Finally not from a pavement, and after a few days spent in Anzio, we can speak about fish. Every night a few boats sail the sea from the local port . These little wooden fishing boats or “Paranzas” were one of the main local businesses in the past together with hospitality. From the name of these boats comes the name of one of the most delicious fish dish on the coastline: the
“Frittura di Paranza”
which is deep-fried small and medium fish varieties caught on the day and dressed with a bit of lemon juice and salt. Today in Italy we can read “Frittura di Paranza” on so many menus, even in places far from the sea…a natural outcome of widespread food ignorance.
If you manage to wake up at 7am on a holiday morning, you can go to the port and see the Paranzas coming back from the fishing night with full cases. Local fishermen put the night catch on tables along the docks and start the trade.
Traders chat and advertise their fish as the freshest. In a few hours they will be sold out. Just minutes away the wholesale market is crowded with clients, vans and curious people. At 8 pm eveybody is packing up and going away:
transactions are finished, deals are all done.
Paranzas are not in crisis but certainly they work less than before. It is beautiful seeing people still queuing up outside the boats, waiting for the fisherman landing with his boxes. A romantic idea of fishing which is due to fade away as a few are ready to take on the tradition. An interesting phenomenon is happening in this area though. A group of fishermen from the towns of Anzio and Nettuno decided to join their forces in a cooperative named
“La Cooperativa dei pescatori di Anzio e Nettuno”
under this name, these fishermen, with 8 paranzas in their “army” and a few of ideas in their sleeves, opened a market place in Anzio and a restaurant in Nettuno. The result is daily fresh fish at affordable prices both for buying or eating. After the disappointing experience at “Alceste”, yesterday night i went to meet these guys and find out.
The place looks nice, with some arguable style choices, but i went for good food not for interior design. We were welcomed with big smiles and happy faces. Everybody is very keen in stressing that the place is owned and run by fishermen. They have a set menu and a menu a la carte. Either ways you need to speak to the waiter as nothing is written on paper: fish comes on the day and chef Daniele, who supervises the operations in the kitchen, decides what to do with it, based on both local and inventive recipes. It is quite clear that everybody in the fishermen’s families is involved: from cooking to serving, cleaning or helping out. What a great idea uh? time to try their food before living the romance though.
I ordered an
Antipasto di assaggini – a selection of popular small dishes to share
i didn’t expect a selection of 12 (i counted them) dishes to share, from deep-fried to hard boiled, passing through steamed, caramelised and raw, it was a real fresh fish feast and the raw fish platter with different varieties of prawns and fragolino (Pandora fish) carpaccio? …Amazing!
Antonio, our knowledgeable waiter, explained us that they opened only 3 years ago, just after i left Rome, with the idea of putting together their efforts to get stronger and more competitive. They only use fish from the day. They fish it, they cook it, they serve it, they eat it (i hope at some point they do eat it, it is so good!). Antonio as well as all the waiting staff knew everything about the fish we were eating, the recipes. We didn’t have to do anything but saying: ” Let’s have it the way you like it” or “We stick with your plan, whatever it is”. This is how the next dishes came up. Antonio suggested that he had a good sized halibut ideal for a gentle cooking in white wine. “Why not?” we said. Antonio had also a lobster in his hat, so why not to get some “very simple lobster linguine with cherry tomatoes”? I’ve never been so happy to be guided through a menu. The lobster was nice and rich (he came out with it to show us it was still alive and he wasn’t trying to give anything away) in this light sauce of cherry tomatoes slighlty cooked and squashed, not too saucy, almost caramelised. Blissful. The halibut so tender, almost melting in the mouth, with that kick given by the aromatic and dry notes of the white wine sauce. I’ll go there again… now!
“This is our getaway from the crisis, we don’t this deserve to survive only” says Antonio “Everybody is doing something here and we are very proud of what we are realising. You should have come earlier this afternoon. We had a swordfish long as the whole fish counter: all gone now!”. Chef Daniele, and all the people cooking i could not meet in person, just give their freshly caught fish the best way to speak for itself keeping alive a long lasting tradition with creativity, heart and courage. When many “Italian foodies” or “Foodies” from around the world claim they want to bring Italian cuisine to next level, well, they should look at guys like these. Their dishes are modern and sophisticated still, as Maria says, they feed you and never lose track of their local traditions. When you go next level you don’t leave the most important things behind. Lesson learned:
Going to the next level is not being cool and label yourself as a foodie or a food person : it is hard working and keep on with the little things which made you great. It is learning, it is faith, it is curiosity.
I don’t know what i will be writing about tomorrow, but i’m learning, so, please, take a leap of faith, be curious, stay tuned and eat well 😛
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