Wouldn't you like to get away from the throngs of tourists following the same old itineraries through the same old well-trodden tourist sites? Sure, if you come to Italy you don't want to miss the major art cities like Rome and Florence. But if you want to experience something unique, come to Abruzzo and eat on a trabocco, found only in this small area of Italy's Adriatic coastline.
The writer Gabriele D'Annunzio, who was born nearby in Pescara, described these spindly wooden structures as "a colossal skeleton of an antidiluvian amphibian."
Regular readers of this blog may remember a post I wrote a couple of years ago here introducing trabocchi (plural of trabocco). This year, I actually got to cook on a trabocco with the owners and enjoy an unforgettable meal cooked in a miniscule kitchen beside the sea.
This particular trabocco, Trabocco Punta Tufano, is owned by Rinaldo Veri and his wife Maria, and was rebuilt seven years ago, following a storm in 2006 that destroyed the former structure. But his family has owned a trabocco on this site, near San Vito Chietino, since 1777. They're typically made of a wood from trees that grow nearby and are resistant to the weather, called robinia pseudoacacia, commonly known as the black locust, or false acacia. Large nets are lowered from the long wooden arms and fishermen haul in fish that live near the rocks, such an anchovies, squid and octopus.
Inside this wooden building is the kitchen where Maria guided me and a few other visitors in preparing a meal using traditional recipes from the region.
Starting with these anchovies - looking and tasting nothing like what we get in those small cans in the U.S.
Maria showed me the technique used in opening them with one swift move, and removing the skeleton to end up with a fillet.
Then marinating them in vinegar, lemon juice and white wine.
The octopus was cooked in a pot of water, wine, vinegar and lemon juice for about 40 minutes.
And emerged looking like this:
After it was cooled, it was cleaned of some of the suckers and placed in a pot with olive oil, onion, peppers and bits of cherry tomatoes.
Olive oil, garlic, cherry tomatoes and red pepper were also used in the preparation of these tiny clams.
After they're stuffed, they're cooked in a tomato sauce and given a few minutes in the oven at the end.
A classic dish of this part of the coast is brodetto, a fish soup made using the catch of the day. In this case, it was scorfano (scorpion fish), merluzzo (cod), and dentice (sea bream or red snapper).
Brodetto is cooked in the traditional terra cotta pots made in the region.
By this time, our group had worked up an appetite and we were ready for a drink of prosecco and an appetizer.
We started with the fresh anchovies that had been marinated and served on slices of bread sprinkled with olive oil, cherry tomatoes, salt and parsley.
We moved on to the stuffed mussels, and octopus served over polenta.
The clams were next, loaded with flavor. We sucked every drop of liquid from the shells, before dipping our bread into the liquid left on the platter.
Then came the pots of brodetto, dotted with clams and mussels above the whole fish.
I'm sure I went back for two and three helpings.
Oh yes, and I can't forget the marinated mackerel fish, bathed in olive oil and sprinkled with salt.
We had to finish with something sweet, and in this case, it was the classic ferratelle or pizzelle, from Abruzzo. All accompanied by various homemade liqueurs, including genziana, a plant that is omnipresent in the Abruzzo countryside.
Afterwards, Rinaldo demonstrated how the nets are lifted above the sea to haul in the fish.
I want to thank this handsome fellow - Fabrizio Lucci of Italia Sweet Italia, for inviting me and a few other bloggers who attended Let's Blog Abruzzo to come along for this unforgettable experience. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more posts on other adventures in Abruzzo, courtesy of Italia Sweet Italia.
Printable Recipe Here
8 fresh anchovies
1 glass of white wine
1 cup of white vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
- Debone the anchovies, tear off the head and wash them thoroughly.
- Place the fillets in a container and cover with vinegar and wine and let them sit for at least an hour, preferably two.
- Remove the anchovies from the container and dry gently with a clean cloth.
- Place the anchovies over the bread, add bits of fresh cherry tomatoes, a sprinkling of chopped parsley and a little coarse salt, then finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.