The man who named his son after an Artichoke

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With some nostalgia, Rome occasionally commemorates Angelo Valiani, a character who made his name at the end of the 19th century as a master of the cold buffet, first at the station of his native town of Orbetello, later in Grosseto, and finally also in Rome. His speciality was Carciofini sott’olio – small, juicy and very tender artichoke heads in oil, which had a mild, slightly bitter flavour and positively melted in the mouth.

Valiani possessed several artichoke fields and personally supervised the planting, harvesting, and processing. He sold the large heads, plucked the outer leaves from the smaller ones, removed the “choke”, boiled them in a stock of water, vinegar, baking soda, and salt, then dried them and layered them carefully with peppercorns and bay leaves in glass jars, covering them with the best virgin olive oil as a final crowning touch. Day after day the Romans crowded into his station buffet, for everyone wanted to eat these delicious artichokes. Valiani’s specialty brought him fame and honour and made him very prosperous.

When his son was born, Valiani decided to call him, for obvious reasons, Carciofino. However, when the baby was to be baptised in the cathedral at Orbetello, the priest refused, for he did not consider it proper that a child should go through life with the name of a plant. The master chef, however, had his answer ready, and replied somewhat larconically, “Father, if our Pope Leo XIII, bears the name of a wild beast, then surely my child can be named after a plant.” The priest could not argue with this, and finally acceded to his unusual request!!

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