Vitello Tonnato, vitel tonnè in Piedmontese, is a veal loin slowly poached in white wine and water with aromatics, then cooled and thinly sliced with a canned tuna, salted anchovy, salted caper and boiled egg sauce. It’s a dish that became the elegant starter in the 80s, yet remained also as an ancient dish which reflects the history of inland Piemonte and the salt routes that pass through it. It’s an antipasto dish which can also be found as a main course on some menus. It’s a great summer dish.
In the middle ages, salt was a high demand product for preserving meat and fish, so it became a valuable and expensive trade item. Governments in Europe started to tax the salt, making it even more expensive.
Likewise, beef from Piemonte was highly sought after. Salt routes evolved, bringing salt, salted anchovies and olive oil to landlocked Piemonte in exchange for beef. And who’s to say they didn’t sneak a little extra salt with the salted anchovies to evade the tax? Not that taxes have ever been evaded in Italy…
So, along with Bagna càuda, the Piemontese table becomes laden with the non-local ingredient called acciughe salate, salted anchovies.