This post covers one of the highlights of our 2012 trip to Italy. Why don't you join us next January for a week-long trip to Emilia-Romagna, Italy, to forage for porcini, and learn to make preserves, pasta, piadina and more at the hands of local artisans who do it the way it's been done for generation upon generation. Tickets are on sale now!
Needless to say, by now we had built up an appetite for seafood. For lunch we descended upon Ristorante San Marco, just catercorner from the pescheria. San Marco is a fairly rustic, straightforward kind of place where they serve just seafood, and plenty of it, simply prepared. We enjoyed the aforementioned canocchie baked in a salt crust of salina camillone di Romagna, sea salt hand-harvested from neighboring Cervia, where the mineral content of the water lends a faintly sweet flavor. Known locally as sale dolce (sweet salt), the finer grade salfiore is also known as sale dei papi, as it was originally reserved for the popes. The salt crust trapped in moisture, keeping the canocchie tender and sweet. We also enjoyed heaping bowls of tiny, super-flavorful vongole, clams bursting with their briny broth. Sorry, no pictures -- we were too busy eating.
After, several of us took a traghetto across the harbor to visit the wholesale fish market. The day's catch was just beginning to come in, like flats of triglie, or mullet.
And bags of various shellfish, like what appeared to be some kind of whelk.
Cesenatico's market operates a little differently than many others. The fish are sold at auction, but it's what's known as a reverse Dutch auction. The fish is brought out on a conveyor belt, and bidding begins with a high price. The price steadily drops until the first nabs it at the price they want. The auctioneer calls the shots from his booth, resembling a ship's prow. The fishing families' flags adorn the auction house.
Had we come later, we would have been able to see the actual auction. But we had to head back to the Hotel Sirena, where chef Roberto DellaPasqua was awaiting us in the kitchen to teach us a few methods of preparing Adriatic fish.
He pulled out a can of anchovies he cured himself. Ingredients: empty can, anchovies, coarse salt. Basta.
Anchovies were the highlight of the class, as Roberto showed us how to lightly marinate them in vinegar, which plumps the flesh and enhances the color of the skin. This alone makes a lovely little bite, especially with a little lettuce and citrus.
But drizzled with fresh olive oil, fresh parsley and finely sliced shallots, they really shine, literally and figuratively. This technique works with many other fish, like the trigilie we saw earlier. (See: Triglie marinate.)
For dinner, guess what? Fish! We headed into town to Osteria del Gran Fritto for their fritto misto, featuring yet more fresh fish from the Adriatic.