Reportage

The pride of Cetara

At the end of 2020, Colatura di Alici di Cetara got the PDO certification and, thanks to this, it will be possible to buy bottles of this sauce all around the national territory in 2021

By Anna Volpicelli, photo by Vito Fusco

Pierpaolo Ferrigno, a fisherman from Cetara, goes out on his boat every night, from March until October, to fish anchovies. The 36 years old man, together with a team of eleven fishermen, navigates the salty Salerno Gulf’s waters, the perfect environment to find anchovies. “It’s a family tradition. For me, it started when I was ten years old and I would accompany my father. I used to go with him during the summer vacations even during my first year of middle school. My life revolves around the sea,” he says, smiling. The night is dark, but the lights of the fishing lights attractors illuminate the path for these men. “Usually, we return to Cetara around 4 in the morning. We keep what we fish on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays for the Colatura; so as soon as we touch the ground, the anchovies are stocked in boxes full of ice and delivered to the manufacturing companies”.

The origins

The anchovies’ dripping is not a recent discovery: a similar sauce, called garum, had already been made by the Ancient Romans. Then, during the Middle Ages, a group of monks from Cetara found the recipe and started to put the anchovies covered in salt in wooden barrels to recreate it. Even if with the passing years the process changed, the fundamental steps to make the Colatura are still the same. Also, not only the method differs but the fishing techniques changed as well. In the past, people were using a MENAIDE, a type of net made up of a single sheet of equal mesh and around three hundred – four hundred meters. During the 20s, the fishing lights attractor had been added and at the end of the 40s, the fishermen started to use a technique involving surrounding nets so that they could trap anchovies under the lights in an easier way.

 

A view of Cetara
The night fishing
The precious anchovies
The Terzigni
The Terzigni "library"
Giulio Giordano, owner of Nettuno

 

PDO Certification

The past October the Colatura di Alici di Cetara received the PDO certification ( Protected Designation of Origin) that assets the uniqueness of the product. This success was possible to achieve thanks to the efforts made by the Associazione per la valorizzazione della colatura di alici di Cetara, an organization that brings together local producers, restaurants, and two ship-owners from Cetara. “In these past few years, the Colatura has been spiking the interest not only at a national level but also internationally. But there are lots of products out there that claim to be the real Colatura when, in fact, they are not. That’s why it was important for us to start the process to get the certification so that the Colatura could be recognized and protected.” tells us Lucia Di Mauro, President of the Associazione and owner, with her brothers, of a company based in Salerno, Iasa. The family business, which also specializes in Colatura, was founded 51 years before by her father Francesco Di Mauro. “The association was founded actually to reach the goal of the PDO certification. For the first time ever, restaurant owners will be able to have their stash of Colatura and I’m sure that, together with the producers and fishermen, they will find the best way to enhance this local treasure”, says Di Mauro.

A long journey

At the moment, three restaurants and four production companies are involved in the process to get the PDO certification: San Pietro, La Cianciola, Al Convento and four companies, Iasa, Delfino, Armatore and Nettuno. “As soon as we have the anchovies, we place them here,” says Giulio Giordano, the owner of Nettuno, a well-known Cetara business. “The first step is to remove the heads and guts of the fish, which are then placed in large containers filled with salt and left there for 24 hours to allow the salt to bring out the amber liquid”. This first part of the work is managed by Angela Giordano, the 74 years old sister of Giulio. Angela sits at an iron counter with her head bowed, busy cleaning the anchovies with precise attention and experienced hands; she shows a smoothness in her gestures that comes from the fact that she has been doing this since she was ten years old. “My grandfather opened this business and we are the third generation working in this field,” Giulio explains while showing us the room where the barrels are. The scent fills the room and it’s so intense that when you first enter, you’ll need a few minutes to adjust. The room almost resembles a big library, were it not for the fact that instead of shelters full of books, there are the so-called terzigni, an Italian word that refers to their size being 1/3 of a classic barrel. Once the anchovies are placed inside of those, a cover is placed on the top of the container and weights are applied to the cover so that there is enough pressure to help the fermentation. “Once the time has passed, we make a little hole under the terzigno so that the liquid can flow out of the barrel. Usually, this phase needs at least three years,” Giulio tells us. After that, the fishes that remain on the ladder of the barrel are handed to some local companies that turn them into fish food, so that nothing goes to waste.

 

Angela Speranza, Culture, Turismo and Communication Assessor in Cetara inside of the Torre Saracena
The art collection of fishing tools for the colatura di alici
Artworks inspired by the sea
An homage to the Gulf Of salerno sea
Colatura di Alici bottle
Spaghetti with colatura di Alici, photo by Agostino Criscuolo

 

A real art piece

Colatura is the pride of the Amalfi Coast. This product is so close to the hearts of the locals that in Torre Saracena, a little village of fishermen, they opened a museum to pay homage to it. “We gathered here some ancient pieces from our heritage so they won’t get lost or forgotten,” explains Angela Speranza, assessor of culture, tourism and communication in Cetara. In this museum, you will find a mix of old anchors, fishing nets and contemporary art such as pieces of ceramics because “without the efforts and work of fishermen, the process of Colatura wouldn’t be possible. This is the reason why almost every piece that we have in this little museum is linked to their figure; our desire is to showcase not only our culture but our core identity as well”. To celebrate their heritage, every year in December, families usually gather to eat together and the Colatura is the main event of the meal: they use it to accompany pasta and fish or vegetable dishes. At last, in 2021, it will be possible for anyone to taste this delicious sauce, even outside the local area. That’s because, thanks to the PDO certification, bottles of authentic Colatura Di Alici Di Cetara will be available in stores on the whole Italian territory. The label is an important achievement that shows the pure essence of the place where this delicious sauce is produced.

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