, the local tourist board insists on a walking taste tour of some of its 20 little pie shops to sample "a bit of the city flavor."

Locals pride themselves of the savory food made from chickpea flour, peanut oil, water and a pinch of salt. Although called a pie, it is more of a fritter, served as a sandwich in white bread, sometimes with grilled eggplant.

Often called different names in different areas -- like farinata" in Liguria or "cecina" in Pisa -- the pie's origins go back to 1284, during the battle of Meloria which saw Genoa attacking Pisa to win control of the North-Tyrrenian coast.

Genoese ships were caught in a storm and seawater started flooding the holds, soaking sacks containing chickpeas and breaking and spilling containers with cooking oil.

A type of mush came out of the mix and sailors and prisoners tried to eat it to survive, only to find it was inedible. Leftovers were forgotten out on deck. Baked by the burning sun, the mush turned into a tasty flat fritter and was gobbled up.

The crew soon began cooking the food back on the mainland.   Continued...