Lunch at Lo Scoglio

Grottammare – May 2010
Our favourite fish restaurant in the entire world is Lo Scoglio at Grottammare Sud, on the Adriatic coast in the Marche region of Italy. The reason we think it’s so good is because the food is simple and fresh and varied in its presentation.
Lo Scoglio has been there, according to what its says on its place mats, since 1990, but it looks to date from before that, with its gold- and silver-panelled ceiling, its fake ship’s wheel on the wall, its cooler-cabinet covered in nets. As with just about every restaurant in this part of Italy, the television is on, though in Lo Scoglio you can’t hear it because there’s a CD of popular songs playing as well. This is Italy.
Fish dinners in this part of Italy are pretty-much of a pattern wherever you go: you start with an antipasto of either seven or fifteen courses, then you have a pasta dish, then if you are young and energetic you can have some grilled or fried fish, then a salad, then a coffee.
You don’t have to have any or all of that. This is Italy; if you just want a bowl of pasta, then you ask the waiter and that will almost certainly be no problem. The only thing that might annoy the staff is if you go into a fish restaurant and sit down and say, ‘Erh, I don’t like fish!’, but you would only do that if you are British, which is why the staff in Lo Scoglio, as often in other restaurants in the region, assume us to be German until we tell them otherwise, at which point they are much surprised.
Although the format of the meals is the same, the detail varies a bit; this describes a lunch we ate at Lo Scoglio on Monday 24th May 2010.
Antipasti, cold
First, five dishes are brought along, together with some toast. It is really annoying that I did not hold the camera still when photographing these five, but I’ve included the picture anyway on the basis that it is better than not including it.
1. Raw oysters, cockles and a kind of small whelk, on a bed of ice with some wedges of lemon.
2. Pink prawns with cooked beetroot
3. Polpo (octopus) salad
4. Squid with potatoes
5. Two marinated artichoke hearts
Antipasti, hot
Scampi (Italian word), in other words langoustines or crayfish. These are fried quickly in a pan with oil and butter and the pan is brought to the table so they are very, very hot.
Gratinata. Mussels, pieces of squid (calamari), and pieces of a white fish topped with cheese and breadcrumbs and grilled. There’s some tomato there too.
Creamed polenta with a sauce make from chopped whelk or sea-slug, or both. The chef called it something like ‘buio’, which is the Italian word for dark or gloomy, so it may not have been quite that word, though he showed us the shell of a whelk to demonstrate where he’s got the meat from.
Winkles (periwinkles) cooked with tomato and onion, and squid and octopus cooked with onion and parsley. You get the meat from the winkle with a cocktail stick – I had to ask the man as there seemed to be no particular implement provided.
I did not photograph the next dish as it is so ubiquitous in that part of Italy: cozze, mussels, steamed with oil.
Maccheroncini pasta from Campofilone (just up the road from Grottammare) with a ragù of frutti di mare, ie shellfish. The chef finishes it off by heating the sauce with the pasta in a pan and then he twirls a pile on your plate.
We stopped after the pasta. To drink, sparkling water; no wine, which was true of most people in the restaurant. It was a hot day.
Total cost for two: €75. Not cheap, but everything cooked or presented to perfection (apart from that splash of sauce on the side of the bowl, tut, tut!).
There is another write-up of a lunch at Lo Scoglio, that I did after the first time we went there four years ago in 2006: A Lunch of Posy Fish. (That time cost more than this, though we did have a bottle of wine on that occasion.)

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