When you are lucky enough to be on a long trip full of (hopefully) delicious food, it's easy to feel a sort of decision making fatigue. Feeling weary about our next choice after the wonderful, pasta-filled dinners in Spello, we decided to take a step off the beaten path and go in a new direction. Dangerous as this may be for those predisposed to culinary disappointment, L'Acciuga stood out among the many, many typical trattoria's in town by focusing not on the usual but on fresh Adriatic seafood. With a name like L'Acciuga (anchovy) you'll have a pretty good idea of what's in store. We ate here on a busy Friday night with every seat in the house taken. It's a fun restaurant with a submarine inspired dining room complete with portholes and aquariums. This place is fish only, which works for us. Have I mentioned I am a fan of seafood? It's true!
We started the night off right with this moderately priced DOCG Albana di Romagna. Made with the Albana grape from Emilia-Romagna, this is not an overly popular wine but it should be (keep your eyes peeled!). Crisp, tart and mineral, this reminded me of the Greco we enjoyed in Spello. At 12€ this proved to be a wise choice and perfectly complemented each of our dishes. The limited menu this evening offered only five items of which we ordered all but one.
This tartar was an elegant start to a light fish dinner. Perfectly diced bits of buttery amberjack (aka yellowtail) was bound with a bit of olive oil and little else. Contrasting the sweet, raw fish was a little mâché and frisée salad dressed in a bright olive oil and lemon dressing. The spicy Dijon emulsion really brought this dish to life and we were reminded of another time we were surprised and delighted at the raw fish/mustard combo. There could not have been a better dish to enjoy with our wine (or so we thought!).
When I took the photo above, I thought it was a real stunner. Oops! Perhaps this was one of those lucky times in life too beautiful to capture on film. It certainly tasted that way. These pretty and perfectly tender zucchini flowers were plump and bursting with a silky and delicate ricotta filling, seasoned simply with soft herbs and a few bits of young raw zucchini throughout. The sweetness of the ricotta was contrasted perfectly by the supple and salty cured Cantabrian anchovies. Topped with a drizzle of bright extra virgin olive oil, I can't remember the last time I enjoyed squash blossoms so thoroughly. These were a highlight of the meal and (even more) fantastic with our wine. I was sad when we finished the plate (in silence!).
After seeing lots of these beautiful Adriatic shrimp throughout the markets in town, we knew we'd like to try them here. The shrimp themselves were perfectly cooked, tender and sweet and the preparation was nice and light with crisp greens, basil, olives, some pickled onion and more of their divine olive oil. The only problem here were the watery, mealy, under ripe tomatoes. I wish they'd have omitted them all together. I imagine a bit later in the season, this salad could be a winner, but it really fell short on our visit. I feel like you an even tell these tomatoes stink in my terrible photo! Luckily, this was our only disappointment here.
Our pasta course was thankfully fantastic. There were so many mussels, clams and tender morsels of fish in this dish. Al dente spaghetti alla chitarra, simply sauced in a bit of cooking liquid, seafood stock and olive oil was a delight here and the seafood was pristine, abundant and perfectly cooked. GaIlinella, a kind of scorpion or tub gurnard fish, is not one I come across often, but it's firm, fresh and sweet white flesh reminded me a bit of halibut. I love this style of pasta from Abruzzo, named for the tool used to cut the pasta which resembles guitar (chitarra) strings.
If we weren't on a budget (and heading to Spain next), we'd have likely needed to try a tin of anchovies off the above list. These are a specialty here and were found on most tables in the room as an appetizer. I thought the anchovies on our squash blossoms were incredible, and I trust these would be, too. Oysters were also available in addition to various types of caviar. Another time!
Aside from our shrimp salad, I have very few complaints. The service was prompt and professional, though we would have enjoyed a bit of a slower pace in the timing department. Instead of having our dishes split or come out one at a time, we received two at a time, the tartare and the squash blossoms followed by the salad and pasta. I imagine this could have easily been remedied if we spoke more Italian and specified the order we'd have preferred. Yet another motivator to learn more Italian! The food made up for this, though, and we didn't mind trading plates, even if the proper folks next to us might have found it unsightly!