Calabria, Part 3: Hot Shopping in Diamante

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Story and Photos by Harald Zoschke

Peperoncino products are “prodotti tipici,” typically Calabrian specialties. So it is no wonder that there’s a whole bunch of stores offering anything made from the local chiles – just like the “hot shops” in the USA. Around festival and harvest time, choices seem to be even more plentiful.

Sapore Calabria

This store offers a wide selection of Calabrian specialties of all kind, especially peperoncino stuff. We found Baci di Casanova (Casanova’s kisses) – excellent dark chocolates with a creamy-smooth chile-spiced center. Expensive but delicious. Also, various liqours kicked up with the hot pods, like a spicy chile-chocolate liquor and a bright red sweet booze named Eropic – liquore al Peperoncino.

Sapore Calabria

Inside Sapore Calabria

Renate (left) doing some hot shopping

Sapore Calabria, Via Emanuele 133 (at the Lungomare, the seaside promenade)

Peccati di Gola

Peccati di Gola

A similar assortment can be found at Peccati di Gola. Besides a wide variety of peperoncino products in jars, this store also has ceramic chile art and an incredible selection of liquor, including “hot” grappa*, with chile pods floating in the bottle. This stuff is tasty!

* Grappa started as a winemaking byproduct – the juice is removed from the grapes, leaving over the skin. Clever wine makers came up with fermenting those grape skins and created an excellent brandy, reducing waste at the same time.

Inside Peccati di Gola

Peccati di Gola, Piazza XI Febbrazio 17, Diamante

Green House

Here we found chile ristras (called fila here), chile oils (often named oleo santo, meaning holy oil), salsa and other specialties, icluding a chile concoction called “la bomba.” We especially enjoyed that there was a lot of sampling going on at various tables. At the entrance, chiles were advertised as “vi agra for the poor.” Now I understand why Renate is feeding me that hot stuff all the time!

Green House

Chiles - if you wanna have a

Chiles – if you wanna have a “hard” time

Green House, at Corso Garibaldi (historical center of Diamante)

Alimentari (everywhere in town)

Part of the intact infrasctructure of this loveable village is that instead of supermarkets, there is a multitude of small mom-and-pop food stores (alimentari). Most of them have a good assortment of peperoncino products, as well as the unbelievable cheeses of the region. These stores also carry the finest olive oil, the stuff the locals buy.

Frutta & Verdura – The produce shop on main street

You can’t fail to notice the Frutta & Verdura produce shop on main street – the colorful merchandise in front of the business can be seen from a distance. If there’s no farmer’s market going on (see further down), this is the best choice to stock up on peperoncini and other produce before traveling home. The shop also sells cedri, giant lemons havested green, and unique to the area. Cedri have the distinguished fragrance and flavor of the tiny Key Limes from the Caribbean, ideal for Corona beer or for giving fresh tropical salsas the finishing touch. The produce shop has also an amazing variety of chile ristras, many of them made right here.

Frutta & Verdura

Fresh made ristras

Around peperoncino harvest time, watch the shop owners make colorful ristras…


…which you can buy, of course. Watch Renate leaving this colorful place with heavy shopping bags!

Some advice regarding opening hours…

In the afternoon, roughly between about 1:30pm to 5 …. 6:00pm, Diamante and other villages in the area basically close down, including all shops and restaurants. Nothing is going on through “siesta time” – and due to the lack of public restrooms, you won’t even have a chance to “go wee-wee.”

Mobile Dealers

Mobile Dealer

Now this is a real pepper mobile! With a little luck you’ll come
across one of the mobile produce dealers. On the small footprint of
their tiny trucks, they offer a great selection, often including ristras
and a variety of fresh peperoncini.

Mobile Dealer

The Farmers Market

Weekdays is farmer’s market on the northern side of  Diamante, and it is hard to leave this place with empty shopping bags. This market is a gourmet’s dream come true: the finest and freshest veggies and fruit from the area, like tomatoes, grapes, figs, melons, eggplant and Cipolla di Tropea, an onion as popular here as Vidalia onions in the United States. And of course plenty of Peperoni as well as Peperoncini from mild to wild.

Farmer's market in Diamante

Another market treat are the great cheeses this region has to offer, for example the pear-shaped Caciocavallo. The name means “cheese on horseback,” because in the old days, back to the 14th century, it used to be transported strung up in pairs, hung over horsebacks. Like provolone and mozzarella,  it is being stretched and shaped by hand. This cheese may be purchased plain or smoked everywhere in Italy, but here you can (of course!) also get a version spiced up with peperoncino bits.

The famous local sausage specialties of the region aren’t missing either: Salsiccia, a lean air-dried pork sausage that is either served raw, thinly sliced as an appetizer, or cooked as part of a main dish. In Calabria, this tasty sausage isn’t just spiced with fennel seed, but optionally with hot peperoncini. I hate myself for bringing home only one ring of salsiccia – everybody loved it, and it went way too fast. Another specialty here is N’duja, a Calabrian sausage so soft that it is spreadable. It is made from various parts of pork, and hefty amounts of peperoncini, which also give it a rich, red color. This spicy spreadable salami is used on bread or on bruschetta, as well as in various pasta dishes.

Pepperoncini Selection at the farmer's market

And of course there’s an enormous selection of olives at this marvelous market – they grow exceptionally well in Calabria.

Like in the old days, Vendors like the guy on the left picture use portable handheld scales and generously round up quantities. Not one stand where you don’t get some great deal.

The hardest part is living with the weight and volume limitations of your travel luggage.

Peperoncini selection at the farmer's market in Diamante

Torture Time

The very same day, after munching some biscotti di mandorle (crunchy, rock-solid but delicious almond cookies), every traveler’s nightmare happened: a gold filling came loose and fell out. Forunately, Franco, our friendly hotel front desk guy (and one of the very few people speaking English here) happened to live next to a dentist, and he gave us directions how to get there. The Studio Medico Dentistico is in Cirella, a small village just 5 minutes driving north of Diamante. The tooth doc didn’t speak English either (“only Italian and Calabrian”) , but fortunately I brought my travel dictionary. So I showed him my golden nugget and recited my newly learned phrase: “la piombatura é andata via!” – a filling made itself on its way! He smiled, obviously understanding my needs. 20 minutes later and with 50 Euro less in my pocket, I left his office with a perfectly fixed tooth. Whew, that called for a double shot of grappa!

Should you ever happen to be in Diamante, and the biscotti di mandorle happen to be too tough for your teeth:
Studio Medico Dentistico, Dr. Saverio Benvenuto, Via Diaz 150, Cirella,  Tel. 0985-86684

Finally – tonight the Pepperoncino Festival will start. Can’t miss the grand opening.


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 Story and Photos by Harald Zoschke

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