Here we are, all seated around the table. I knew this time would come and I was really eager to enjoy it, but at the same time I knew the implicit dangers: the endless flow of smells and flavours started by the deep sense of hospitality here in Calabria, Southern Italy, can be literally overwhelming. I even tried to warn my companions, since I had a long history of holidays spent here in Civita, the hidden gem in Cosenza‘s province overlooking the gorgeous Raganello Valley.
As soon as the restaurant Kamastra‘s owner welcomed us in his little reign, a long line of starters appeared from the kitchen: peppers, potatoes, onions, aubergines, fried stuff, meatballs with ‘nduja (kind of a hot salami cream), ham, cheese… a witty combination of simple ingredients, preferably fried, all enriched by an intense flavour.
It was just the beginning. I wondered if my companions believed me when I recalled my last visit to Civita: six kilos in ten days, just by visiting all the restaurants of this small village where less than one thousand people live and there are probably more seats in restaurants then beds. Following the starters comes pasta, of course – homemade noodles with a hearty tomato sauce with meat and vegetables – and the prince of the local kitchen: roasted goat.
Civita lies among the peaks of a mountain range called Pollino. The evening breeze cleans the air, warmed up by temperature up to 45°C during summer. The local flavours here include mostly meat – pork, goat, sheep, cow and wild boar – homemade pasta and fried vegetables. Fish is an exotic plate that can be enjoyed after a trip to the beach, which seems really far seen from here, surrounded by rocks and cliffs. Every product comes directly from the producer. Wine is mostly homemade, “just with grapes” as the people here use to say.
Such a rich culinary tradition went almost unchanged during the generations. It had to fulfil the needs of farmers and shepherds coming back home after sixteen hours spent in the fields. Now it fits quite well a population made up largely by construction workers and carpenters. Refusing your share of carbohydrates and proteins is not an option.
Similar plates can be found also the nearby villages forming with Civita the Raganello Valley community: San Lorenzo Bellizzi, Francavilla Marittima, Cerchiara di Calabria e Alessandria del Carretto. A perfect way to enjoy the local flavours is to visit an agriturismo, an interesting combination of a farm and a restaurant where every product and ingredient come from the owners own production.