Toti from Castelsardo, fisherman and grand chef

by admin on 16/03/2010

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I met Toti for the first time at his restaurant in the medieval part of Castelsardo after having been recommended going to there by his friend Martino, whose B&B “Eleonora di Arborea” we stayed at.

After having heard that we stayed at his friend’s place, Toti allowed us immediately to enter his kitchen showing all the ingredients he cooked and mixed with great dexterity together with seafood and local produce from the countryside, that is the region l’Aglona.

During the cooking he combined seafood like Mediterranean eels and crabs which would have constituted the main ingredients for a “zuppa di pesce con fregola” (a traditional Sardinian fish soup). At the same time, his young assistant Daniele was cutting up garlic and Sardinian artichokes in order to combine the products from the earth with products from the sea. After having finished the cooking, we were treated to delicacies like Sardinian fish eggs, fruits of the ocean, crustaceans, various types of fish and so on.

While Toti was cooking, he also started persuading me in joining his fish trip early next morning. At about 10 p.m. in the evening he confided in me: “I have of course captured the fish I have just been cooking…do you want to join me at 3 in the morning in order to see how we do longline fishing? It will be really fun, you can watch the sunrise above the ocean and you see Castelsardo and the surrounding coast from the fishing boat. You can of course photograph as much as you like”. I tried to explain that I didn’t have enough clothes to stay warm on a boat at sea and I wasn’t even sure that I would be able to wake up so early. He countered by offering me a set of warm clothes. Briefly, he was very good at persuading and in the end I agreed meeting him early next morning.

After meeting Toti in the old part of the city, we drove down from the castle to the place of his fishing companion, Masimilliano. Then, we embarked the boat at about 3.30 a.m. After having got dressed like I had just joined an expedition bound for the North Pole, the fishermen set course for the south. Fortunately, there was no wind, the sea was completely dark, while lots of lights could be seen emanating from Castelsardo.

After having moved south for some time, the fishermen somehow knew that we had arrived at the right place for starting fishing, they stopped the boat, keeping the engine on in order to power the flashlight, Toti and Masimilliano started preparing their fishing equipment. They used one long fishing line to which they attached short fishing lines at regular intervals. Each short fishing line had a hook in the other end. Of course, they had to put fresh bait on each of the hooks. After having baited a hook, it was put back on a ring of cork.

When everything was ready, they threw a small buoy into the sea. A thin rope was attached to the buoy, and the long fishing line was again attached to the thin rope. They also attached some lead weights to the long fishing line in order to make it sink. Then, one of them released the hooks one by one and let them enter the sea. In fact, they had two longline fishing setups, meaning that they repeated the same procedure once again. After having finished another longline, it was time for an hour’s break for me and Toti, while Masimilliano had to the keep the boat on course.

When it was time to collect the fishing equipment, one of the fishermen used a long pole with a hook at the end in order to catch the buoy. Then, they pulled up the thin rope until the long fishing line appeared. Pulling it into the boat, the short fishing lines with the hooks started reappearing again.

Most of the hooks were empty, but some of them had caught fish like Mediterranean eels, spottail pinfish and lots of other types of fish whose names I don’t know…. and in the evening we all sat down for a delicious meal prepared by Toti.

For the friends of Castelsardo, Martino and Toti.

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