Southern Italy: Lavish Calabrese BBQs

Ever indulged in a lavish Calabrese BBQ and one in southern Italy?

Unlike BBQs that I’ve been a part of in Australia or other countries, a Calabrese BBQ is unique – you’ll be surprised at the amount and the type of food served up.

Food in Calabria

The freshness and amazing flavours of wholesome food in Calabria is attributed to produce being seasonal.

Typically in the south, if it’s not in season, it’s not in the shop – apart from imported bananas.

Sounds like the good old days when food tasted so much better? Well, maybe for some of us older folk…

Remember the taste of a vine-ripened juicy tomato bursting an explosion of flavours in your mouth? Hard to replicate these days. Tasted freshly home-made pasta that melts in your mouth? Unlike dry packet pasta, which is good although never the same, fresh pasta is wonderful.

What you can expect at a Calabrese BBQ

If you’re ever lucky enough to be invited to a Calabrese BBQ, you’re in for the long haul and many hours of sampling wonderful delights as the food leaves the BBQ plate. I’m not talking about just meat and sausages as the BBQ’s staple.

A steady procession of traditional Calabrese dishes including, wait for it…pasta cooked over a wood-fire in rustic conditions in the middle of a forest, is also served. Believe me?

Family and guests get together whilst stoking the fire…

Hang Loose Beach, Sila National Park, Calabria, Italy
Photo credit: Neil Lintern

…in this communal ritual to create the most delicious food that’s just as good, if not more so, than in any restaurant.

Of course, someone always brings a boom box as music plays a huge part in the Calabrese psyche. Festivities are typically associated with music.

You may also catch a dance group practising the Tarantella or a folk dance of long ago, in another BBQ spot close by.

If you’re lucky enough, you may even get to sample the Cuddrurieddri – traditional Calabrese potato doughnut that’s sure to win your heart whilst it hits your stomach hard…

Hang loose Beach

The first invitation to a Calabrese BBQ from our good friends in Rogliano resulted in a food coma.

Sublime Tropea red onion fried with sugar and pickled in thick olive oil – totally addictive – is served up with home-preserved olives, hard cheeses, home-made Soppressata, and many delightful salamis.

salami, Sopressa, Hang Loose Beach, Calabria, Italy

Long tables are laid in anticipation and everyone waits patiently for the cooking and feast to commence…

Hang Loose Beach, Calabria, Italy
Famous renown potatoes from the Sila are thrown on the sizzling hot plate together with Cuti bread – crusty outside and doughy soft inside – until cooked and golden brown.

BBQ, Hang Loose Beach, Calabria, Italy
Traditional Calabrese Polpette – delectable meatballs made from fragrant double-minced veal and pork, which are then fried to crispy perfection are lovingly prepared…

Polpette, Hang Loose Beach, Calabria, Italy

…and these are just my favourite BBQ morsels on the menu today.

BBQ at the Sila National Park

Stretching across 74,000-hectares, the majestic Sila National Park sees many local tourists flock to its wonderful mountains, enchanting forests, pristine lakes, and magnificent scenery. And, is also a popular picnic and BBQ haunt with locals.

Sila National Park, Calabria, Italy

The customary long table is heavily laden once more, with a banquet amongst the beautiful natural Sila forest.

BBQ, Sila National Park, Calabria, Italy
The Master Chef sets to work creating masterpieces and this time it’s the very traditional Calabrese Cuddrurieddri.

Transporting ingredients to the forest, potatoes are boiled, mashed and preparation of the dough with yeast takes place in the open, then left to rise under a blanket for an hour before cooking.

BBQ, making Cuddrurieddri, Sila National Park, Calabria, Italy
Cooking in the freshness of the outdoors is rustic but everyone helps and always obliging when this is required.

Juicy thick Calabrese sausages are thrown on the grill…

BBQ, Sila National Park, Calabria, Italy

…whilst a pot of oil is brought to the boil to cook the Cuddrurieddri.

BBQ, making Cuddrurieddri, Sila National Park, Calabria, Italy

Today’s menu also includes an endless stream of freshly-made heavenly Panzerotti – a small Calzone best described as a savoury doughy turnover, stuffed with Passata and Mozzarella before deep frying. Spicy Anchovy stuffed Panzerotti made with Calabrese love also arrive.

More chunky sausages are thrown on the grill in this continual feast.

BBQ, Sila National Park, Calabria, Italy
The first of the Cuddrurieddri is dropped in boiling oil until golden brown and piping hot inside…

BBQ, making Cuddrurieddri, Sila National Park, Calabria, Italy
…another Master Chef in action.

One Cuddrurieddri is more than enough for some…but of course, in true Calabrese style, everything needs sampling – no point declining.

