Fresh seafood in Fano

While we were in Fano, we ate lunch at this must-visit local ristorantino called “Da Giulio.” We had to sit inside because it was incredibly windy and cold the day we were there, but the fish was hot and fresh. We split a tasting sampler for our primi, but had to “settle” for a standard fish stew for our secondi. We had wanted to get the infamous brodetto di Fano, a very slow cooked fish stew, but we learned that we had to have ordered that the day before, as it takes 24 hours to make. In any case, the tasting sampler turned out to be more food than we could possibly have imagined, fish done in more ways than I could understand after a litre of house prosecco, and the fish stew was extraordinary.

I can’t possibly go into all the details of this meal, it was a feast, but there were two dishes that stood out simply for the audacity of their preparation. The first dish was part of the sampler, and it consisted of whole scampi (including the antennae) poached very slowly at low-temperature in a saffron-infused bath of sea salt and olive oil. Apparently sea salt doesn’t readily dissolve in olive-oil (who knew), so the crystals stay intact and the scampi end up with only a very mild salty-saffroniness. The audacity comes in the serving, the whole preparation is plonked into a bowl, and you eat the scampi by fishing them out of the sea-salt mound beneath a covering of warm oil: first you get the eyes and head, then the body with feet, and finally the tail. You then have no choice but to peel the suckers with your fingers and plop them in your mouth. It is possibly the messiest thing I’ve ever eaten, but the flavour was phenomenal–tender, mildly salty, and just pure shrimp. It was beautiful.

Scampi cooked in olive oil with coarse sea salt and saffron

Scampi cooked in olive oil with coarse sea salt and saffron

The second audacious dish was the fish stew. It came served in the gigantic pan in which it was cooked, and it looked like nothing so much as a pile of whatever was caught this morning cut into chunks and cooked in fish broth; which it was. It was fabulous–tender pieces of fish I didn’t recognize, seasoned beautifully, and served with no fuss.

I may never get back to this restaurant, but this meal will probably be one of the 10 best meals I ever have. It is a beautiful memory of the smell of salt air, the wind whipping the Adriatic, jugs of prosecco, and being warm in a big room suffused with the smell of roasting fish.

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