Could a fish cookery course aboard a trabocco be Abruzzo’s most delicious alfresco experience? It’s become my top spot and is certainly a breath of fresh air (literally), and one of the most unique cooking courses in Italy for those tired of the usual villa routine.
This fish cooking course is ideal if you are still of the opinion that Italian Adriatic fish is just a plate of fried mixed fish (Pesce Fritto) or you’re fish challenged like me and need to learn invaluable skills associated with fishmongery, such as preparation and cleaning of fish and shellfish like the scary Mantis Shrimp (Cicale di mare) the feet of which I had previously a tendency to hack rather than trim.
Our fish cookery course was organised by a sustainable tourism expert based in Vasto dedicated to promoting the diverse range of genuinely unique experiences to be found in Chieti. Off they whisked us to Trabocco Punta Tufano, sitting under the famous Abruzzo C11th abbey San Giovanni in Venere, Rocca San Giovanni, and just off the old railway lines that were so instrumental in the rapid springing up of trabocchi, which utilised their wooden sleepers and iron. I just can’t wait for when this old track is turned into the promised cycle route; it will be an utterly glorious ride along Chieti’s Trabocchi strewn coastline over a couple of days, stopping off for great fish along the way.
The small cove that our mechanical fishing vessel juts out from buzzed with small local fishing boats so you know that what you are about to cook and eat really couldn’t get any fresher or more sustainable.
Maria is your teacher and wonderful at showing you exactly what you need to do. Her skills were passed on by her mother, a local fish restaurant cook; Mama really does know best as they say. Maria doesn’t speak English, but Fabrizio from ItaliaSweetItalia translates if you aren’t up to speed, and you almost don’t need the language as her instruction is very clear; the most important thing…? Timings! This is the secret to a great fish feast, for example knowing when to mince your squid, simmer your stock, and of course gorgeous recipes. Maria’s fish and shellfish recipes she has kindly allowed us to publish so keep checking back!
The heart of the trabocco, housed a nifty galley kitchen with a 4 ring stove which somehow, with our negligible help, produced this 3 course lunch which can now take the crown of the best ever fish lunch I’ve eaten (a title that was previously held by eating spider crabs in the company of piggies in Cambodia, but that’s another story…). We visited the last week in April which was blustery with a teasing sun that gave everyone an attractive glowing windswept look and in the heat of the kitchen provided great ventilation.
Eating on deck wasn’t a problem, plastic sheeting was brought out and made our dining table completely wind free and if anything a little suntrap for those seeking sunkisses. Although I wasn’t too fond of the rather full-bodied Cerasuolo, the local Trebbiano was great. As a final piece of exertion to help digest a very indulgent lunch, Maria’s husband Rinaldo got us all up to take part in working the trabocco and understand how these static fisheries, with their many veins, masts and sheets, with carved wooden names in local dialect, really do catch fish. He’s a Verí,descended from the original 60 French family members who were shipwrecked and made the area their home and began this alternative way to fish. Quite unlike locals in their physical size, and supposedly irritable, intolerant and who could neither swim nor surf they were excellent engineers whose catwalk way of fishing have become one of Abruzzo’s iconic, most recognisable and best places to learn some Italian fish cookery in the 21st century.
MENU & DISHES ON THE CURRICULUM
* Alici marinate – Marinated fresh anchovies
* Vongole alla marinara – Mariner’s-style clams
* Polpo al sugo con polenta – Octopus in tomato sauce with polenta, octopus unavailable so we made this dish with squid.
* Cozze ripiene – Stuffed mussels
*Brodetto di pesce alla vastese – Fish soup alla vastese
*Spigola al forno – Baked Sea Bass
Cost €180 for the day per person for the fish cookery course and lunch. There is a 5% discount for LifeinAbruzzo readers using the LifeinAbruzzo booking code 1026. If interested contact us and we will forward your enquiry onto the tour operator. 4-day excursions and accommodation start at €845.00.
The course starts at 10.00 in the morning and expect to spend till at least 15.00 aboard the trabocco learning how to prepare and cook fish Abruzzo style and eating your results.
This excursion is available from April through to October.
The main advantage over other traditional fish preparation and cookery classes, it’s aboard somewhere completely unique to Abruzzo Italy. The other is that the kitchen is small so a very intimate learning experience.
Photography © Lucciola.me