Come gli antichi Greci – like the old Greek: In the Cilento village of Marina di Pisciotta, a small group of fishermen keep alive the centuries old fishing tradition "alici di menaica".
Vacationers have got the possibility to accompany the pescatori on their nightly fishing tour.
Skill and old knowledge
On calm nights between April and July, the fishermen take their 8 m wooden boats (menaide) out to sea and cast their nets (menaica) which are 200 m long and knotted in a special way. Their knowledge concerning currents, winds, weather and stars help them catch anchovies (alici) three to five miles off the coast. The nets are cast into the water up to a depth of 10 metres. The pescatori anticipate the movements of the anchovies and skilfully block their passage.
In order to know where and how deep the nets have to be cast into the water, it is essential to know about the currents, the winds and the weather. It is the sky which provides the crucial clues. Fishermen have always known that the alici surface and can then be easily caught when there are certain stars in the sky: Among the "good" stars, there are Pollara (Orion), Puddicinara (Pleiades) and Calabresella ( a small star which appears to the southeast, right over Calabria); U Stellone (Venus) appears as the last star before the crack of dawn.
The moon and the stars indicate the direction taken by the fish. The alici go toward the sun when it rises or sets; in the same manner, they follow the moon. On moonless nights, the fishermen take along a "lampara" (gas lamp) on a small boat.
The nets are pulled back into the boat by hand and the anchovies are slowly taken out one by one – at the same time their heads and innards are discarded. They are stored for transport in wooden boxes – without ice or other cooling agents.
This centuries old fishing tradition – with specially knotted nets (menaica) whose meshes are adjusted to the growing size of the anchovies from April to July – was once prevalent throughout the Mediterranean area. Nowadays, it is kept alive only in Marina di Pisciotta.
The women's work
It is solely the women who are in charge of preparing the fish. At daybreak, they await the boats at the beach. The alici are immediately washed in pickle. In former times, terzarole were used, very spacious wooden barrels produced in Sessa Cilento until the 1960ies.
The alici are put into the containers, layer by layer. Arranging and salting them correctly is essential for good storage. For a 2 kg glass you need about 4 kg of fresh anchovies. The fish is stored for at least four months – in general, up to two years or more.
Alici – recipes
They say that there are as many different recipes for these anchovies as there are families in Pisciotta. Be it raw or cooked, fresh or salted, as salad, filled with goat's cheese, with pasta or as stew … Alici di menaica differ from ordinary anchovies by their rose coloured flesh, intensive extraordinary taste and flavour.
Insalata di alici crude (salad with raw anchovies) is very simple: The fish are shortly dipped into lemon juice and refined with a dressing of oil, garlic and parsley. Of course, this goes with spaghetti, too – prepared with aglio (garlic), olio (oil) and peperoncino (hot pepper sauce).
There are no limits to cookery – for example:
Ammollicate: chopped alici with bread crumbs, garlic, oil and parsley;
At the fishmongers "Ammiraglio" (opened in the summer of 2004), owned by the brothers Pasquale and Raffaele Cammarano, who are also fishermen, only fresh fish is sold.
Of course, the "alici di menaica" can be purchased here, too. Opening hours: 8-13 and 17.30-22 h (closed on days of no fishing). Address: via Gozzipuodi 9 (at the harbour's promenade), Tel. 0974/973118, mobile: 347/8260211.
Out to sea with the fishermen
In spring, vacationers can accompany the fishermen on their nightly fishing tours:
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