October 3, 2008
In Italy, now there’s a tendency to define the original and true recipe of Italian staples: the original recipe of pesto Genovese, the true and only one ragù alla Bolognese recipe, the ultimate Neapolitan pizza, and so on. In its very conception, this search is a contradiction with the soul of Italian cuisine. In fact, it’s impossible to choose only one recipe because in Italy each region, each town, each village and each mamma has their very own recipes.
However, and as an undesirable consequence of its globalization, Italian cuisine has suffered immensely from the worldwide appearance of veritable impostors that don’t do any justice to the real McCoy. As a way to respond to this deterioration that harms the reputation and – more important – the taste of Italian traditional recipes, some groups claim they have the original and unique recipe and they fight to impose this way of producing as being the only one. When this happens, you’ll see the famous Italian labels DOP and DOC. DOP means Denominazione di Origine Protetta (Protected Designation of Origin, mostly used for local produce of a specific region as well as for traditional processed products), while DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata (Controlled Designation of Origin, which is used mostly for wines).
What I like about this idea is that they do indeed set the standards for industrial production, ensuring that even if you’re in America, Canada or anywhere else outside Italy, you can be sure you’ll be purchasing something that’s very close to the thing that mamma Giuseppa and aunt Ernestina prepare following their own traditions, and that uncle Carmelo grows in his garden.
Some DOP Italian products:
Modena Balsamic vinegar, Emilia Romagna
Genovese Basil, Liguria
Chianti Classico Olive Oil, Tuscany
Gorgonzola cheese, Piemonte and Lombardy
Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, Campania and Lazio
San Marzano Tomatoes, Campania
Prosciutto di Parma, Emilia Romagna
Parmigiano Romano Cheese, Emilia Romagna and Lombardy
Pecorino Romano Cheese, Tuscany, Lazio and Sardinia
Mozzarella and Neapolitan pizza are both considered STG (specialità tradizionale garantita or guaranteed traditional specialty), which sets traditional standards for a product that are associated with a specific region, while the production itself is not restricted to that region.
The Consorzio del pesto Genovese is fighting to obtain the DOP label for pesto.
There’s also DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita – Guaranteed Controlled Designation of Origin) which has higher standards than DOC. I know it’s complicated.