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Dish of the Month: Della Terra's Fried Artichokes

By Max McCrory

I’d been anxious to try Della Terra, located in Zelienople, for quite some time and it was definitely worth the wait. The restaurant is located on the town’s charming main street in an old bank, so when you first walk in you’re met with high ceilings and navy blue walls decorated with Dutch masters style paintings. The space is modern yet cozy, which also reflects in the food.

It was so hard to pick just a few things to sample off of the menu, because every single item sounded delectable. We didn’t get to try the wood fired pizzas, which looked incredible and there were so many delectable pastas, it was hard to choose. My companion and I ended up ordering a selection of things to share. We started with the fried chickpeas with chiles and aromatics, which were the perfect combination of crispy and spicy. We then had the garlic bread topped with parmesan and burrata, which was naturally leavened and had a pizza dough like consistency. For our main course, we tried the agnolotti with corn, ricotta, and sage butter. It was a delightful summer dish!

What really caught my attention was the fried artichokes. I’ve never seen these before on a Pittsburgh Italian restaurant menu, so the dish piqued my curiosity. I’ve tried artichokes plenty of times, but I’ve typically only seen them steamed and if they are fried, it’s just the hearts.

I did some research and found that deep fried artichokes originated in the Jewish ghetto of Rome in the 1500s, as artichokes were extremely plentiful compared to other vegetables. Water was scarce in the ghetto, so deep frying was their go-to mode of food preparation. Over time, Italians warmed to this delicious vegetable, which lead to its global popularity.

Della Terra’s fried artichokes looked like beautiful, blossoming flowers when they came out of the kitchen. My mouth was watering before I even took a bite. The artichokes were topped with a cacio e pepe aioli, which I’d never seen on anything other than pasta. The sauce was creamy and rich with a bit of a bite from the pepper. The juice from the grilled lemon served with the dish complemented the luscious sauce and added some freshness. The fried artichokes themselves, were both crunchy and tender, which is how you know something is fried to perfection. Now that I’ve tried this dish, I want to eat it again and again. I’m already planning my next visit to Della Terra.

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