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Taste some of Tuscany's secret caviar - bottarga from Orbetello.

by M. Carla Glotier — last modified 2008-06-20 15:11

We go to Orbetello in the south of Tuscany and discover a local luxury that is in risk of dying out.

Taste some of Tuscany's secret caviar - bottarga from Orbetello.Built on a tiny strip of land stretching into the Tyrrhenian Sea, Orbetello is famous for its two resident species - mosquitoes and mullets (the fish - not the hairstyle, although the latter is also in vogue with many of the local males). Orbetello is one of the few remaining areas in Italy where bottarga - salted mullet roe - is produced. Bottarga, one of the country's best-kept culinary secrets, is removed from the fish and then salted and air-dried into tongue-like shapes. It's a skilful process as the sacs containing the eggs must remain intact in order to keep the bottarga's distinctive briny yet spicy flavour. It is excellent grated over spaghetti, vegetable dishes and salads or served in thin flakes with olive oil on warm bread.
All of Orbetello's bottarga is produced by the local fishing co-op, Orbetello Pesca Lagunare.

Most of the final product is exported but some is kept for the local market and you can taste the real thing in the town's restaurants and osterias.

While it is easy enough to buy Sardinian bottarga online (which is delicious and costs on average 7-8 Euros for 4 ounces) you'll have to pay a visit to Orbetello itself in order to taste the local speciality. If you're in the area we recommend "I Pescatori" restaurant, which is run by the fishing co-op and is just off Spagnola Square.
After lunch, if you've managed not to overindulge, you can go for a constitutional around Orbetello. The town's main attraction is the Duomo with its Spanish-style walls. From there you can walk up to the Garrison and then join the locals on their evening stroll along Corso Italia.

Recipes - - Pasta with bottarga
The history of bottarga - - More about the history of salted fish in the Mediterranean area
Orbetello Pesca - - Go fishing in Orbetello (in Italian only)

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