Le acciughe di Monterosso

Monterosso anchovies, the secrets of sea bread

Sea bass and sea bream, we hope, will forgive us. But we cheer for Monteross anchoviesor. No, it is not a problem of flavors. But it is a life choice. What other fish has (so far) rejected the fashionable diktat of rice and sushi and remained stubbornly immersed in salt? And how many fishes have always replied with a mockery to the flattery of breeding and continue to force the fishermen to courageously up early in the middle of the night? Few, very few. And of these the anchovies are perhaps the standard bearer. If we add to this that even the legendary Roman gastronome Marco Gavio Apicius, something like half a century before Christ, he quoted them with watering and invented the recipe for a “terrine of anchovies without anchovies” it seems useless to go further. And if the sea bream are offended, never mind.
Even because the anchovies of Monterosso they are worth a trip. It’s here, heart of Liguria, they know it well: and if for centuries they have called it “pan do mâ” (the bread of the sea) there must be a reason. Here, and only here, the Monterosso anchovy is born. Which, as is logical for a small, greedy cult object, also has a home and a “birthday”. In via Servano, immediately behind the Municipality of the small center (the largest and most equipped of the Five lands), there is the anchovy salting center where an ancient rite is repeated. Which has its key moment between the 24th and 29th of June. Magical and blessed days, none other than, from San Giovanni and San Pietro.

The anchovies of Monterosso, the mockery of a lamp

In those nights, practice and tradition want them to anchovies from Monterossotireless migrants, after a months-long journey that leads them to fin through the Mediterranean arrive in front of the coasts of Monterosso. And for the few remaining fishermen the party begins. Thanks to the joke of the lamparas that illuminate the sea, promising fraudulent clouds of food to the fish, the anchovies are trapped in the nets and transported to land where a process begins that if not ancient as Apicius probably is very close. After beheading and evisceration (and everything is still done by hand), the anchovies of Monterosso they end in layers wooden barrels or clay pots, where they are dipped again. But this time in the salt that is pressed with a weight that will keep them at bay for at least a month. Before going on the market (and trying them with bread and butter or with a warm polenta is worth more than many words).
On the other hand, the wait is much faster for the fish that are cooked fresh and which, according to tradition, are different from those caught elsewhere. Because here, it will be the salinity of the sea or the time of year, they are tasty but at the same time more delicate.
One of the leading restaurateurs in the area, Maurizio Bordoni, in his celebrated Cappun Magru in Groppo di Manarola (okay, it’s not Monterosso but they will be at maximum 10 km) has supported it for some time and always offers them. And it is a real pleasure to see them unseat the sea bass and sea bream. A simple pleasure moreover: since the “death” of the anchovy is raw, with oil (Ligurian, needless to say) and lemon and, if you really want to exaggerate, dare a trifle of garlic and parsley.

Here, and not only here, for tourists and gourmets, the beach offers the most mundane rest. But if you want to abandon the hypnosis of the deckchair and look for something different, you can go up the paths and the stone steps of the coast, touch the vines from which the Sciacchetràthe very rare and bewitching “strengthened” sweet wine, walk among the thorns and scrubs of which the poet wrote and, in the evening, go down to two or three rooms in the town (not to be missed the Cherryperched high, well above the sea that glitters as in the songs) and review the many faces of these poor but good fish.
For the days of the “Salted anchovy festival”, in mid-September, the alleys of the town smell of fish, sea air and hints of vermentino. And that’s why those who find themselves in these places will start cheering with us for the anchovies of Monterosso which we would not want to throw away. And in the end the Ligurian comes to mind De Andrè which told how anchovies make the ball. “If you don’t throw the net, you don’t have one left,” she sang. After eating them it is easy to see why.

The-anchovies-of-Monterosso, -the-tradition

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