Surprising Gaeta, Italy; You Haven’t Heard of It But You Should

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 “Whether it be hiking along the rugged coastal mountains or shopping in the busy downtown thoroughfare, Gaeta is truly one of Italy’s hidden treasures.”  Nicola Tarallo

 Nicola Tarallo is very passionate about his hometown of Gaeta.  Acting as the town ambassador, Nicola not only knows everyone but also little secrets that guide books don’t tell you.

Just south of Rome by 86 miles and 59 miles north of Naples, Gaeta is a stunning seaside village with golden sandy beaches. It is still a bit undiscovered, but if you find Nicola there it won’t remain a mystery for long. On his website, he has a long list of fans that have visited him in Gaeta.  His authentic friendship and helpfulness are highly regarded. His enthusiasm and warm-hearted friendliness will convince you that you have a solid friend that you can depend on.

Have you ever heard of tiella? I never had, until I “met” Nicola on Twitter. He was excited to discover not only my passion for Italy but that my hometown of Portland, Oregon is where he spent a year attending college.

Nicola has learned the secrets of traditional family meals handed down through many generations. His nonna, mother and aunts cooked over a wood fired oven, teaching him their recipes for traditional local cuisine. One popular specialty in particular is called the tiella. This is a pie shaped dish made of thin layers of dough crimped around the edges to enclose a seafood or vegetable filing. They have become so popular that Nicola has written an e-book, Mangia Tiella, complete with photos and instructional videos. Tiella can be found in almost every bakery and pizzeria in Gaeta. It can be eaten hot or cold and always eaten with one’s hands. Nicola teaches cooking classes on the fine art of making tiella in his home.

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Born in a family committed to high standards and a deep love for their hometown of Gaeta, it is no wonder Nicola fosters the same passion and talent for creative cooking and writing. His grandfather, Nicola Magliocca, wrote several books about the traditions of Gaeta and about the unique dialect of the “Gaetanos.” He received the gold medal from the President of the Republic for good service in the public school system.

Nicola's nonna makes a mean tiella!
Nicola’s nonna makes a mean tiella!

Enjoy the following interview I had just recently with Nicola Tarallo.

Were you born in Gaeta? If so, what was it like growing up in Gaeta? Do you have a particular memory about it?

I was born and raised in Gaeta. It is a safe place to grow up. Gaeta is a very small city with a population of 22,000. You can walk the streets and beaches freely. I finished school through high school. I have good memories of when Gaeta was less populated, and there was more space in the town and on the beaches.

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What inspired you to carry on your family’s tradition of writing books, teaching how to make tiella, and promoting Gaeta?

My lifelong passion for cooking has developed throughout my life while watching and helping my grandmother Maria and my mother Nives prepare delicious Italian dishes in the family’s kitchens. All of my books originate from my love of Gaeta and of my family: I helped my grandfather, Nicola Magliocca, draft and prepare several books about the traditions and history of Gaeta and on the unique dialect of the “Gaetanos.” I also published a book of my grandmother’s poems written about their beloved Gaeta.

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Nicola and a happy tiella class…now they get to taste them!

Your grandfather Nicola and grandmother played a big role in your life. What more do you remember about them?

While my Grandfather and Grandmother were writing their books they did not have a computer, everything was finished with a typewriter, after everything was written by hand.

What are the regional foods of Gaeta?

La Tiella is the most distinctive dish in the city of Gaeta –  kind of a double crusted deep pizza or pie. Traditionally is made with seafood (squid, anchovies or catch of the day) or vegetable. Any seasonal vegetable is suitable for la tiella: zucchini, escarole and spinach are popular favorites. Also Olives of Gaeta are very popular all over the world. Easter Cake (Tortano) and traditional Christmas Cookies (Mostaccioli, Roccocò, Susamieglie, Sciuscèlle)

When you aren’t busy teaching and promoting Gaeta, what other passions do you have?

I enjoy riding my beach bike, and walking on the beach, or up the Regional Park of Monte Orlando.

What is your definition of authentic Italian cuisine?

Using fresh products in every dish you make.

Do you teach tiella making in your home?

I teach Tiella making in my home, and I share my grandmother’s wonderful tiella making tips and techniques. I teach how to prepare the different fillings (zucchini, cheese, anchovy, onion etc.). how to knead the dough; how to roll out the dough; how to seal the two layers of dough in the shape of waves of the ocean.

What brought you to Portland for a year?

I was in Portland to attend College to study English and to practice at a Hospital for the Sleep Disorder Technician program.

What are the local wines and do they play a big part in the everyday life of the people?

Local wines do play a big part in the everyday life of the people. A small amount is usually served at the lunch and dinner hour every day.

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What is the dialect of Gaeta?

The dialect of Gaeta is similar to the dialect of Naples area.

Why should one visit Gaeta ~ what makes it stand out from other cities in Italy?

