They were first regarded with much distrust on this side of the pond. But being a most generous vegetable that adapts well to different climates, Indian peppers, as they were first named for their peppery hotness, rapidly invaded the gardens of even the poorest.
In Italy, while the aristocracy was indulging on fatty meat stuffed with truffles and seasoned with generous amounts of cloves, saffron and cinnamon, the simple-the rural-the peasant folk—masters at making a virtue out of necessity—went about inventing a more "democratic" gastronomia, which still today forms a heritage of flavors.
As for peppers, the evidence is large. From Piedmont to Sicily, there's a plethora of—what else to say—sensual dishes created around peppers, from sottaceto up North to skinned alive in the South. In Piedmonte peppers with anchovies; peperonata and the hot-sauce peverade in Lombardia-Veneta; further south along the Tirreno served with salt cod; pan-fried with olives, capers and pine nuts in Naples; and further down the boot in Puglia—such a refined simplicity in its culinary culture!—its famed frigitelli [in France corne de boeuf—perhaps similarly called in the States those long thin green—and red—peppers] simply fried in olive oil. Not to mention i caponati of Sicily. My, my! And well... pizza with peppers, what's there to say?
All that said... finding a pepper that "carries the Earth—that the Earth carries" ain't so easy. I walk by many a stand, many a mound of peppers at marketplace and natural food store combined, searching for the deformed, the thin-skinned -fleshed -stemmed pepper, the unweighted, the field grown, the supple, the...... Inevitable that the peppers coming from Italy—still—carry all those traits. As do the Corne de boeuf, still mainly small-producer grown inn France... till they become industry darlings—the death knell of any humble vegetable, of any true earth-filled, dirt-filled satiation.
Alright, enough of my lamenting and fulminating. Onward and forward... here's my favorite pepper dish: peperonata. Simple as can be, sumptuous as you could ever want. Enjoy!
By the way, much of the inspiration for the words above come also from a small book entitled : Si Fa Presto a Dire Cotto by Marino Niola.