Le Colline Ciociare: the laboratory of artisan cook Salvatore Tassa


“Salvatore Tassa – Cook” is engraved on the plaque that you will find at the entrance of a pink building that houses "Le Colline Ciociare" and dominates the valley below.

You will reach this hardwood door after clambering country hairpin turns and crossing the Cesanese area; you will arrive here having smelt the perfume of chimneys and woodlands and you will ring the bell, which is located under this plaque.

 
 
The doorbell and the definition "cook" are the first two significant clues to understand Salvatore's personality and cuisine: one does not happen by chance to turn up at the door of this restaurant that has a unique appeal; one rings the bell because it's like entering a nice country house, belonging to Salvatore Tassa.
 
 
Cook, artisan, farmer and especially free man: these are the souls that hide behind the definition "free cook" that is embroided on his apron; not just a chef, but also a farmer that, having served the fabulous mullet cooked on chestnut leaves with salty lemon jam, will tell you proudly: "This mullet came hoeing with me".
 
 
An old-style artisan, who recognizes in raw ingredients the absolute centrality of all his research and work: each dish is elaborated and conceived around a main product and a few other gregarious ones selected to glorify its taste, in a game of clear and precise flavours that are always dynamic and never an end to themselves; your tummy is never disappointed: his fondant onion, famous worldwide, is an example.
 
 
Over more than 25 years, which is how long his restaurant has been running, Tassa, like a curious artisan, has learnt all the possible techniques, from Classic French to Oriental ones; but like an artisan he does not want to hear about technology – his cuisine lies in the uniqueness of the gesture, in non-standardization, in adapting technique to the product and not vice versa: vacuum-sealing and roner are all the rage? He prepares his carrots in a natural vacuum, wrapped in leek leaves and cooked in aromatic broth. Smokers are the fashion? He burns pine needles and oak leaves to accompany his winning and balsamic prawns.
 
 
Although innovation and great research are always protagonists, on the stoves of Acuto it is impossible, wherever one looks,  to not notice dishes that cry out new traditionalism, so modernity, at every bite: you are able to eat the pappardelle with onion and saffron with a spoon in order to appreciate how they melt in a game of declension between acidity and roundness, the tagliatelle with burnt tomatoes and bourbon vanilla leave you wishing for more, while the guinea-fowl cooked whole in fig leaves catapult you to the dining table of Babette.
 
 
The smoke, the chimneys and the rustic suggestions leave a lasting imprint if you manage to sit at one of these tables during the colder months, when the ritual of fowl is officiated on a daily basis, in a separate menu dedicated to fur and feathers.
 
 
The centrality of the gesture, the burning of pans, the raw ingredient and product-based connotation of the preparations, the land and its respect, the suggestions of the territory and the memory of traditions: these are the reasons why this cook is master of that New Southern Cuisine that we so firmly believe in and for which we will never tire of crossing the Ciociaria area to enjoy a great laboratory of artisan cuisine.
 

Tags: acuto / colline ciociare / salvatore tassa / cuciniere / cesanese /

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