The weather is always nice all year round, it never gets too cold during the winter, and not to hot or humid during the summer. You are able to get fresh fish everyday from the local fish market. There is much history steeped between the narrow streets and churches to discover. One can be easily enticed into wanting to spend an extended amount of time basking on the golden, sunlit beaches and swimming in the warm summer waters. Whether it be hiking along the rugged coastal mountains or shopping in the busy downtown thoroughfare, Gaeta is truly one of Italy’s hidden treasures.

*Visit Nicola’s website for exciting articles and information about his beautiful Gaeta and family traditions at ladolcegaeta.com

*E-books by Nicola, including how to make tiella, sweets, touring Gaeta and the history at ladolcegaeta.com

Click on Nicola Tarallo to follow on Facebook

35 thoughts on “Surprising Gaeta, Italy; You Haven’t Heard of It But You Should

    • Yes Gaeta is gorgeous as well as all of Italy. I love Southern Italy from Rome to and including Sicily as i’m into ancient history and wine. Gaeta has been famous since ancient times for its olives and it’s olive oil when this part of Italy was called Magna Graecia – Greater Greece.. Here in America the best places to get these olives are reputable Italian markets – delis and especially ones that have olive bars. There’s a great site on the Internet, Gustiamo.com that might be a good source for them as they carry products form all over Italy.. I got onto their email list years ago and have ordered products from them that are difficult to findelsewhere, one being Colatura di Alici. This is the modern version of garum, the anciant Roman fish sauce. it’s different than anything from the orient and I think much better. Basically it’s made with small fish, anchovies i believe, that are layered with sea salt from Trapani and placed in barrels and left to ferment. it sounds a bit gross but the resulting amber liquid that forms after several months is amazing. Ir’s a bit pricey but it’s very concentrated and you use just a little. I use it for Caesar salad dressing if i don’t have any canned anchovies. Gaeta olives are a bit difficult to find here but like a lot of other good things, they’re worth the search. Salute!

      Liked by 1 person

  • We are coming to Gaeta for a month, arriving February 7. WE wish to meet local people to experience the town and authentic culture.

    How do we go about connect and emailing with others now?
    WE generally take a cooking class to learn how to cook local foods, your site really was appealing to me.
    My issue is I am gluten free and this is an issue …..

    Let us know how you would recommend we connect and be able to email with some one now?

    Thanks for your consideration.
    Susan & Bob Mills

    Liked by 1 person

    • All of the wines of Campania are awesome. Look for red wines made from the Aglianico grape. This dark red and very ageworthy wine has been made in Campania since ancient Greek times when this vine was introduced by the Greek Colonists who settled this part of Italy and called it Magna Graecia – Grater Greece. In Campania, look for Aglianico from Benevento and Irpinia, two wine villages near Mt. Vesuvius. In fact Piero Mastroberdino has re created a vineyard in Pompeii to recreat the wines drunk by the anciant Romans. Mstroberdino’s wines are available here if you’re interested in tasting an ancient Roman wine. Also in the red category, look for a wine called Selice Salentino a red wine from Piederosso and Aglianico grapes. In the white category there’s Falanghina, Fiano and Greco, all awesome with seafoods and as aperiifs.Salute!

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      • An addendum tomy posting on the Vini d Campagna. Piero Mastroberdino recently reestablished vineyards in Pompeii using grape varieties used by the ancient Romans to produce their wines.. When these vineyards were rediscovered the scientists found grape vines that had been carbonized but miraculously they were able to do a DNA test on them and determine the grape varieties. Piero Masteroberdino is sometimes called a viticultural archaeologist because he brought many of these grape varieties that almost had gone extinct back to life through propagation known as grafting. The grape varieties Aglianico, Codo de Volpe and Piederosso along with Falanghina, Fiano and Greco di Tufo thrive once again. He is using these varieties to produce a wine he calls ‘Villa di Mysteria’ after the famopus villa in Herculaneum. Unfortunately these wines aren’t being made on a commercial scale as the vineyards are small and production is limited. He does produce some excellent wines under his label that can be found in any good well stocked wine shop. His wines aren’t cheap but as is the case with the good things in life that are in limited quantity., They give us a taste experince and an insight into the past. Salute!

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  • My recent visit to Gaeta was amazing, with help from the Gaeta, Italy: The Ultimate Travel Destination ebook I was able to enjoy all of the historic sites, with a description and a picture I always knew exactly where I was. From the beaches to the churches I will always have a lasting memory. I will be back, but instead of a strange new beautiful place, I will be returning to a place I love. Becky Braet (Le Claire, Iowa)

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    • Thank you Becky! It is a wonderful place with lots to see and do. The ambience is unbeatable. I agree with you…from the beaches to the churches, Gaeta is unforgettable! So glad you are returning.

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  • Loved this post…loved it….I have to tell you that my father spent a year in Gaeta in a refugee camp…or kind of like an orphanage after the war (although he was not orphaned – – but somehow his crafty mother got him “accepted” there because conditions were better than where she was. Anyway….love Gaeta and loved your post….I will go and check out Nicola’s site. (His nonna is way too cute!)

    Liked by 1 person

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