There is nothing I love more than a food festival except perhaps being by the sea. When the two worlds collide, I am ecstatic!
I saw that one of my favorite towns on the Tuscan Coast was having a 3 day celebration for the local specialty, Caccuccio, the fish soup. In San Francisco, we have Cioppino a tomato based fish soup, which is similar,the variations of the fish based on the sea or ocean.
My husband’s Aunt Vivetta had a restaurant in Cecina, just down the coast from Livorno and she gave me her secret recipe. Of course, recipes change town to town and cook to cook.
Cacciucco Pride was the festival and most of the events were focused around dinner, which was great as it was so hot!
Livorno is one of Italy’s big port towns. Cruise ships stop here for their day trips in Tuscany. Many people hire drivers to take them to Chianti or down the coast to Maremma for the day, missing out on what is considered a Little Venice. Not really touristy, the old fortress hides wonderful little canals, that you can take a guided boat tour daily. We always do as it is the best way to see heart of the city and learn the history.
There are tons of canal-side restaurants and wine bars to just pass some nice quiet time.
The Central Market in Livorno is one of my favorite, just off one of the canals in town.
I often go to the restaurant at the fish market, also located on a canal.
The umbrella’s outside are the little restaurant.
This trip, we missed the market and were looking for a new place to add to my list of places in Livorno, we passed what looked like a small wine bar, which had people waiting outside. They said there was a wait for the tables inside and it was really hot outside, so we walked on. Then as it was late, decided to go back and try again. Perfect timing!
We got a table in the tiny back dining room. The front is for sandwiches. They looked incredible! Long italian baguettes, called filone, are filled to order.
They had a great assortment of things to put in, including a lot of grilled marinated vegetables.
Wine is sold “al calo” which means you pay for what you drink, if they give you a classic Italian “fiasco” or you can order by the glass.
If you do get the flask of wine, do as this guy did. When you are done, you go to the cash register with the flask and they see how much you drank and you are just charged for the amount you drank. Needless to say, the first time I experienced this in Florence, I was eating, and drinking, alone and drank too much as I thought they wouldn’t be able to tell how much I drank if I didn’t drink enough. I know better now!
These “white” anchovies hit the spot- we had them at dinner before having the caccuccio, but if you are just coming for lunch, don’t miss these.
At lunch, we had two plates of pasta, one with mussels and clams, garlic and olive oil base, perfect. The shellfish was so fresh! My husband had the pasta with sea urchins, which is one of my personal favorites, which I usually have on the Island of Elba, in Puglia or in Sicily, again– so fresh and perfect.
As my main course, I had octopus in a red wine reduction, I was blown away by the quality and presentation of the dish. Packed with flavor, the octopus was tender and rich and the candied ginger they served on the side was a surprise along with the celeraic cooked in an orange sauce, again PERFECT!
The owner, Tommaso, was charming and although very busy, stopped to share some of the history of the osteria. His Grandfather had a vinaio, wine shop with food since after the war. Tommaso traveled a lot and when he was finally ready to settle down, was planning on taking over his grandfather’s place, but his grandfather was still working. He and his sister opened Osteria Barocciaia.
We adored our lunch so much we came back for dinner. For the party they took over the piazza in front of the restaurant and had a band and fireworks after dinner. It was so much fun.
Next to the restaurant they had a photographer, Rocco Toscani, set up taking fotos with a fun “octopus” mustache for the event.
Andrea adored this starter of Mussels in tomato sauce,Cozze al pomodoro, so much he had to have the recipe for the tomato sauce. The waiter was nice enough to share it. I am going to try it this weekend and also work on the “official” recipe for cacciucco using the recipe which I was given to try. My husband prefers the version without the fish with bones, but we do know that bones give a richer deeper flavor. For the Cacciucco pride, they classified a recipe 5C- using all local products. I will write that up in another blog post.
And to end a meal, don’t forget to order a PONCE, it is coffee with a special local liquore and a slice of lemon zest. There are a few other versions, I have yet to try. Will let you know which I like best!
Piazza Felice Cavallotti,13
Tuesday through Saturday 11-3 and 6-11pm
The Central Market – called Mercato delle Vettovaglie
Via Buontalenti, Livorno
Mercato di Pesce
Scali delle Ancore
There is a restaurant on the street level called risto del mercato di pesce
open for lunch and dinner- Sunday
Dinner only during the week