By Patrizia Cherici

 

Fun, creativity, lots of fruit… and an exceptional carbonara without egg!

 

Leaving the state road 73 Senese-Aretina at the junction with the provincial road 47, you walk along a hilly ridge from which you can admire a panorama of indescribable poetry. Fields of spontaneous and cultivated vegetation, framed by the dark green of ancient oak groves and contrasted by the typical red of the local land, offer satisfaction to even the most demanding landscape aesthete. And it is precisely this stretch of road that introduces us to what, with good reason, can be defined as one of the most beautiful and characteristic historic villages of the Tuscan Valtiberina and makes us discover an equally characteristic and welcoming bar-restaurant, whose name certainly intrigues: the Cocomerò in Anghiari.

 

 

The history of the restaurant began in 2000, when Alessandro Landini and his wife Angelica Nicchi decided to open a kiosk in the ‘Campo alla Fiera’ area, offering patrons the opportunity to enjoy a slice of watermelon, pineapple or melon, refreshing and thirst-quenching typically summer fruits, or a cup of fruit salad: from a picturesque truck they began to serve dishes exclusively of fresh fruit. Given that this activity was purely seasonal, in 2004 Alessandro, together with his sister Lucia, decided to buy the bar near to the kiosk: still today, expecially during the summer period, Lucia takes care of the entire management of the bar.

In a short time, the success of the kiosk, together with the love for the Tuscan-Umbrian rural culinary tradition, are the assumptions from which the current Cocomerò takes its cue and shapes, which since 2008 has officially become a restaurant. From appetizers to desserts, the basic ingredient is fruit with its combinations: the dishes presented give new life to ancient peasant recipes, without sacrificing that pinch of balanced imagination. The combination of these ingredients is certainly able to satisfy refined and curious taste.

The location, as mentioned, is in the upper part of the town, and offers first of all a splendid view of the medieval village below and the plain that was theatre of the homonymous battle (the Battle of Anghiari) fought in 1440 between the Duchy of Milan and the Republic of Florence, and incompletely depicted by Leonardo da Vinci in the ‘Salone dei Cinquecento’ in Palazzo Vecchio. But let’s now get to the heart of our gastronomic excursus to discover the Cocomerò restaurant!

We are welcomed by the owners, Alessandro, known as ‘Lupo’ (the Wolf) , who smiles at us with his nice coloured glasses from behind the counter, and his wife Angelica, busy and smiling under her carrot-red hair, who takes care of the kitchen. After a first glance at the restaurant, the interview begins, and we discover that the restaurant, although not defining itself as vegetarian, presents a varied and colourful menu in which fruit is not confined to the role of dessert, but well inserted in the role of main protagonist, both through the reinterpretation of old lost recipes – which, as Alessandro confides to us, were taken from the old grandmothers’ notebooks and represent about 60% of the recipes – and thanks to the new combinations that spring from Angelica’s creative imagination.

An anecdote from Alessandro’s childhood that evokes common memories in the countryside of the last century, concerns the raisins destined for Vinsanto: seasoned with oil and salt it turned out to be a delicious snack! The menu of the Cocomerò, as Alessandro says, is more to be savoured than to be read. In addition to the many dishes that we find listed, every week Angelica, who loves to create and get involved, offers a menu based on a seasonal fruit, creating many courses with it, from appetizers to desserts.

A hors d’oeuvre that brings together different appetizers introduces us to the heart of the many proposals including pears and pecorino cheese with honey and jams, ricotta with peach and raspberry jam, pineapple with parmesan, traditional panzanella, bresaola with apple, plum with bacon, bruschetta with goat cheese and figs, pizzutella grapes and gorgonzola, nectarine with honey and rosemary with balsamic vinegar. Before continuing with the first courses, our attention is captured by the description of two other delicacies: the ‘Lupo’ appetizer which follows a recipe of Alessandro’s grandmother, based on Tuscan bread, diced watermelon, pizzutella grapes, oil and salt, and the ‘Angelica’ appetizer, which combines the strong flavour of pecorino cheese with the delicate one of the Abate and Williams variety pear, Well blended by the sweet contrast of honey and orange, onion and apricot sauce.

Among the first courses, it is worth mentioning the traditional lasagna, revisited thanks to the skilful combination of pears, gorgonzola and crispy bacon, which in the wake of nuanced notes from beyond the sea accompany us to the encounter of the delicate couscous with the full taste of melon, diluted by the tasty contrast of raw ham and rocket. However, a special place should be given to a recipe particularly dear to Italians (especially to the Romans), which is also known and appreciated all over the world, namely the ‘Spaghetti alla carbonara’, which our two artists propose in an original version, in which the yellow-gold hue of the mango ripened entirely on the plant replaces the sunny one of the egg, creating a new context and new nuances. Amazing, creamy spaghetti and above all without a trace of egg!

Among the historical recipes that include second courses are beef carpaccio, softened by the presence of strawberries and, for fish lovers, mackerel assorted with citrus fruits. The sautéed prawns and the crispy salad with pecorino cheese and Granny-Smith apples are certainly appreciated.

Finally, pizzas with fruit deserve a mention. Here we leave the realm of Angelica to quietly enter that of Alessandro, who proudly confides to us that he is the creator of pasta: “Made with five different flours”. Among the fruits that best lend themselves to pairing with pizza are certainly apples, pears, melon, strawberries and grapes (to be combined with sausage, the best is pizzutella). The menu offers a choice of pizzas that are all very special, including the ‘Puerto Rico’ (with cheese, pepper and pears), the ‘Peru’ (mozzarella, raw ham, strawberries, parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar), the ‘Italia’ (mozzarella, salmon, mascarpone and green apple) and the ‘Austria’ (mozzarella, melon, rocket and sausage). Despite all this, Alessandro is keen to point out that this is not a real pizzeria, but still a fruit restaurant!

The novelty of summer 2024 concerns beer: almost thirty labels of both Italian and foreign totally artisanal beers: dedicated evenings will be organized during which a master brewer will be available to guests who will illustrate the various types and the right combinations to match.

Undoubtedly, the skills of a cook are strengthened by experimentation, that is, to bring new lifeblood to the ‘old’, in search not only of new flavours, but also of different horizons that can allow a synthesis between the knowledge of the wisdom tradition and the most recent ones, also determined on the basis of health needs. All that remains is to have the courage to overcome cultural paradigms and decide to venture into a new world, which – as we have seen – is not so new, to be able to rediscover one’s roots with a slightly different perspective. How did Disney’s Anton Ego, food critic in the famous cartoon Ratatouille, answer the question “What can I serve you?”.

“A bit of perspective!” This is the secret ingredient, present both in the beautiful view of the Upper Tiber Valley and in the kitchen of the restaurant itself. As also reported in the explanatory paper placemat – thanks to which it is possible to pass the wait by reading about the therapeutic virtues of fruit and more – the restaurant offers refreshment under the enchanting lime trees on all summer evenings, starting at 19.00. Even those who have later habits will be able to enjoy the tasty dishes of the Cocomerò until late at night, as the doors close an hour after midnight. One thing is certain: the simplicity and genuineness of the raw materials, perhaps not so obvious to our eyes, accustomed to pre-packaged and processed foods, is actually the successful ingredient of this cuisine. Alessandro and Angelica have thrown down the gauntlet, it’s up to you to pick it up!

 

 

Info: Cocomerò, Via Campo della Fiera 27, Anghiari (Ar) / Tel. 0575 788151 / info@cocomero.org

 

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