The Gannet loves to discover a new cheese, particularly when it has a name as splendidly evocative as squacquerone. Made from cows’ milk in Romagna in Italy, it is a mild, cream cheese, like a runny stracchino, that nonetheless has a pleasant whiff of the farmyard. It may well become the new burrata.
I was having lunch with Andrea Pianini at Casa Zanni, a splendid restaurant resembling a farmhouse, near Rimini. His family own Galvanina, a soft-drinks company that is blessed with an ancient spring in the hills behind this stretch of the Adriatic coast. Squacquerone is best eaten, so Andrea told me, with piadina, a local flatbread made with flour, water, salt and either lard or olive oil. Zanni insists on the former, cooking it on a formidable, time‑honoured black grill, with a sliver of prosciutto and maybe a tangle of wild rocket, fashioned into a wrap.
He was right. It was delicious: warm, flaky, scorched bread, cool and creamy cheese, sweet ham and peppery rocket. We moved on to strozzapreti – literally “priest stranglers”, short, twisted lengths of pasta, with a sauce made from Zanni’s own sausage (there is an excellent butcher on the premises too) and the last of the summer’s tomatoes. The Zanni crew also make their own wine – I was particularly taken with a 2009 Sangiovese “Roccamastino”.
The Gannet, as regular readers will know, generally prefers his fruit juice to be fermented. But, after Andrea had shown me his spring, I was later tempted to try a heady mix of Campari and Galvanina’s sparkling ruby-orange drink, and it made a very fine preprandial livener.
The prandium in question was also in Rimini, at La Marianna (pictured) in the old fishermen’s quarter of the city, just over the Ponte di Tiberio, the 2,000-year-old bridge that resisted all attempts by the retreating Germans to blow it up in 1944.
La Marianna calls itself a “trattoria di mare”: informal, brightly decorated, with a big terrace and a menu of impeccably fresh seafood, it certainly lives up to its name. The raw came before the cooked – not just sparkling native oysters but mantis shrimps and langoustines, sweet and buttery.
Then gratinated slices of king scallop, served in queen scallop shells; black pasta with tender squid; and lobster with daringly al dente paccheri. I am not sure of the Italian word for tour de force, but this was it. A couple of bottles of excellent Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi sluiced it all down with citrus-tinged elegance, leaving me just enough room for another helping of squacquerone. Blessed, indeed, are the cheesemakers.