The Pinza is one of Trieste’s typical dishes and a traditional agri-food product of Friuli Venezia Giulia. It is a sweet leavened bread with a delicate citrus fragrance. The dough is typically round and scored with three cuts, where the bread is sliced after it is baked. The Pinza can be found in our city all year, but it simply must be on the table around Easter.
Happy Easter and good Pinzas
The origin of Trieste’s Pinza is unmistakably part of the Easter tradition. Its round shape represents the sponge soaked in vinegar in the scene of Christ on the cross, while the ‘titole‘ made with the same dough represents the nails on the cross.
The term ‘pinza‘ (or ‘pinsa‘) is also used in Trentino, Veneto, and Istria. The term was first recorded in Italy in 1256 as meaning focaccia. Its etymology is uncertain because there are different possible connections: the Pinza disciplinary code cites the ancient Greek‘pissa’(pitch, pitch ball), and the Latin ‘pinsa’ was derived from the verb ‘pinsare’ ‘pinsare’ (to crush), then there was ‘pinza/pizza’, influenced by the modern Greek word ‘pìtta’ (a flat bread), and finally there is a possible Hebrew origin, frompita(bread), as on page 93 of A. Ganor and R. Maiber’s ‘Taste of Israel’ cookbook.
Cited in the cookbook ‘Die Süddeutsche Küche‘ published in Graz in 1892 by Katharina Prato, it is also described by Artusi in ‘La scienza in cucina e l’arte del mangiar bene‘ as a loaf made with butter, sugar, and flour. Delicate flavors and simplicity of ingredients are typical of our territory, which, unlike the poorer areas, did not feel the need to enrich the feast dessert with the best things from the pantry.
The ingredients are simple, but the preparation of the dough, taking up to 36 hours, is not. In the first dough made with yeast, water, and flour (starter), the other ingredients are added in two subsequent moments, interspersed with long periods of rest and leavening. In ‘Trieste, spunti del suo passato’ Silvio Rutteri explains how it was…a matter of honour to make the pinzas at home. Starting with the first yeast at four in the morning, the housewives worked on the dough rich in eggs, sugar, and butter in several stages. For ideal baking, housewives relied on a trusted oven, and on Good Friday – in the city and in the outskirts – women could be seen with a tray on their heads carrying the pinzas covered with a cloth to face the final test. The most diffident put notes on each focaccia or made some particular sign: nobody could stand for the pinzas to be baked all together.’
The pinza tradition
Traditionally, then, women prepared the pinza, which was entrusted to the ovens and picked up on Saturday. On Easter Sunday, they went to church with the pinza to have it blessed, and after the mass, the family gathered around the festive table with decorated eggs and Easter dishes: jelly, ham roasted in bread, presnitz and of course the pinza, which was accompanied by ham with fennel flowers or grated kren grated horseradish root.
Where to buy the Pinza in Trieste
You can find the Pinza in all the pastry shops in Trieste. One of the best loved pastry shops in Trieste is Jerian, whose pinza was mentioned by the Gambero Rosso magazine as an offering for Easter breakfast.