From Bergamo city, I drive 24 kilometres in the direction of the Alps to the small town of Gandino in the Seriana valley at an altitude of 550 metres. Still searching for stories about polenta, I end up in a village that has rediscovered the ancient corn type called spinato. I meet the cook Emanuele Caleca who revived the cereal in his restaurant la Spinata. “Spinato is a cereal that came to the village of Gandino in 1632,” says Emanuele. “In 2007 we started a project to revalue this precious maize variety, because it got lost when the area transformed from agriculture into a textile industry. As the fiber production is long gone now, the hills are used again to produce maize. The ‘Mais Spinato di Gandino’ is yellow in colour and has a ‘spino’ or point. It is its colour, form (spine) and taste that distinguishes it from other maize.
Giambattista Gherardi, who has made the promotion of spinato his life’s goal, joins us. He adds that the grain originally came from south-central Mexico. Via the port of Venice, it somehow came to us, Gianbattista explains. “This is not the corn whose flour you find in supermarkets. Spinato is unique to our region and only available here.”
Star product of the grain is baptised as a brand ‘la Spinata’. You can taste this certified pizza-like dish on the terrace of the eponymous restaurant Spinata, or take it out. This restaurant belongs to the Caleca family and spinata has been on the menu since 2010. La spinata was conceived and developed by Emanuele Caleca. In appearance, it looks like a pizza, but I am not allowed to call it that. It is baked as a kind of grey flatbread based on four types of cereals, including spinato. The dough is topped like a real pizza in different variations. While we are eating a spinata, I was poored also a beer, home made from the spinato grain.
It is a special and very tasteful non-pizza and good beer! For now, you can only eat it in this restaurant. So you have to come here to taste it. And be sure to make a reservation!
Address: La Spinata, Piazza Vittorio Veneto, 11, Gandino (Bergamo)