Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Una Passeggiata a...Cetara (Sa) with Chef Pasquale Torrente

Pasquale Torrente
Cetara-Amalfi Coast.  Eighteen years in Campania, and I had  never been to this secret by the seaA sleepy village that around 2,500 people call home. 

Home of the Torre di Cetara.  Home of  the Church and Convent of St. Francis,seventeenth century, whose dome and nave was frescoed by the painter  Marco Benincasa.  Home of the Church of St. Peter the Apostle, renovated in the eighteenth century, with a baroque interior, with the dome bell tower from the thirteenth century with mullioned windows, and an octagonal belfry.

A fisherman’s village famous for its tuna, it’s sardines, …and Chef Pasquale Torrente

So I asked the chef to show me around.  Help me understand what was so special about this little town.  Talk to me about street food, and everything and anything that popped up.  And we did over a bite to eat at three of Torrente’s tasty spots that are spread around the small scenic little town.

I wanted to see Pane e Coccos’ (Loosely translated as Pane e Qualcosa…Bread and something)  Street food-but Torrente style.  This little location had its grand opening less than two weeks ago.  Over  a glass of Pignoletto Frizzante by Vignetto San Vito ,I learned quite a bit of about the philosophy here…nestled in a corner of Corso Federici, seated at a table outside watching sunbathers return from the beach.  A cutting board …or three..arrive, brought to us by Pasquale’s brother, Luigi.  A cutting board packed with quality.  Mortadella from Salumificio Pasquini, pancetta from Paolo Parisi, prosciutto crudo from Salumificio Cillo and Prosciuttificio Dal’Ava, salami from Tramonti (Sa).  So we tried some.  Torrente talked to me about the way it used to be...that when you headed out for the beach, your mom would make you a sandwich.  One made with two simple pieces of bread, but inside….wow.  Eggplant parmigiana.  Or meatballs made from slow cooking a ragù sauce overnight.  Or even milza (spleen).  So we tried some. Torrente shared that on the  way back from the beach, I could pick up some wine. Cheese.  Tuna.  Anchovies.  Qualcosa…something.

Or, on my way back from the beach, I could hit stop 2 of our Torrente tour.  La Cuopperia del Convento.  Five years  in pole position on the port of Cetara. A table by the sea.  A breeze, a beer, and a cupietel’. Neapolitan for fried goodies served in a brown paper cone.  Fried fish, shrimp, and squid.  A plate of fried eggplant balls, sardine balls, potato crocchè, and arancini.  Torrente (also known as the Re degli Alici-the anchovy king), shared with me his insight as to why Cetara is famous for this fine little fish.  First of all, the sea…clean, pulita.  The famous alici sotto sale?  Salted anchovies.  These sardines, caught and conserved between  April 27 and July 27 (when they are full of eggs…making them tastier) have their heads and interiors removed and are placed in a container of sea salt for about a day.  Then placed in small wooden barrels, a layer of fish, a layer of salt, and so on and so on, and so on.  Months pass, and around November, the liquid that has accumulated is conserved and becomes the famous colatura di alici…perfect to add to spaghetti.  Well, can’t leave Cetara without trying that…

So we were off again.  Up the street to Torrente’s restaurant Al Convento.  A restaurant located on the first floor of a renovated 16th Century convent…complete with original frescoes.  A beautiful view of the town piazza below and the full moon that decided to join me in Cetara above.  A seat at a table on the terrace.  The chef spreads butter on a piece of toasted bread, gently places two  anchovies on top. He sets it in front of me.  This is Cetara…I thought.  Simple…characteristic.  Anchovies…alici. Simple, like my plate of spaghetti with that precious liquid from months of conservation, years of experience , years of tradition.  A plate of spaghetti with colatura di alici.  Simple, characteristic.  A plate of pasta alla puttanesca with sardines…simple…tradition…characteristic.

Cetara…Simple as a cool breeze from the sea.  A cupietel'.   A plate of spaghetti.  A full moon.

Cetara…Characteristic as the laughter from teenagers playing soccer in the piazza below my table at Al Convento.

Karen…I think you have enough material for three months of blogs…Torrente teases.

I smile…he’s right. 

Cetara…I’ve only touched the surface….

Pane e Coccos'
Federici n°3 Cetara (SA). Tel. 089 261485

La Cuopperia del Convento
84010 Cetara (SA) Piazza Grotta, 2
Tel: 089.261275

Ristorante Pizzeria «Al Convento»
Piazza San Francesco, 16 - Tel. 089.261039
84010 Cetara (Sa) - Costiera Amalfitana

Italian Version

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