Garum & Brodetto

GARUM is a Partnership of Mediterranean institutions dedicated to the enhancement of the coastal culinary tradition, which takes its name from a key food in the diet of the ancient Romans.
Together with Itervitis, the European Route of Wine Culture, we are proposing to research and experiment the many “fish recipes for the celebrations”, which narrate about landscapes and material cultures, so profound and so different, along the Mediterranean coasts.
Garum is inspired by the family experience of a recipe inherited from the nineteenth-century history of Portorecanati. Pending the construction of the European project, we decided to offer it immediately, to an interested and specialised audience.

BRODETTO is a culinary experience dedicated to those who want to share it with their guests, and immerse themselves in the food and wine culture of the sea that unites us, the Adriatic. An experience thus described by Carla Ferraro:

“The gold of velvets.

We are not talking about the rich Venetian fabrics, but about a precious broth from the Marche region: two warps with a single weave.
Giovanni Velluti’s recipe is linked to Porto Recanati, after having crossed the whole Mediterranean. She was born in that sea and from there she took off, while keeping her secret.

A woman, Vanna, was her loving guardian and passed on that authentic knowledge to her son.
He now wishes to share the velvety and enveloping flavor of a secular culture.

Francesco prepares the Velluti soup with the same love that is felt for a grandfather, with the same skill of the mother’s hands and with a renewed competence. He knows the original recipe, the fundamental steps for perfect original success, but adds his knowledge on the origin, history, tradition of a dish that is the heritage of the peoples who live on the mare nostrum.
And from the great weavers of Venice, where he studied architecture, he learned that a golden thread can transform velvets into works of art, as a touch of precious saffron manages to change a fish soup into a masterpiece: the soft, tasty, amber, excellent brodetto Velluti.

The plot of this succulent story can take place in our home, in the kitchen and then around a table ready to welcome flavors and knowledge. The chef-architect offers excellent food for the body, nourishment for the mind and enthusiasm for the spirit.”

For information: scrivere a [email protected]

For further information below you find:

article 'put Brodetto one evening for dinner' by Giuseppe Porzi, Corriere Adriatico, 2020

“Put one evening for dinner with an architect, in front of the traditional fish broth of Porto Recanati prepared according to the recipe of the late ‘800, invented by Giovanni Velluti. The architect is Francesco Calzolaio and Velluti is his great-grandfather. For one evening the professional transforms himself in chefs at home to prepare the dish according to recipes and techniques whose secret has been jealously guarded for five generations. The idea was immediately a success in Venice, the Calzolaio’s land of adoption, which now brings it to its places of the heart.

“It was an idea born in Greece where I was on business – he says -. I invited friends who hosted me to a soup dinner prepared by myself. It was a pleasant experience and they appreciated it very much, perhaps because of a hidden affinity: Greek saffron, according to historians, inspired the first version of the soup”.
The mechanism is simple. “Anyone who wants to taste the traditional Porto Recanati brodetto calls me and I will prepare the dish under their eyes, keeping the recipe naturally secret, but sharing its flavors. It is enough that I know how many people I have to prepare – from 6 to 24 – and I will take care of the rest. Also the wine, of course Verdicchio, and the sweet, variation of the lemon sorbet reinterpreted with bergamot babà. Just write to [email protected]”.

How does an architect move from the design table to the stove? Very well according to the results; because even a dish, like a building, is the result of harmony (of flavors), knowledge drawn from places, respect for ancient practices and manual skills. And then it is a question of DNA and compensation for what history and a mentality not in its footsteps have stolen. “Giovanni Velluti – says Calzolaio – transformed the fish soup that the fishermen cooked on their hands into a complete lunch: that was made from scraps of fish, this with at least seven types of fish. His Chalet became the first restaurant on the beach of Porto Recanati and between the 19th and 20th centuries it was the destination of an international clientele. The rich English passing by, Gigli and his entourage, thronged him; even the king, they say, stopped by his boat once in Porto Recanati, instead of going down to the town hall, was greeted by a crowd in front of the Velluti restaurant”.
A century ago, in the Adriatic, goods, mariners and recipes united distant communities. “A Chioggia fisherman – confirms the architect chef – still tells today that some people make fish soup giving it the characteristic burnished color by letting it cook with a rusty nail, as Velluti had hinted at then”.

Then, this heritage risked being lost; hence the desire for revenge on fate. “In the 30s of the twentieth century the restaurant was closed – reveals Calzolaio – because two sisters remained to inherit it and Velluti did not believe that its management, and dealing with customers, were a thing for women. I still remember the bitterness of grandmother Elvira when she told the festive life of the restaurant, as I remember the indignation in the words of my mother Vanna, who felt that exclusion as a sexist affront. My mother gave me not only the recipe, but also the desire to perpetuate a heritage made of a past, but not dead, civilization and cultural experiences enclosed in a dish with an ancient flavor but still loved today”.

