People in the city of Urbino speak fondly of growing up with crescia, a flatbread farmers carried to the fields
It is a lazy Sunday in Urbino, Italy, but for Roberto Borfecchia this day means an outing with his father to get crescia, a dense but thin and flaky flatbread that is a hallmark of this city’s cuisine.
When Borfecciha was a child, the father-son trek for crescia was a special treat. “Now crescia reminds me of summer, because that is when I usually eat it,” says Borfecchia.
Today found in most Urbino restaurants, crescia originally was considered the poor man’s bread, because farmers were able to take it out to the fields with them. The food is rich and easy to preserve, making it the perfect meal for laborers.
The bread consists of flour, water, lard, eggs and pepper. The lard gives the bread its flaky and crunchy exterior, while keeping it soft and chewy on the inside. Traditionally it’s eaten unaccompanied, but now it is often served with prosciutto and cheese, or other ingredients to create more bountiful meal.
For Antonio Fabi, crescia brings back memories of high school. After a festival it would be sold at half price. Fabi and his high school friends would run over after school and enjoy the afternoon snack. “I just love the ingredients!” Fabi said.
One of the first restaurants in Urbino to sell crescia was Il Ragno d’Oro, established just after the end of WWII. Here, crescia is made fresh before your eyes. Tender care makes it special: each disc of dough is rolled by experienced hands, cognizant of a 100-year tradition. Oil added to the dough deepens the flavor.
Fresh crescia filled with cheese and prosciutto sells for 4 euro.
“My grandmother would make it when I was a child,” recalled Barbara Serafini, who works behind the counter at Il Ragno d’Oro. “She would give me small amounts of dough so I could make mini crescia.”
No one mass-produced crescia until the 21st century. Paolo Gerardi and his then-fiance met a man working in the supermarket business. They teamed up, and in 2001 established Il Panaro, the first factory to mass-produce crescia. Today Il Panaro produces 4,000 to 6,000 pieces of crescia daily.
Although the factory distributes crescia all over Italy, especially in the north, crescia is still considered a hallmark of Urbino cuisine.
“We have 15 employees here at the factory,” Gerardi said. “Only the women make crescia, because they are more skilled with their hands and have less hair on their arms. However, we do have a boy that delivers the crescia.”
This article was adapted from Urbino View, the English-language magazine of Italy’s Le Marche region, produced annually by journalism interns of IEI Media.
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