Don’t throw any of the cod away!

08 May 2023

“For us, local raw materials are important, but we are not fixated on a zero-kilometer approach. Our focus is the quality of the ingredients.” Trattoria Rosmarino is a Genoese restaurant behind Piazza De Ferrari and just 600 meters from the Porto Antico.

The restaurant is run by Felice Zingarelli, on the floor, and Alessandro Massone, in the kitchen.

Alessandro is a member of the Slow Food Cooks’ Alliance. We spoke to him about his philosophy in the kitchen.

Brandacujun, by Trattoria Rosmarino

Inside Trattoria Rosmarino

Trattoria Rosmarino was established in 2010, but Alessandro and Felice first met in 2004, when they were working in another establishment together. They then worked together in the Salita del Fondaco, a Parisian-style bistrot in Piazza De Ferrari, the central square of historic Genoa.

Inside the Trattoria there are comfortable green leather benches surrounded by wine bottles. The menu changes often, except for two stalwarts: the lasagna and the brandacujun, while the rest of the day’s menu is written on a blackboard. Many of the dishes are evocative of Genoese gastronomic tradition, though often with original reinterpretations.

“Our brandacujun starts from the idea that you don’t throw any of the cod away,” Alessandro tell us. “I like to study tradition and give it a contemporary reinterpretation.” And so it is that in addition to being symbol dish here, Rosmarino’s brandacujun is also a contemporary anti-waste recipe: “To make it, I use all the parts of the cod, including the tripe and the skin, and this interpretation has won over the skeptics who say tradition can’t be messed with.”

Study, study, study…

Pansoti with prebuggiun

Beyond brandacujun, Rosmarino approaches all its cooking in this way. “Il tocco is the classic Genovese sauce, made with meat and tomatoes. We make it with meat from the cabannina breed, a Slow Food Presidium, and we cook it at a low temperature so it has a firmer consistency. For the dressing of pansoti or prebugiun ravioli, instead of walnut sauce we make hazelnut and marjoram sauce. For the trofie pesto, I studied how to get the perfect balance between the garlic and the pecorino cheese…”

Then there are other local classics, too, like turnip greens. “In cooking the turnip greens, I studied a lot to get the softness I wanted. Of course, before I got there, there were also a lot of missteps… And we ate a lot of them! Our Rosmarino turnip greens are cooked twice: first in a broth of bones and spiced and roasted vegetables; the second is again at a low temperature, to get the perfect texture.”

The cappon magro, meanwhile, is a real meeting point between the land and the sea. “For Christmas, in the Covid era, I sold it in jars to make it easier to take home. The vegetables were cooked at low temperature, blended, and composed in layers, in which I alternated other layers of boiled and already seasoned white fish.” As in the case of brandacujun, there were those who objected to this deviation from the classic recipe – the Genoese public is not easy to please – but many were enthusiastic. Then, as Alessandro says, “Once you win over a Genoese, it’s forever.”

The Taste Workshop – Experiments in brandacujun – takes place on June 3 at 8 p.m.

In Liguria and Piedmont the term brandacujun is well known. The first part comes from the French verb brandir (to wave or shake an object, like brandish in English), while the second part refers to part of the male anatomy commonly used as an insult. As a dish, brandacujun is composed of stockfish or cod, oil and potatoes (while milk may also be added in the French version), and was prepared aboard ship where nothing more than the ability to shake a pan was required to prepared it (and thus the task was often assigned to the least brilliant of the crew). In our trip from Coast to Coast we’ll explore the evolution of this dish, with ingredients processed over long periods to form a perfect amalgamation that’s symbolic of the union between products of the land and sea.

Get your ticket now!

More than just local ingredients

A sandwich by Rosmarino, and Piazza De Ferrari. Both beautiful!

Other choices applied in the kitchen reveal other important aspects of the cuisine, as ingredients are not necessarily zero-kilometer. Have you ever heard of sbira, or Genoese-style tripe? It’s an old recipe, whose basic ingredients – according to Marco Guarnaschelli Gotti’s Encyclopedia – are tripe, meat (beef, pork or veal), and tomato. It owes its name to the sbirri (an Italian slang word for the police), who used to guard the fences of Genoa’s harbor. “We make it with tripe from the Ligurian cabannina breed, a soffritto made using Mora Romagnola guanciale, a Slow Food Presidium, and corona beans, which give additional creaminess and sweetness to the dish.”

Their inventory stretches as far as Romagna, then, for the choice of one of the ingredients. Which brings us back to the initial quote, as Alessandro says: “Many of our ingredients are local: the fish are sourced from a Genoese fishmonger, and we look at seasonality, freshness, and cheaper species, from blue fish to squid and albacore tuna, allowing us to keep prices lower. The potatoes come from two enthusiastic young producers in Calizzano, and the herbs in our recipes are also local; I often grow them myself. But I’m not obsessed with the idea of zero-kilometer cooking: I use bottarga from Cabras, for example, Romagnola blackberries and Piedmontese hazelnuts too.”

What all this elements have in common is the way they are used to create fresh, light, contemporary dishes in the kitchen of Trattoria Rosmarino. Come and find out for yourself in Genoa, and at Slow Fish.

by Silvia Ceriani,

Slow Fish 2023 is organized by Slow Food and the Liguria Region, with the support of the City of Genoa. We’re in the Porto Antico of Genoa from June 1-4. Sign up to the Slow Food newsletter for the latest updates. #SlowFish2023

All images by Trattoria Rosmarino and used with permission.

Land and sea: a cut of amberjack with porcini mushrooms and potato cream.
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