So I thought, if you can't find it, go out and grow it. But first, you need the seeds (I know, this is beginning to sound like a chicken and egg story...). But I got lucky. In Italy last fall, while looking for romanesco broccoli seeds (which I never found), I came across a packet of puntarelle seeds and they, ahem, sort of just followed me home. (A number of years ago, a very different kind of seed also "followed" me home from Bhutan, but that is another story, and those seeds are all looonng gone.)
Once home, I planted the seeds and waited. And waited. And waited at least twice as long as the seed packet made me believe possible. But in April, I finally had something to talk about.
And, put politely, it was very obvious that my puntarelle were really something to talk about. They were all, shall we say, most manly. You'd of thought it had been raining testosterone instead of water. Or maybe Cinderella had a kid brother?
Unlike most "greens," you don't focus on the leaves of puntarelle, but the the stems and the shoots that are tucked in at the center of the plant. The shoots are finely sliced and made to swim in ice water for an hour or so to remove some of the bitterness and curl the slices. It also keeps them very crunchy.
This part can be time-consuming, so you really have to like the people who are dining with you. (And they damn well better like the salad, too, and tell you so. Repeatedly.) It may appear seasonally on restaurant menus, such as Locanda in the city.
Drain the slices, pat dry in a towel, and gently mix with a dressing of finely minced garlic, mashed anchovies, olive oil, vinegar and/or lemon juice, and salt to taste.
(If you want to plant some yourself, search for "puntarelle seeds" or "chicory catalogna seeds" and plant late summer/early fall for a holiday season harvest. That's what the Romans do.)