Sand Cooking in Ischia, Italy

Posted on July 31 2015

It might sounds outlandish but on a tiny island in the Mediterranean Sea, just outside of Naples and within sight of Capri, the locals have perfected the art of cooking in the sand. 

 

Ischia’s history is full of stories of its hot springs being used for many things:  Ancient Roman royalty used them to bathe in and at average temperatures of 180 degrees, many used them and still do, to cook food.  Restaurateur Ivo Iacono recalls a time early in the century that he and his family would dive for octopus and sea urchin, using the hot springs to cook the fresh seafood in, upon their return.  While the water is hot, the sands underneath are even hotter – up to 350 degrees – thanks in large part to the island’s volcanic history.  The whole region in fact, has volcanic activity. After all, Mount Vesuvius is only 19 miles away. 

 

The hot springs and the sands underneath have been used for ages as a cooking source, back when heat and fresh water were scarce.  And at a few places on Ischia, you can still find this ancient practice of cooking food, used today.  At a local restaurant, Ristorante Emanuela, the practice is still quite popular.  The restaurant is accessible only golf cart and is perched high on the beach.  The chef wraps the food in layers of plastic, foil, and cloth.  After this, the packages of food are buried in the sand, marked by the rope that sticks out of the earth.  After cooking for about an hour, the parcels are taken from earth to table and enjoyed.  It’s an ancient way to cook food but it works, draws in a crowd, and most importantly:  the food tastes delicious.

 

Ischia is also famous for its wine, which many say, carries the mineral taste of the volcanic soil that the grapes are grown in.  Today, tourism is popular in Ischia and if you travel, you can expect to feast on local dishes of rabbit rolled in herbs and cooked in the sand, or food made from stale bread, called Freselle.

 

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