The French omelette and the Italian frittata are just about as different from each other as the French are from the Italians. One is all fluff and show, a bit like a peacock showing its tail. Don't get me wrong: I love a good French omelette-the lightness of the egg as it is fluffed in the pan, the flavour of good country butter and the last-minute touch, a garnish (the most famous being the seventeenth-century treat of carp roe and tuna). A French omelette needs to be consumed toute suite, otherwise it loses its oomph, like when the peacock folds his tail and walks away. The butter congeals on the plate, as does the fat from the lardons, or bacon bits, and, well, you get the idea.
Although the frittata is the omelette's cousin, sometimes it's hard to believe they are related. The Collins Italian-English Dictionary translates omelette directly to frittata, but the differences are vast. They have in common their base ingredient, egg, and that they are both cooked. They also share a role in an aphorism: in both French and Italian, the saying goes ‘you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs' (non si può fare una frittata senza rompere le uova.) The Culinary Institute of America's The New Professional Chef actually classifies them separately and keeps an almost clean distinction between the omelette and the frittata, although it does tag frittata onto the farmhouse omelette.
A frittata can be eaten hot or cold; an omelette cannot. An omelette takes its prestige from the chef's skills in moving the eggs around in the pan to get that light fluffy texture. While some chefs even separate the whites from the yolks to achieve a light omelette, making a frittata involves concentrating on the ingredients the egg holds together.
The friends I entertained for lunch recently are not vegetarians, but because they eat loads of veggies but meat only rarely, I decided to prepare an array of vegetable dishes. I made autumn eggplants, sliced and grilled, then marinated in garlic, parsley, olive oil and chilli; potatoes with rosemary and very good extra virgin olive oil from the Chianti countryside; day-old homemade bread, grilled, rubbed with garlic, and sprinkled with Maldon sea salt, wild oregano and olive oil; orange and polenta torte; crusty bread fresh out of the oven; and Urbano's chilli marinated olives.