Simone Medri and Giuseppe Valletta want to introduce us to a lesser-known Italian tradition through their food truck, Nonna’s Piada. “Piada” is the Romangnolo slang for piadina, a dense flatbread generally covered in meat and cheese and folded like a taco. In the north-east of Italy (where Medri and Valletta are from) they’re everywhere – in restaurants, sport kiosks, beach-side stalls and in people’s homes.
“I landed here four years ago. There is beautiful food here, but when you grow up with something you miss it. So we thought, ‘Why don’t we make it?” So Medri did what any true Italian would – ask his 91-year-old grandma. “She said, 'Simone, if I was 20 years younger I would come to Australia to make it for you’.” Instead she gave Medri her secret recipe for the traditional piadina.
“Throughout history the recipes have changed; thicker, thinner, different ingredients. Our piada is the original version,” says Medri. According to Descriptio Romandiolae (the 14th-century text that first mentions it) it’s just flour, water and salt kneaded with milk and lard. "There's no preservatives, nothing strange,” says Medri. The disc of dough is then grilled on either side and served warm.
The final product is naan-like in texture but flatter and with a slightly flaky outer layer. “The secret is the way you manage those ingredients. The grandmothers know because they've been doing it for 70 years. They've found perfection. That's what we want to replicate here,” says Valetta. It’s served from a white truck with a big cartoon nonna on it, surrounded by drawings of rocking chairs, ingredients and cooking tools. The tagline is “don’t tell anyone”.
Depending on where you go in Italy (the truck’s menu is divided into dishes from towns from the north-east), you’ll find different fillings. The Cesena has stracchino (a young cow’s-milk cheese), rocket and Prosciutto di Parma. Head towards the water and you’ll find the Cesenatico with salami and fontina, and the Cervia with baked spinach, mushrooms, pecorino and fresh chilli. “You'll see none of them have sauces, sauce didn't exist in that time, and they won't exist for us.” Medri says in the future they hope to make some of the cured meats and cheeses themselves.
Check Nonna’s Piada’s Facebook for locations and times.