I nearly sobbed when we stepped inside this treasure trove of a delicatessen in Cupra Marittima, a small seaside town on the Adriatic coast. Italy is the land of real food so it is hard not to feel deprived when back in Blighty. This delicatessen was no self-conscious foodie experience for the cognoscenti, but the real thing.
Britain’s dismal food situation is linked with its early adoption of the industrial revolution. As poor people flocked to cities two centuries ago for work, they left behind the land, and home-grown food, signing up instead for a diet of mass-produced cheap fillers, such as adulterated white bread and jam.
Industrialisation came later to the Continent whose food is all the better for it.
Listen, this delicatessen served nothing but fish. Ready-cooked dishes such as spicy fish stews with calamari, potatoes and chick peas; the regional speciality of olive ascolana (fish balls cradled in an olive and fried); fish carpaccio, paper-thin slivers of marinated raw swordfish and tuna with parings of orange peel; and minced fish balls (like gefilte fish) but served in a delicate tomato sauce.
Talking of tomatoes, the local food store stocked many varieties, all different shapes, sweet and tasty (not watery and sad). And talking of gefilte fish, a Jewish speciality from eastern Europe, Italians, like Jews, like talking about food: they want to know what you ate, what you are eating and what you will eat.
Last Monday, we went to Anita’s, where the locals dine. We had hot and cold antipasti, razor clams in tomato sauce, cockles in garlic, mussels in wine, followed by tagliatelle and seafood, and a main dish of fried sole. Can you believe it?
Oh, beam me up to the land of real food!