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> Restaurants and trattorias: inside and outside the guides (346)

Cicerale, Cilento. Osteria Arco Vecchio


Via Roma
Phone +39 0974 834187
Open all year, closed on Tuesdays. Holidays: changeable in winter

How to arrive

Leave the Battipaglia exit on the Salerno-Reggio Calabria motorway, go on towards Agropoli. After Paestum, leave the Ogliastro, Giungano and Cicerale exit on the by-pass. Go on towards Ogliastro along the 18 state road. After passing the town, turn left at the first fork following the road sign to Cicerale. Monte is the first hamlet, the trattoria is in the heart of the village, it is ten hundred metres before the main square on the left.

Any product can be successful from a commercial point of view just if it is enjoyed by gourmets, if it is sold in food and wine shops and if restaurants use it. At the moment the chickpeas from Cicerale are only defended by town regulations which are the result of the insight of the former mayor Mimmo Corrente and the former town councillor Gerardo Antelmo. They aimed at the enhancement of this pulse, which is included in the town coat of arms and is the root of the placename, to make the town go out from anonymity. They have obtained good results, in fact today one kilo of chickpeas, whose main cultivation characteristic is the fact that they can’t be watered, costs about eight Euros. In my opinion the price is still cheap because the demand exceeds the supply. Where can we eat them? Until now there was only one landmark in the town district, the Corbella farmhouse of our dear friend Giovanna. Since summer 2005 there is also this nice inn opened by a group of young people among which the chef Claudio Mollo, who is from Montecicerale and after having had experience for many years in restaurants in Northern Italy, decided to start this adventure with some childhood friends of his. Undoubtedly the Cilento is the Southern area where the greatest ferment has taken place, after Matera, as the house prices show: they have risen thanks to the buying of foreign people who want to live in an environment which is uncontaminated and defended by the biggest national Park in Italy after the Pollino, a UNESCO World Heritage and a biosphere reserve. Many people return here, others remember old properties and the sense of belonging to the territory, more than the one to the town. It gets stronger in spite of the dullness of the local authorities who aren’t consciousness of either what is happening yet or their actions. The ground rooms of a big structure, partly destroyed, have been renovated using the local stones. The tablecloths are simple and in a country style which really seems authentic. The wine bottles of the producers of the territory make a fine show: De Conciliis, Rotolo and Barone are a few minutes away by car. Marino and Botti are in the near Agropoli, Maffini is in Castellabate. They are gathered in this inn and in some other excellent places like the Ceppo in Agropoli whose fixed menu includes the chickpeas from Cicerale. The hotellerie is suitable for the most refined clients. You can start your meal with lots of small starters, according to the Arabian custom which is well spread in Southern Italy, like ham, salami, hand-made sausages, pecorino and goat cheeses produced by the Erbanito Farmhouse in San Rufo in the Vallo di Diano which have different levels of maturity, sautéed zucchini, croutons with an aubergine pâté, fried chickpeas, onions, the potato savoury pie, vegetable omelettes, sautéed julienne peppers and spelt salad. All that is preceded by rusk and tomatoes according to the style of the old peasant breakfast. The cuisine is rigorous, the chef would like to cook the seafood and, considering that the sea of Agropoli is ten kilometres away, that is possible on Fridays when people usually don’t eat meat. Yet the gastronomic wealth of the Cilento is above all the meat. You can find revisited tastes like the ravioli with a chickpea cream, or the old ones like the “fussidi” or the “cavatieddi” (they are kinds of pasta) with “ragù” sauce, a superb mixed polenta made with maize and chickpea flour and enriched with mushrooms, this dish is worthy of the visit. Fortunately the meat isn’t grilled but chicken, rabbit, kid and pork are stewed, sautéed and roasted. There are old desserts from Cilento prepared by Fabiola like biscuits with honey, sugared chickpeas, small dry bagels and home-made cakes. In summer the terrace is an open-air wine bar where they propose all the wines from Cilento and a wine from every region. You can book and choose your seat on line: this has been the first restaurant in Southern Italy to provide this service. The communication is global but the tastes are local.