Giuseppe Porzi, Macerata, 2019

chapter 'Brodetto Bianco di Porto Recanati' by Ugo Bellesi in the book 'fish soups from the Macerata coast', 2009

“To talk about the Brodetto of Porto Recanati, we must start from what is reported in the “Gastronomic Guide of Italy” of the Italian Touring Club of 1931. We read verbatim: “The Marche gave rise to one of the classic specialties of Italian cuisine, broth, for which are famous the centers of the Marche coast and particularly some of them. “But what is called Brodetto of the Marche – explains the Guide – is not a single culinary entity, because it is produced in two distinct editions, each of which it has bright and exclusive partisans.” So he talks about the broth in the north of the Conero, and that “which is prepared on the littoral that from Mount Conero descends to the south and takes its name from Porto Recanati, of which it is the glorious gastronomic illustration”. And points out that people here “use flour in fish, make a thick sauce and use wild saffron (saffron) …; add slices of toasted bread” and it is necessary “a rich variety of fish, including sea bass, roscioli (red mullet), mullet, sole, swallow fish etc. with corn on the cob, cuttlefish and calamari which are cooked … in a sautéed oil, onion and parsley, with garlic, pepper, salt; everything is then poured … at the end of cooking on the slices of bread contained in the bowl. The result is an amalgam of certainly vigorous, yet delicate, flavors and aromas. In Porto Recanati the brodetto is also prepared to be exported and shipped in tin boxes”.

This long quote was a must because it allows us to remember and pay homage to Giovanni Velluti, the chef who made Porto Recanati soup so famous with his “Grottino – chalet Velluti”, founded in the late 1800s by Giovanni Velluti’s grandfather , which had the same name. The chalet was built on the Porto Recanati promenade as an annex of a small eight-room hotel which soon became too demanding and was sold in 1920. Giovanni Velluti then staked everything on the “Grottino” which became a very refined place with elegant and very professional waiters, a classy cuisine with highly sought-after dishes. The spearhead was precisely the saffron broth created according to a secret recipe that Velluti never wanted to reveal. However, he did not bring the secret to the grave because, before dying, he revealed it to his wife Barbara and his daughters. and this is how he arrived, from generation to generation, to Giovanni’s granddaughter, Vanna Osimani. Recanatese, teacher for 39 years, mother of four sons, today Vanna Osimani is retired and lives in Macerata with her husband. And Mrs. Vanna herself, some time ago, interrupted the tradition of transferring the secret recipe only to a descendant woman, asking for the delivery of silence and never to write the recipe, she tried to involve her male children, daughter-in-law and grandchildren . His son Francesco, and partially, his nephews Simone and Chara, experimented with the recipe. But they don’t talk about it long or willingly.

But something was told to us. There is no magic formula, because the goodness of the Velluti soup is in the freshness of the fish (which came directly to the Chalet from the hands that landed it on the beach a few meters from the restaurant), by rigorous procedures in arranging the various qualities of fish in the earthenware saucepan, from intelligently calibrating the fire that was placed under but also above the lid (as it used to do), from the choice of the type of fish to be used (with the exception, for example, of red mullets that give a too “strong” flavor) preferring cuttlefish, monkfish, dogfish, hake, sole, scampi and few other qualities.
And how did the Velluti chalet end up? All activities ceased when Giovanni Velluti, having had two daughters, decided that the activity could not be managed by his girls in direct contact with the public. It was the mentality of the time and the restaurant closed its doors. It was the immediate post-war period. But many still remember the time when Velluti even sent his canned packs of soup to Paris.

The tradition, however, has not been lost because the recipe for saffron broth continued to perpetuate itself, first with the Bianchi restaurant, then with others, each with the belief that this was their real Velluti recipe. For years Porto Recanati has been famous for its soup and still holds its flag high today. But the real Velluti soup can be enjoyed only once a year, on December 24, Christmas Eve, in the home of Mrs. Vanna Calzolaio who still prepares it personally. But in his menu, after the “fantasy of the sea in a boat”, and the “golden spaghetti” (with the amber-colored gravy of the soup), she writes “saffron fish cocktail” (and not “Antico brodetto Grottino Velluti” as it would be more logical) accompanied by “crostini in tinta” (that of the brodetto), then “lemon sorbet” and “grandma’s babà”.”

Ugo Bellesi, Macerata, 2009

'The Adriatic at the table, a heritage of flavors saved and brought back to your tables.' by Francesco Calzolaio, 2019

The brodetto di Portorecanati has its roots in the invention of Giovanni Velluti in the late nineteenth century. He transformed into a complete lunch, with a delicate flavor, the fish soup that fishermen cooked on their racks, to survive during long hours of work. That was made with scraps, so as not to consume the best part of the catch. Velluti used at least seven different types of fish, from the most precious to the most common, cooked in a singular way, covered in mystery.

