The Italian Almanac


Fake Truffles

Italian police have stopped a trade in fake truffles. Health-and-hygiene police raided restaurants around Bologna and found "dubiously sourced and non-genuine truffles," sold as the real thing, they said.

Tests showed the impostors belonged to "a very common North African species of no value, the 'tuber oligospermum'," whose sale is banned in Italy, police said. Four wholesale firms were found near Bologna, Pistoia and Urbino who dressed up the bogus truffles as real ones.

There are hundreds of species of truffles, but only the fruiting body of some are highly prized as a food. The famous 18th-century French epicure and gastronomic pioneer Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin called them "the diamond of the kitchen".

Edible truffles are held in high esteem in French, Spanish, northern Italian and Greek cooking, as well as in international haute cuisine. They fetch high prices on domestic markets in all those countries and large specimens go on sale in international auctions where celebrities and top eateries worldwide vie to bag them.