“So, would you like to be in the kitchen or on the boat?”
Sometimes an amazing opportunity pops up, offered to you unexpectedly, like a chef offering to talk to you about local fish and its preparation on his boat rather than in the kitchen. The person asking is Fulvietto Pierangelini, chef and owner of Il Bucaniere restaurant in San Vincenzo, a beach resort and port town on Tuscany’s Etruscan Coast, a place I hold very close to my heart.
At first, the other girls, fellow food bloggers, Giulia from Juls’ Kitchen (who was the one behind organising meeting Fulvietto Pierangelini), Regula aka Miss Foodwise and Karin from Yum and more (Zita from Zizi’s Adventures was out having her own vegetarian adventure elsewhere), are unsure if they’ve heard right. “The kitchen or – where?”
Absolutely the boat!
At 6pm it’s still stiflingly hot and I can’t imagine a better place to be than zipping out to sea and not in a sweltering kitchen. So we set out with Fulvietto and fellow chef, Lorenzo Lunghi, to the boat, which is sitting pretty in San Vincenzo’s newly designed port. On the way out of the port, a returning fisherman shouts out to Fulvietto that there was a school of horse mackerel at 32 meters depth. So that’s where we’re headed.
As the shore get smaller and smaller and the colour of the sea gets inkier, Fulvietto spots the school of mackerel at just 25 meters depth and turns off the engine. The sound of the sea lapping around us engulfs all other sounds. It’s quite incredible. Lorenzo takes a dip or two, jumping straight off the boat. In the meantime, Fulvietto gets his fishing line set up and we slowly chase the fish until we bring in a few lovely, shimmering, shiny mackerel – soon to become our antipasto.
We zip back to the port and with wind-tousled hair and huge smiles, head back to the beachside restaurant with the humble catch.
Fulvietto is softly spoken and humble, considering his well-known family. His parents Emanuela and Fulvio ran for thirty years, San Vincenzo’s famous Michelin starred restaurant, Gambero Rosso, just a couple hundred meters away from where Il Bucaniere is perched on the beach. He openly shares with us his incredible passion for and knowledge of how to store and prepare the local fish, many species of which fishermen can’t sell at the market because of a lack of know-how or interest.
Now that the temperatures are cooling off, the kitchen is a much more bearable place to be. While Lorenzo prepares the mackerel for our antipasto, Fulvietto shows us how to make our primo, the first course – linguine alla razza, linguine with skate. I’m fascinated. I have to admit, I’ve never eaten or cooked with skate. It’s not a sustainable species in Australia and not easily found to be honest, but in the Mediterranean, this cheap, humble ingredient is available in markets and even the supermarket, though not often seen on menus anymore (revision: I do want to point out that it’s not a sustainable species in the Mediterranean either, but dishes using skate do have an important history and cucina povera tradition amongst fishing communities that I think should somehow be documented, even if no longer used! Italy’s wonderful Slow Fish website is a good resource for discussing the problems with overfishing or other threats to certain species – do check it out if you are curious for more on seafood sustainability in the area).
He shows us how to clean the skate, scoring the skin carefully then using pliers to pull it off. He doesn’t just use the wings, but the whole cartilaginous carcass, which makes the sauce become a naturally creamy emulsion. It’s placed in a pan with olive oil, garlic and chilli and cooked until opaque but not caramelised. A bit of good white wine, some water and constant stirring for a few more minutes and the skate is already falling apart into a creamy sauce. The cartilage is removed and the flesh scraped off as much as possible. That’s the sauce done.
Meanwhile, our mackerel are simply bearing a sprig of rosemary from the mouth and some freshly picked basil leaves – being so fresh, they’re not gutted or even rinsed, they’re still naturally seasoned by the seawater. They go straight into a scorching hot pan for a couple of minutes.
The rest of the dinner is a parade of fresh, local seafood, from more antipasti of raw mazzancolle prawns dressed simply in Fulvietto’s family olive oil, seared scallops with radish, a puree of white beans with calamari and olive oil. Finally, our linguine with the luxuriously creamy skate sauce comes out. And just when we thought we had no more space left, out comes a glorious “fish soup” – pieces of crispy sautéed local fish that we had been shown how to fillet in the kitchen are served in their own little bowl, with a separate bowl of fish and crustacean broth to pour over.
With full bellies and salty, sea-sprayed skin, the sea lapping the shore below us, I think we’ve just experienced the best of what this beautiful stretch of coast has to offer.
Ristorante Il Bucaniere
San Vincenzo (LI)
Tel. (39) 335 800 1695