The Little Eggplant was created as a collective journey from traditional ingredients used in our family kitchens for generations, where everything was created from scratch and with a purpose.
We’ve also drawn inspiration from the streets of Italy and their deli style cafés and food trucks, which are very popular in serving hearty panini and desserts in every city throughout the country.
Our goal is to bring that same warmth and feel to the streets, offices and homes of Winnipeg.
We use only the best products to create delicious food for all to enjoy.
Our pride flows and is evident in the preparation of our menu items. Our sauces and vegetable marinades are made from scratch with the utmost diligence and care.
The garlic gets roasted and peeled for our aioli, as do our sweet and hot peppers for our pepper sauce and spicy mustard.
Precise amounts of herbs and spices are carefully layered to produce an abundance of flavors that complement our selection of cured meats, cheeses, marinated, and fresh vegetables.
Another feature we have added to our panini is the incorporation of two very flavorful and aromatic spreads which are created from scratch as well. Each panini has either a sun-dried tomato or extra virgin olive oil basil spread.
We decided to utilize these heavy hitting flavors as they provide a wonderful texture and scent to each handmade item
A little bit of Italian cuisine history
From ancient times, the roads and coastal ports of the Italian peninsular have always been a crossroads for many cultures where diverse influences met and mingled for centuries.
From the Greeks, Jews, Celts, French, Arabs to Normans, Spaniards, Austrians, the list goes on. And of course, we all know that those classic Italian cooking ingredients such as tomatoes, chocolate, even chilli pepper arrived after the discovery of the Americas.
Ancient Roman food wasn’t that different from what we still see on our tables today. There were vegetables, fruit, cereals, legumes, cheese, eggs, meats and fish, with one of the most fundamental and used ingredients being olive oil.
Pork was both smoked and salted for preservation and provided excellent hams, just like today. Cheeses, in particular, were also of great importance and there was a large variety, just like today. Among those we still enjoy, such as mozzarella, ricotta and pecorino, date back to Roman times.
We have to thank above all Apicius for leaving us wonderful testimonies of Roman cuisine. He lived in the first century BC and the first century AD and handed down the first collection of recipes by cooks in his De Re Coquinaria (Manual of gastronomy).
During the Dark Ages, convents in Italy played a central role both in the cultivation of the raw materials and the role of the kitchen. It is also right to mention the fundamental role of monks in leaving with us a long tradition of making wines and liqueurs. Many typical sweets were also born in convents from the creativity of nuns. Not least Sicilian sweets such as marzipan and cannoli. Others, such as cassata, were prepared for religious festivities.
With the Renaissance came the all-important role of the court. Dishes become works of art, invented to enhance the prestige of the landlord. Perhaps in the same way Roman Emperors were entertained as famously described by Trimalchio.
As international trade expanded by sea so the use of spices from distant lands became popular again, and lucrative. Pepper, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and many others. The shops of speziers also sold sugared almonds and other sweetened candies. Then the American continent was discovered and the classic products we know so well arrived in the Bel Paese: tomatoes, beans, potatoes, cocoa, corn, hot pepper, turkey, aubergines and more.
The Risorgimento in the 19th century saw the rise of what could be described as a borghese or middle class cuisine: not rich, not poor, gourmand perhaps.
The art of coffee making comes from this time as well as the chocolate, ice cream and sorbets we would recognize today, and drinks such as and lemonade and cedrate. Truffles specialities too.
The variety of regional was formally celebrated only twenty years after the unification of Italy by Pellegrino Artusi in his book ‘La Scienza in Cucina e L’arte di Mangiar Bene, 1891 ‘. For the first time, someone put together all regional recipes in one volume. Collected from his journeys and friends, Artusi is still a key reference today.
In the early 20th century, the first travel guides arrived aimed at motorists. As a result, the local cuisine moved towards some standardization as the Locanda popped up along popular routes. Dishes borrowed from other regions and even countries were reproposed by local cooks.
Nevertheless, family run taverns offered, and still do, regional dishes made of simple and genuine local cuisine and were popular as places for lunch family Sunday meals.
In 1929 Ada Boni proposed Il Talismano della Felicità (The Talisman of Happiness), a cookbook aimed at women who could learn how to become perfect housewives. It remained an undisputed reference for many until society moved on.
In the 1950s period, the studies of American biologist Ancel Keys gave us the iconic “Mediterranean Diet“. Nevertheless, dishes requiring a long preparation, such as polenta, legumes, vegetables (turnips, cabbages, cabbages, etc.) gradually disappeared in favor of more practical and quick, pre-cooked and branded food supermarkets supported by the visibility offered by television.
Nowadays, thanks to Slow Food movement and the DOP certifications of products, we are enjoying a moment of more attention to health, the environment, biodiversity and sustainability. Organic food is even now delivered directly to the home, straight from the farmers, as local is considered more healthy.
Such DOP products are backed at an institutional level in Italy and are seen as something to also export, not just as a concept. Shortly, maybe authentic recipes from the most traditional of regional Italian cuisine might just be possible to try in your home.