Italy With My Son 2012 – Ere We Saw Elba

After our wonderful tour of the parmigiano caseificio in Rosola, we continued on our way to Elba taking the regular roads over and through the Appenine Mountains and into Tuscany.

On our way to Elba

These windy roads were slow going, but immensely beautiful despite the misty weather. We stopped a couple of times to take some photos, but were it not for time, we would have stopped many more times amongst the incredible mountain scenery. Though it was cloudy and occasionally misty, the weather stayed mostly dry over the three hour drive until we approached the coast and Piombino, where we were to catch the ferry. At this point it poured, but once we reached Piombino itself, the rain stopped.

The ferry wasn’t empty, but it certainly wasn’t crowded. The crossing took about an hour and was quite pleasant despite a persistent misty rain, which followed us onto Elba.

Portoferraio

Once on Elba, we followed the GPS from Portofierro to Capoliveri, where we met our host, Luciano Casini at an AGIP service station.

Our apartment

We followed him from there to our apartment, where we unloaded our luggage then parked the car.

Luciano Casini at Il Chiasso

At this point, my son went off with Luciano’s wife, Manuela for some gelato, while Luciano showed me his nearby restaurant. Manuela and my son caught up to us there and we were introduced to the restaurant’s staff. Fausto is the wine steward and FOH manager. Eriza is the waitress and the cooks were Dido (chef de cuisine) and his assistant, Marco.

Chef Dido

Dido showed us some of his cooking techniques, including cutting up a rockfish, which we would later enjoy for dinner (more to come on this in later posts).

Capoliveri

The apartment is quite lovely, with two bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. It is nicely situated at the top of the historical center of Capoliveri, not far from the restaurant, Luciano’s base of operations.

I took a walk from the apartment to explore the area, while my son lay down for a nap. It is a charming town with great views over the sea. Eventually, I made my way back to the apartment, where I managed to catch up on my journal a bit before dinner.

Il Chiasso is Luciano’s restaurant. He has owned it for about 40 years and has made it into some place truly special. It is a small place located along a confluence of stairways with one stairway bisecting the restaurant’s total space. The space has a number of levels as befits its sloped situation. The main room holds the open kitchen in the back and a bar in the front, separated by a significant difference in elevation.

The décor is free-spirited, much like the place’s owner.

In addition to the main dining room, there are tables along the sloping covered passageway between the restaurant’s buildings and in front of the restaurant along the open street. On a busy dinner service, they can accommodate 80-90 people at a time.

Last night’s dinner wasn’t that busy, though we were not the only ones there. Luciano sat down to dine along with us. The food was simple “cucina delle povere” but beautifully prepared and presented.

Fried Sardines

We got started with fried fresh sardines. These had been gutted and the spine removed, dipped in flour then beaten egg before being quickly fried. The taste was just so clean and perfect. Both my son and I could have kept eating them, but the cibo (food) kept coming.

Squid

Next up was delicious braised squid that had been cooked sous vide…

Baked sardines

…and then some baked fresh sardines – both the squid and the sardines full of flavor and simply superb.

Fresh favas

In between courses, Luciano and I peeled and ate immaculately fresh favas.

Pasta con le sarde

Sardines made another appearance this time in a wonderful Sicilian style pasta con le sarde. Dido used his own maltagliatte pasta with fennel fronds and pignoli. This was again delicious. Even though we had sardines in three different dishes, the dishes were sufficiently distinct from each other that it didn’t matter. With sardines as fresh and wonderful as these were, I could have eaten them in a dozen different dishes without becoming bored.

Linguine with ricci di mare

More pasta followed. This one a spaghetti with ricci di mare (sea urchin). The pasta had been tossed with the sea urchin and water over high heat. Didio even had my son help toss the pasta in the pan. Once again, it was delicious.

Baked rockfish

For the main course, I was served baked rockfish, while my son had calamari and verdure fritti.

I enjoyed local Elban wines throughout the meal. They were rustic and not overly complex, but tasty and fine accompaniment for the excellent food.

Ricotta cheesecake

For dessert I had a ricotta cheesecake…

Gelato with caramelized fruit

…while my son had gelato with caramelized fruit.By the end of the meal, we were both exhausted and made it back to the apartment, where we passed into a lovely, satisfied sleep.

A big thank you to Peggy Markel and her assistant Merete Mueller, for introducing me to  the incomparable Luciano and for making our arrangements on Elba!


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5 Responses to Italy With My Son 2012 – Ere We Saw Elba

  1. Merete says:

    Wonderful blog, John. I was lucky enough to experience a similar meal with Peggy and Luciano in September, but haven’t been able to write it about it half as articulately and descriptively as you have done. I love the photos as well. You really captured the style and the spirit of the place. Thank you!

  2. peggy markel says:

    Dear John,

    As usual, you captured the true spirit of Luciano and Il Chiasso. I”m so happy
    that it was a meaningful trip, not to mention delicious.

    You should be proud as you have relatives that originated from there. The island seems to have responded to a native son and his son.

    Thanks for the post and great pics!

    Peggy

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