A recipe of the rabbit all’ishitana and 33 ways to make it.
Surely, because the island has undergone different dominations so that even in its typical dish it presents variations, due to the use of spices.
In the municipality of Forio, famous for its Saracen towers, the Turks introduced marjoram among the various spices. Moving to the eastern part of the island instead we find more the use of the thyme that the Romans introduced in the recipe. In Campognano the tomato sauce is used instead of the tomato.
And woe to criticize the various recipes!
Furious arguments were unleashed at the table for what the authentic version was.
The rabbit from Ischian pit is not a simple second course, but the story of a territory. With these words we are greeted by Mr. Riccardo D’Ambra, born in 1946, in his Trattoria Il Focolare, a historical place and a must for lovers of good food. Mr. Ischitano for four generations D’Ambra proudly tells us the story of a dish that is also the story of his land.
From here passed the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Turks and each of them has left its mark on an island that still retains a strong personality. Third by number of inhabitants after Sicily and Sardinia, it is divided into 6 Municipalities and 6 dialects.
An island that until the 1950s, thanks also to the presence of more microclimates, had lived exclusively thanks to agriculture: its economy was based on wine and the trade in barrels. There were about 5,000 hectares of cultivated land, of which 3,000 are vineyards and 2000 are vegetable gardens (necessary for the subsistence of its inhabitants).
The winemakers used to dig under the vines of the 2-3 meter pits in order to find virgin and more fertile soil for the cultivation of vines, and it was there that the rabbits called “pit” were raised. From these pits, tunnels dug by the rabbits themselves in the heart of the mountain also spread out, hundreds of meters long. Its meats are thus more firm and tasty than those of caged rabbits.
Today, with the massive promotion of tourism, even the vineyards have decreased, and with them the pits: there are about 350 hectares still planted with vines.
The rabbit from Ischian pit is a slow food presidium: an identity in danger of extinction. But the rabbit is not disappearing, the pits are disappearing!
At the trattoria Il Focolare the rabbit is still cooked as it used to be, on a low heat for at least 3 hours, in special clay pans (this material, of which the island is rich).
It represents the Sunday dish and the great occasions in which you meet in the family; a dish that even fishing families consumed, despite the love for the fish.
“A courageous and at times unconscious choice” confirms Mr. D’Ambra, who says he is proud of having staked everything on the identity of an island, choosing not to make a fish cuisine, a bold choice on an island that always must satisfy the needs of tourists. Time, however, proved him right and that decision, perhaps unpopular, turned out to be a winning one today.
From all over the world they came to this trattoria to taste this dish: famous people and cinema actors visited these places driven by curiosity to discover a dish that contains the culture and tradition of a people.
Charmed by the story of Mr. Riccardo, we are thus given the image of an island proud of its origins and traditions, a place full of personality, made even more fascinating by its many contradictions.