BBQ, making Cuddrurieddri, Sila National Park, Calabria, Italy

Freshy-made Vecchiareddre – a variation of the Cuddrurieddri minus the hole but stuffed with spicy anchovy and Passata – is even more pesante (heavy), but scrumptious.

After the deep food coma, an obligatory walk through the park is a welcomed break.

BBQ, Sila National Park, Calabria, Italy

Hoping to catch a glimpse of the park’s symbol – the ever-elusive wolf amongst the towering Beech and Pine trees – today is not the day.

BBQ, Sila National Park, Calabria, Italy

Stumbling on a dance group practising traditional dance moves, decide to stop for a while and absorb this Calabrese moment.


Where is Calabria?

Calabria, Southern Italy, EuropeDeep in the south of Italy lies the picturesque region of Calabria.

In case you haven’t heard of Calabria, this map gives you an idea of Calabria’s position in the boot – at the toe.

Long shores kiss the sparkling Tyrrhenian Sea, stunning mountains capture the Sila National Park, imposing ancient castles, and with a plethora of tumultuous history, Calabria is Italy’s hidden gem.

The gorgeous Sila National Park is a favourite skiing destination for locals. And, this 74,000-hectare expansive park is great for BBQs, picnics, hiking, and trekking.


Getting to Hang Loose Beach

Rogliano to Hang Loose Beach, Calabria, ItalyJust under an hour’s easy drive on the highway from Rogliano you reach Hang Loose Beach, which lays along the shimmering Tyrrhenian Sea.

Finding a suitable clearing in the sparse tall-treed forest close to the beach, everyone goes about setting up the BBQ and starting a fire.

Picnic tables and chairs emerge as do the home-made appetising starters to nibble on whilst the BBQ’s fire heats up enough.


Getting to the Sila National Park

Rogliano to Sila National Park, Calabria, ItalyThe BBQ spot in the Sila takes a little longer to reach from Rogliano than the Hang Loose Beach venue so over an hour’s drive, but worth it when we arrive.

Love coming to this part of Calabria. And, had a fantastic time deep in the park on a snow trek last winter with a bunch of friends last year.

Although this time there isn’t any snow around, this peaceful park still offers loads of spots for a lovely long stroll following the BBQ coma.

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more global images. More posts on Italy.

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54 thoughts on “Southern Italy: Lavish Calabrese BBQs

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  1. This is exactly the kind of cultural experience that I crave: Overindulgence in local food with the locals. I love how it conveniently took place in a forest, so that you can walk it off in nature.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very tasty Dave and yes, a pot luck type of BBQ but it all seems to go well together.
      Yes, the bars here in southern Italy sell both types of Calzone – deep fried and oven-baked. It’s amazing how almost anything is cooked in the woods and such a treat. The locals say the food tastes better when made out in the woods on a BBQ – think it’s the fire’s fumes enveloping the food (and BBQ-goers). 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! It’s a wonderful social experience and typically a lunch is around 3 hours. My cousin starts at 6am making fresh pasta or Gnocchi and amazing cakes.
      Reminds me a lot of when I was growing up as we always had dinner together or Sunday lunches, yes, even in Australia. Cooking was with mum, aunts and grandmothers to learn the craft of certain regional dishes, which doesn’t happen much these days, and I’ve forgotten most!

      I’m thankful that some cultural experiences didn’t die off with time.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. The series is heart-wrenching – slash wrist material. Most people know about this ugly history, but I didn’t know to this extent. And, it wasn’t just the American Indians that lost all their land and cultures, the Chinese and Mormons were also targeted relentlessly, and of course African Americans – it never seemed to stop, guess it’s still going. 😦

      We’ve gone from eating Italian lavish feasts in the woods to genocide – how extraordinary!

      Liked by 1 person

    3. I’ll remember the brown onion. 🙂
      About the comments, sorry for the delay, I tend to not do much Internet or blogging on week-ends, better to do things with people in person. 😉 But I’m on it. Buona settimana amica mia.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Suzanne, they’re quite different to BBQs in Australia (and possibly New Zealand?).
      Thanks I have a few UK posts scheduled as was there in the summer, but also trying to catch up on digitising past travels…I have 20-plus years to go yet! 😉

      Like

  2. Calabrese, no but I’d like to. The closest I’ve gotten is mountain woods of Molise where as you move about you’re never sure (at least I’m not) if You’ve crossed into Campagna and back again. I love those high windy places where in the tree cover the bad parts of summer – the heat – is never a torment.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I hope you get to try one soon as they’re so much fun.
      Totally agree with you…the tall trees are wonderful and locals do head to the park as it’s much cooler than on the coast.
      Many thanks for leaving me your comment. 🙂

      Like

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