One of the delights in eating in Romagna (and I hazard to guess all over Italy) is the “misto.”
Where I come from, eating fish you usually get one thing. Your appetizer is one thing–a tartar, half a dozen oysters, a bowl of mussels. And your main course is usually one thing–fillet of whitefish, fillets of perch, a chunk of salmon or tuna or swordfish, some crab legs or a lobster tail. Want to taste something besides what’s on your plate? Poach a bite from your wife’s when she’s not looking.
In Italy you can get a mix of just about anything, antipasto, primi (soups or pastas), secondi (main courses), and contorni (side dishes). There’s lingo for this diversity. If you want a combo of primi you get a “bis,” which is two different pastas, or a “tris,” which is three. When you order your secondi the misto comes into play. A misto of roasted meats, a misto of grilled meats or fish. On the side, a misto of grilled or roasted vegetables.
Bring it. Because really, who wants to eat just one thing, when there’s so much goodness and so much variety?
Seafood, because of where we are, on the coast of the Adriatic, means many little creatures. You definitely want to think misto.
One of our favorite restaurants in the area is La Marianna. It’s in the San Giuliano area of Rimini, hard by the historic Tiberius Bridge, a km from the sea, which means a km from the daily haul of local fish. Understatement, thy name is fresh.
They offer three types of appetizers: raw, cold, and hot. It would take days, no, weeks to give them all the proper attention. So if you’re passing through, you order a misto. Sardines, cuttlefish, squid, octopus, baby scallops, grown-up scallops, baby clams, razor clams, sea snails, squill mantis, sole, mullet, monkfish. The mixes are on the menu. Or you can mix things up yourself. Herewith, some examples:
Dessert, yes. It’s pear season. Pear and prune baked in sangiovese, sprinkled with a few cloves, served with a tiny scoop of ice cream.
And local white wine.
One year when we hit town we checked with Stefano, a family friend. Where’s the good seafood this year? He’d steered us right before. We had fish at da Marco, where he said the antipasti and secondi were so good, we should skip the primi. It was good advice. Then da Marco sort of faded.
Next, on his recommendation, we went to al Moccolo, which served a tuna carpaccio that changed my life, and all the misti were fresh and fantastic. Then Moccolo sort of faded.
We followed the waiter, on Stefano’s recommendation, to La Purazza.
One day crossing the street we found La Marianna. We stopped woman who looked local. Where would I eat fish? Right there, she said, point at at Marianna. We found it and we have stayed. It is consistently good. The waitstaff changes, which is a bitter thing because a kind of intimacy can develop, but the kitchen has maintained. In Rimini, for now, this is where we go.
Next, eating fish at Gennaro, down the coast toward Pesaro.
The pear the wine!