Eating in Italy is all about pleasure. Everything we do has a reason: from the choice of ingredients to the pairings dish/wine. A particular type of pasta is generally used with that type of sauce because that shape enhances the flavours in an explosion of fragrances. The order of dishes is strictly regulated by rules to enjoy a meal at its best. In other words, everything in Italy as a reason as far as food is concerned.
This set of sometimes unwritten rules leads to enjoy every bite of a dish. Until the very last one. Which in one case has even a name: la scarpetta. And a verb: fare, to do, la scarpetta.
Although the most snob diner might argue that the Scarpetta ritual is not acceptable in a refined dinner, I’d like to remember that snob comes from the Latin sine nobilitatis, which means noblessness. La scarpetta is a tradition that seems to take its origins among the poorest social classes. The nobles can only follow or gently shut up.
What do you need for Scarpetta
You need a dish of pasta, first of all. With sugo or ragù, the so called Bolognese sauce. But it can also be a dish of gnocchi, lasagne, roastbeef, even fish or vegetables. The conditio sine qua non, the prerequisite, is that you have sauce to collect.
The second thing you must have is a peace of bread. It has to be soft. Scarpetta doesn’t work with crunchy bread, brad sticks or crackers. On the contrary, focaccia can work quite well.
When do you do Scarpetta
As soon as you finish your dish of pasta. Pay attention if you are in a restaurant. The waiter might come immediately after and collect your dish. It is all about timing and focus. If you go to the look, or talk to your table companion, you might lose the possibility of doing Scarpetta forever.
So, eyes to the dish and the bread. If the waiters try to take the dish, politely tell him to wait. He/she will understand.
How to do Scarpetta
Take a peace of bread, gently place it in the middle of the dish and drag it towards the borders. You can also opt for a circular movement, or a spiral from inner to outer. You can help yourself with a fork to add some extra sauce on the bread.
And there you are. That ultimate gulp of delicious preparations is ready to detonate in your mouth.
Savor, take a deep breath, smile, chew, drink something and eventually repeat.
Until the dish is cleaned. Which will also tell the cook that you have really appreciated what you have eaten.
Ah, and if a snob tells or looks at you as you have done something inappropriate, dump him/her. Life is too short not to do a Scarpetta.