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The forbidden dish: the fry eels “alla pisana”

Today it’s a forbidden dish, ecologically incorrect…

But because it’s a part of the millenary history of Pisa and of the people who have lived here, how could we not talk about it.

They are the fry eels called “alla pisana”. Once upon a time along the whole Tuscan coast side, from the north to the south, many fishermen caught the fry eels on their way to the sweet water where they were supposed to grow.

Today the fry eel fishing is forbidden but unfortunately there is a flourishing black market. So it’s good to know that if you find fry eels in the restaurant they are illegally imported or bought from France where the fishing is still legal.
For many centuries the fry fish has been a culinary delicacy and an ingredient in many simple and tasty recipes.

A very simple but poetic dish (the dish was exalted in a sonnet by Neri Tanfucio also known as Renato Fucini), it’s made in the frying pan with olive oil and salvia and it’s served on a hot plate.

Some people like to put parmesan cheese on top and in Viareggio, for example, they add tomatoes, they could also be used as seasoning for pasta or omelette. But the true poetry and nostalgia of this dish is connected with the long nights waiting at the Arno River to get some fry eels on their way up the river in the net.

The nights were very cold, because it all occurred between Christmas and the beginning of March, and also very long and to keep warm they used to lit fires on the river bank, but today that is all part of the past.


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