Going South #5 - Beaches
One of the perks of going to Calabria is hanging around with Carrie, the house's princess. Both sides enjoy the occasion since we have the opportunity to hang around with her, and Carrie gets a chance to reveal what's new at the culinary scene of the hoomans that come to visit here from time to time.
Oh, I thought I’ve already written it: Carrie is a dog.
Regardless of what we bring with us, you cannot say that Carrie doesn't eat well. Oh no.
Visiting the local pet store to get her some treats is as fun to go to the supermarket, and I would like to recommend chefs visit pet stores as well, even just to get inspired. I don't know how it is outside of Italy, but here you can find dog food in flavors such as Prosciutto and rice, chicory (cicoria) and spirulina, lamb with rice, potatoes and oranges, and citrusy flavored chicken and linseed. Tell me in which Michelin starred restaurant can you find such a dish, and I'll be happy to write a review after I visit and taste.
In the afternoon - and before the main course - V. and I repeated our summer ceremony: slurping Muzzunata in one of the two main cafés of Lamezia Terme.
Muzzunata is a granita made of almond milk, served with soft brioche, and for me, summer begins with the first Muzzunata at Federico's. It could get to 35 degrees outside, but it's not summer until I dip the top of the brioche in the cold almond soft ice. To be totally frank with you, I don’t know how I managed to start summers before I met V. who introduced me to this wonder.
This year summer came early for us, so this time (and also because Federico was still on its holiday) we decided to go about 40 meters to another great bar at the center - Bar Roma.
Look at the two photos that were taken from the same spot next to Bar Roma:
It seems that in just one day the city, that seemed deserted, turned to be a busy metropolis (in Lamezia Terme terms, still). In just one day!
From all corners arrived more and more people, close family members and ones we see on rare occasions, and Bar Roma managed to greet everyone and serve their Muzzunatas and granitas, which are needed so much in the scorching sun of mid-August.
Time to eat Again.
That evening we walked down the memory lane of V.'s family and went to the restaurant "Lido delle Sirene" on the beach of Gizzeria. Russo family has been running the restaurant, the hotel above and the beach in general (and in season) for tens of years, and V.'s family knows them for about that time.
On the way there we took the wrong turn into the dark, going deep into a residential area off-off the main road. Seeing us there hit one of the residents in a total shock, but if in other regions of Italy this wrong turn would end in a fine that will land a month later at your email inbox, that night we were accompanied to the main road and got the guy's blessing. There are some advantages to the No-Man's-Land which is Calabria.
Stepping into Lido delle Sirene you can think you got into a time tunnel and got out on the other side of the 80's thanks to the colors, the furniture, the tablecloth, and the atmosphere. With a little re-branding you could call it "retro chic", but no need for re-branding here. It is what it is, and it is as enjoying as it can be.
We arrived in a challenging time due to the holiday, but you can count on Lido Russo, the man in charge, to find you the freshest produce available in the market. Nothing but freshness here, and in any combination you'd like. Anything to make you happy.
It has been many years that V.'s family take the same dishes at Lido's, and this time wasn't different.
Large metal trays of fried squid and an excellent selection of marine treasures: mussels, shrimps, smoked salmon, marinated anchovies and sardines, and some more squid. The star, as always, was an outstanding octopus, which secret of tendering I couldn't guess, and Lido very politely avoided revealing.
For mains we went freestyle: V. and other family members took half portions - anything to make you happy, right? - of classic spaghetti and clams, so simple and straight to the point that there is nothing special to write about - it was exactly as it should be. I surprised myself with "fishermen" risotto, spotted with shrimps, clams and fresh parsley. Wonderful.
In other tables people took whole fish that the waiters filleted swiftly and in front of them, dressed as well as been taken from the '80s, an era I which there was respect for the profession of waiting, the patrons and food.
As a preview to what's ahead of us that week we took cannolo filled with soft ricotta cream, and interesting variety of homemade liquors, obviously: myrtle (mirto), Gentiana (genizana) and Limoncello.
The restaurant's porch is located about ten meters from the sandy beach of Gizzeria. Very few people walk on the narrow lane between the restaurant and the beach, rattling the gravel under their feet, and the rest is quiet. It's only the restaurant and the patrons, the beach and the moon.
Only at the end and before going home I noticed the reminder written on the water bottles of the fact that the original "Italia" was here, in Calabria, about 3500 years ago.
Time has changed and habits have changed and will keep on changing, but there are things that won't change and it's better if they stay the way they were always. Like Le Sirene.
And that wasn't the last seafood we had…
Previously, on Going South: