The sand along Rome’s coastline presents a rather particular quality and grain size which, between Passoscuro and Capo d’Anzio, create ideal fishing conditions for the tellina (Donax trunculus), a small, delicate, delicious bivalve mollusc.
The tellina was very popular even among the Ancient Romans. The fishing traditions of the communities of the Roman coastline have remained intact. In the 1950s the tellina ‘stole the limelight’, during the period known as Dolce Vita, when actors and film directors from Cinecittà (among whom, Federico Fellini) flocked to the local seaside resorts where they would enjoy this speciality.
Tellina fishing, which is a tiring business, is carried out by fishers on their own. Professional fishermen use “rakes” mounted on the stern of their small coastal fishing boats. The fishing goes on from dawn to midday, and only when the sea is calm. Non-professionals use handheld “rakes”. Fishing is permitted only up to the quantities allowed by law.
The organisation, Slow Food, has set up a watchdog body (Presidio), so that that this resource, the “Tellina del Litorale romano” might be put to best use, valorised and also preserved.
Awareness is essential if we are to fully enjoy this sweet, truly gourmet mollusc:
tellinas of a size of less than 2 cm must be neither fished nor sold;
during April, a biological rest period applies, and fishing is prohibited.
How is the tellina cooked? The tellina is sweeter and more delicate than the other molluscs. Small, and delicately favoured, it will be savoured best by keeping the accompaniments down to a minimum. Here’s a traditionally Roman recipe: spaghetti with tellinas.
Recipe: spaghetti con le telline
Ingredients (for 4):
400 grammes of spaghetti
500 grammes of tellinas (from the Presidio Slow Food)
1 bunch of parsley
1 clove of garlic
hot chilli pepper
salt (to taste)
extra virgin olive oil (to taste)
½ glass of white wine
If the tellinas which you have brought home with you are still sandy, leave them to soak overnight in salty water (1 spoonful of coarse salt in 1 litre of water). In a large pan, fry garlic and chilli pepper in olive oil. As soon as the garlic browns, rinse off the tellinas and add them to the pan. Turn up the flame and cover, so that the shells open, while stirring from time to time. Add half a glass of white wine and heat with the lid off so that the preparation can dry out. Remove the pan from the flame, sprinkle with parsley, and then add the spaghetti (boiled in abundant salted water, al dente, or slightly underdone).
Where to eat spaghetti tellinas at the seaside
Ristorante Pinzimonio, via Formoso 95, Fiumicino (province of Rome), tel. 0665029764, http://www.pinzimoniofiumicino.eu/
Il Pacchero Solitario, via Verdi 29, Aprilia (province of Latina), tel. 0692062042,http://www.ristoranteilpaccherosolitario.com/
Where to buy Presidio Slow Food tellinas
Eataly Roma, Air Terminal Ostiense, Piazzale XII Ottobre 1492, tel. 0690279201, http://www.roma.eataly.it/
Agrimar, Centro di depurazione e spedizione molluschi (mollusc cleaning and shipping centre), via Merope 32, Anzio, tel. 0698610190, 3289121948