I remember my first tramezzino.
We were out-skirting the Northern edge of Parma in a silver Fiat Panda on our way to a quaint place called Bagnacavallo. We made a pit stop at an Autogrill, my first brush with Italy’s famed road side stop.
Dotted along the highways and byways throughout Italy are these rest areas known as Autogrills, personally, I love them and find that their food options reign far superior to the gas stations and rest areas in North America. They have everything! Freshly brewed espresso, paninis, pizza, baked goods, chocolate, olive oil, pasta, Parmigiano Reggiano, gifts, magazines, toys –– you name it, it’s there.
We parked the little, Fiat Panda ordered two espressos, swirled a packet of sugar into the cups and shot them back, nice and strong. The smell of food tugged at our stomachs, but we were due for a late lunch in Bagnacavallo, so we resisted the urge to eat everything we saw and grabbed two tramezzini, one each.
Mi amore told me that tramezzini were the perfect snack, and he recalled a period of time where he ate them in Milan, quite often. He has a way of describing things in a “dolce vita” kind of way, I think it’s the Italian in him. How he spoke of the tramezzini had me longing for a bite. I could almost feel the perfectly cut, soft white bread, nice and chewy, rolling off the back of my tongue and into my very empty (at the moment) stomach.
I learned that tramezzini are a popular on-the-go snack found in bars, cafes, train stations and Autogrills throughout Italy. They originated in Turin, as a substitute for English tea sandwiches and spread throughout Italy. These little sandwiches are made from two pieces of soft white bread with the crusts removed and are stuffed with all sorts of fillings like prosciutto, or Caprese, or tuna, capers and tomatoes.
We ate our tramezzini Caprese-style with a thin layer of mozzarella, tomato and basil. The soft, chewy bread reminded me of my childhood, it was the same type of soft bread that my Mom would use to make me a peanut butter and jelly.
Since my first tramezzino at the Autogrill, I’ve tasted others, my favorite was a generously stuffed tuna and olive one from a small counter-serve deli in Venezia, called Rosticceria Gislon.
Today, I made my own tramezzini and reminisced about that first bite on the road trip to Bagnacavallo.
In “Aperitivo,” Marisa Huff features this recipe, also from the Gran Caffe Diemme. The filling is built on the classic ingredients of carbonara sauce: bacon, eggs and cheese.
Makes 4 tramezzini (half sandwiches)
4 ounces guanciale, pancetta or good dry-cured bacon, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
4 hard-cooked eggs, shelled, chopped
1/2 cup loosely packed grated pecorino Romano
3 tablespoons mayonnaise, Italian-style, see recipe, or store-bought
Freshly ground black pepper
4 slices tramezzini bread or white sandwich bread, crusts removed
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, brown the guanciale until crispy and golden, about two minutes, tossing occasionally for even browning. Transfer the guanciale to a paper towel-lined plate and let cool.
In a bowl, mix together the guanciale, eggs, grated pecorino Romano, two tablespoons mayonnaise and a couple of grindings of pepper.
Arrange the bread slices on a cutting board or flat work surface. Spread the remaining mayonnaise atop each slice. Divide the egg mixture between two slices, then close the sandwiches with the remaining bread, mayonnaise-side down. Cut both sandwiches in half either lengthwise or on the diagonal to make four tramezzini.
Makes 1 1/2 cups
In a medium bowl, whisk two large egg yolks (at room temperature) until frothy. (Alternatively, use a handheld electric or stand mixer.) Gradually add 1/2 cup vegetable oil, a tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously until the mixture has thickened. Whisk in the juice of half a lemon and a pinch of fine sea salt. While whisking continuously, gradually add 3/4 cup more vegetable oil and 1/4 cup olive oil. Keeps, covered and refrigerated, for about a week.