Balsamic vinegar is one of the richest and most unique ingredients used in Italian cuisine. Besides gracing countless fresh salads, this distinct vinegar can be used as a glaze, as a dipping sauce for fresh bread, or as a flavorsome way to add balance and zest to pan-cooked meats and vegetables. Below, learn more about this zingy condiment and how it came to be.

What is Balsamic Vinegar?

Balsamic vinegar, or aceto balsamico in Italian, is a dark, glossy brown vinegar made from a reduction of red Lambrusco and white Trebbiano wine grapes. Other vinegars are made from wine that has turned acidic and sour with age. 

However, balsamic is made from these grapes without it having been fermented first, using a substance called “grape must,” or freshly crushed juice complete with seeds, stems, and skins. As it ages, balsamic will thicken, changing to a syrup-like consistency resembling molasses.

The Origins of Balsamic Vinegar

Italian cuisine

Balsamic originated in the Modena and Reggio regions of Italy, but the practice of making vinegar from grape must dates all the way back to the Romans. It appears in references to Italian cuisine in several documents from the Middle Ages. 

A “very perfect vinegar” matching the description of balsamic was given as a gift to the visiting Holy Roman Emperor Henry III in 1046, and the 12th century monk and author Donizo refers to the vinegar in a poem.  At this time, balsamic was also known as a miracle cure for various illnesses and as a disinfectant. 

In fact, the Latin root word balsamum means “restorative,” referring to the condiment’s healing properties. By the late 1800s, balsamic vinegar had become a well-loved and established element in Italian cuisine, but the high cost of its traditional recipe kept it off of most dinner tables in the United States for another century. 

In the 1960s, Italian food producers began marketing a more affordable version made for international eaters eager to sample the more delicate cuisine of Northern Italy. By the late 20th century, both versions had become widely popular the world over, equally prized in its liquid form as a dressing and seasoning and its thicker form for delicious appetizers and glazes.

If you’re craving fine Italian cuisine in Springboro, OH, stop by Roma's Pizza & Pasta, Warren County’s premier Italian fine dining establishment. For more than 20 years, the chefs at this local restaurant have prepared a wide selection of dishes according to traditional recipes and American favorites alike. In addition to fresh, delicious pizza and pasta, they offer tasty homemade desserts and carry-out. Call them at (937) 790-1000 to place an order or visit them online to have a look at their menu.