The Traditional Tiella di Gaeta
“Tiella” are small pizzas packed with filling that fit in the palm of your hand. They are a traditional “gaeta” street-food of Lazio.
In Italy, the word “tiella” means oven-dish and is used to refer to several different recipes. These dishes can be found in the territories of Abruzzo, Campania, and Puglia and while they all carry the same name, they are all completely different. The differences are limited not just to ingredients, but they also differ in their traditional preparation methods. That being said they are all characterised by the use of a small, flat and shallow oven dish, the “tiella”, which is used regularly to bake focaccia, pizza, or pastries. Here we will take a look at the traditional “tiella” dish “gaeta”, or “tiella di gaeta” found in Latina province.
Simple yet rich: “Tiella di Gaeta”
“Tiella di Gaeta” is listed as the name for several traditional Italian dishes. The most renowned takes two thin spherical pizza dough bases, and seals them by hand in a stuffed pizza, calzone-esque focaccia. The hand-made crimps give them a distinctive wave-shaped crust. The filling is usually prepared vegetables and seafood. Now-a-days there are many kinds of tiella, but traditionally there are only a few. Traditionally they were stuffed with endive leaves and olives with octopus, or onion with cod. As a home-made dish, tiella were made simply and were also a somewhat ad-lib dish, meaning they were filled with whatever was at-hand. Simple to make and eat, they can be enjoyed while stood up or on-the-go. Owing to the recent boom of “street-food”, Tiella di Gaeta is also garnering continued attention today.
In so many fillings, “Gaeta Olives”
There is one ingredient in this dish which is a specially-made traditional product. They are the “gaeta olives”, or olives soaked in brine. Made from the local olive variety “Itrana”, they are black-tinged-purple in colour, and the flavour is a mix of acidity and a prominent bitterness. They are harvested late and then steeped in plain water to extract their natural bitter taste. After which they are soaked in brine for around five months. This unique processing imparts a characteristic aroma and saltiness to the finished olives. Aside from these olives, there is also a locally produced tomato often used in making tiella. Smaller yet thicker than conventional tomatoes, they have a segmented, garlic-like appearance, and are an incredibly delicious local crop.