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From the earliest years of my career as a chef, I have always had the ambition to combine the distinctive characteristics of my homeland to create unique dishes: the sea with its many types of fish and the hills with its delicious fruits.
I was lucky in that I could always find inspiration by attending fish auctions and visiting vegetable markets. My creativity was fuelled by the challenge of combining seemingly distant elements, as in the case of my stuffed squid.
As a youngster, I was fascinated by the tales of fishermen as they lovingly and passionately repaired their nets. Although some of those tales seemed surreal, they vividly evoked the life and adventures of a profession that has now inevitably changed.
These fishermen were real characters, living in contact with and breathing the sea almost 24 hours a day, even on stormy nights. The stories they told were detailed and intense, as the local dialect offered linguistic nuances that allowed them to be extremely precise.
Their stories were about life at sea and often ended up directly in the frying pan. For many years, fish was an essential nutrient for entire families and generations . While meat was an unattainable luxury due to its high cost, fish was the only daily alternative. In humble beach huts, fish was prepared in such a way as to make it resemble, if only in taste, the more expensive and desirable
There were numerous attempts, but few of them really succeeded. If we compare these experiments with today’s cuisine, where these two elements coexist in many combinations, we cannot help but smile. Those afternoons spent at the harbour listening to grotesque episodes and abs tract recipes inspired my stuffed squid. This dish is a combination of tradition and creativity and has a flavour that did not exist before but has long been part of our cuisine.
The idea for this dish came like the wind . Like many other nights, as I tried to fall asleep, I used to think a lot, trying to recall memories of my life in and out of the kitchen. I would think back to the intense moments spent in the markets near my restaurant, the tales of fishermen and farmer s, or simply recall the days before and the ingredients I had bought or harvested.
That night, I had bought some beautiful squid at the fish market. I was tired of simply serving it with a sauce, even though it was good like that. A few days earlier, I ha d harvested Moscato grapes, a variety grown in the Terracina countryside, along with bundles of escarole from the family garden.
At my workbench, early that morning, I arranged all the ingredients I had chosen during the night, and I decide d to add Gaeta olives, another local product we are particularly proud of, and Antico Pomodoro I immediately realised that I was about to serve a dish that was not part of the local culinary tradition, but one that brought together different aspects of our food culture. The result was surprising and I can say it for the first time even beyond my expectations The flavour of my squid and the filling I had prepared was particularly distinctive: a new taste that
had also something to do with the past.
My recipe may soun d simple, but it is certainly unique and has been an essential part of my menu for years.