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Exploring Abruzzo's spicy side

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In a Frugal Traveler blog post a few days ago, Matt Gross of The New York Times comments more about his experiences writing his April 11 look homemade cuisine, "Mangia, Mangia!" More specifically, he talks about one ingredient: Abruzzo's surprisingly spicy chili peppers.

Gross writes, "During several meals, a dish of spice went round the table as a condiment -- sometimes dried and crushed, other times crushed, dried and soaked in oil.  While this in itself was not unusual, what was surprising to me was that they were actually spicy. I mean really spicy. Even one of my friends, who is part Thai and knows spicy, considered them powerful."

So, Gross asks, what gives? Or, "...why do the Abruzzese, so far from the global chili belt, like truly hot peppers?" What's your take?