The Velluti chalet became the first restaurant on the beach of Portorecanati since 1885, a wooden platform covered by a gazebo and sheltered by white sheets, a sail in the midst of the many wooden winches that carried the fishermen’s boats to dry. Velluti thus began the tourist transformation of the eighteenth-century seaside village, which was completed only after the Second World War. When many restaurants have found a place around the see promenade of Porto Recanati, that has become one of the most sought after and pleasant on the Marche coast.

Innovative or traditional chefs often chase that recipe, without anyone really getting close to it. Because the Velluti have jealously guarded its ingredients and techniques, first only for commercial reasons, then as a stubborn recourse to an ungrateful destiny. In fact, in the thirties the restaurant was closed because only two sisters remained to inherit it. Despite them, because they would have liked to carry on the tradition and renew the success obtained by their father. However, at the end of his own production cycle, Giovanni Velluti closed the restaurant because at the time he thought it was not a thing for women to have anything to do with the public of customers, an opinion shared by many of the upper middle class in the Italian province, certainly a little bigoted.

The restaurant between the late nineteenth and early twentieth century had become a point of reference for the food and wine culture of the Marche region, to the point that it was often crowded with a rich local and international clientele. Often the famous tenor of Recanat Beniamino Gigli, with his international entourage, went to eat there. The Chalet was a recurring landing point for passing fleets, especially the English one. Memories and historical photos tell of when the king of Italy, instead of descending from his spear in the town hall castle square, was welcomed by two wings of crowds right in front of the Velluti restaurant.

A century ago the Adriatic was still a “space / time unity”, to take up the dazzling Braudelian definition of the Mediterranean. Goods, people and recipes navigated and united even distant communities. A Chioggia fisherman still tells how their fish soup recipe looks a lot like that of the Portorecanatese broth. He says that in Chioggia some people still make the soup by giving it the characteristic burnished color, letting it cook with a rusty nail, as Velluti had hinted at then.

Giovanni Velluti was my great-grandfather. I still remember the enormous bitterness of my grandmother Elvira, when she told of the atmosphere, festive and exclusive at the same time, that accompanied the life of the restaurant. Bitterness that oozed with indignation in the words of my mother Vanna, who still felt that sexist exclusion as an affront to her living skin. My mother gave me not only the recipe, assimilated through many preparations together, where she basically did not spoke, but emphasized the movements of the hands, as if leaving them the task of sharing rhythms and gestures. It was not only emphasis but really an extraordinary dimension of doing, tactile, to the point that to know if the broth was cooked almost “imposed his hands”, she touched the fish in the boiling and decided whether or not to let it cook again.

For years I have been wondering how to respect the mandate for confidentiality, and at the same time make this memory so precious for us alive, but also for the growing community of enthusiasts who from many parts ask to understand and discover a fundamental and tasty passage of local and Italian food and wine history. Even then the fame of the Velluti soup had crossed the Alps and the Touring Club guide of the ’31 tells that it was shipped cooked to Paris. A few years ago this culinary heritage inspired the candidacy for a European project on fish recipes from Mediterranean grandmothers, with prestigious partners from Greece to France, unfortunately lost for a few hundredths of a point.

A short time ago I was in Greece for work (I am an architect and a professor) when I invited my dear friends who hosted me to a soup dinner. Just Greek saffron, according to historians, inspired the first version of the Adriatic broth. In fact it was such a pleasant experience for me that I finally shared a precious legacy, as for my friends who knew how to appreciate it.
Then came the idea of cooking brodetto at home, keeping the recipe secret but sharing its taste. In fact, this is the greatest gift we can give to the memory of a humble product of the genius of grandfather Velluti, unjustly relegated only to the history books of the bigotry of the time. In fact, only the memory that we are able to share lives.

The Velluti di Portorecanati brodetto is a way of cooking fish, in the sense that the fish is not served immersed in its broth, but rather whole, or in large pieces. You can soak the croutons and season the spaghetti with the sauce. No, we can’t tell you more, but invite you to enjoy it at home, where I can come with the ingredients and cook it, just for you, and to share a cultural and food and wine experience, the passion of putting the Mediterranean on the table, or at least pieces, many and large.

Francesco Calzolaio, Venezia/Macerata, 2019

Those who want to share the food and wine experience of Brodetto Velluti in their home can write to [email protected].

Menu of the Brodetto Velluti di Portorecanati:
appetizer: fantasy in boat (endive leaf with Russian salad)
first: spaghetti in broth
second: white fish soup with croutons
side dish: mixed salad with bergamot scent
sweet: sorbet with baba with bergamot

 

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