It has the same claptrap appeal John Steinbeck must have felt upon first envisioning Cannery Row; Il trabucco di Monte Pucci sits on a rocky point, its long “antennas” pointing out to the deep water. They’re made of sections of the local pine trunks, a wood that has exactly the strength, flexibility and resistance to salt water you need for this sort of fishing. Often three trunks are lashed together to get the length needed to drag giant nets through the water. It is a fishing machine born not far from Rube Goldberg’s drawing board.
The origin of the Trabucco is actually said to have been Phoenician. You didn’t need to head out in your little fishing boat on the bad days when the sea roiled around you. The Trabucco solved that problem admirably.
Today’s enormous ships can go out when they want and drag all the net that can fit on the boat, so the trabucci aren’t as profitable as they once were. They’ve become protected historical structures though, and to make ends meet, restaurants are born. The Ristorante al Trabucco, those white structures with the red roofs, is a not-to-miss attraction for folks staying around Vico del Gargano craving really, really fresh fish.
Marco runs the operation now; the trabucco has been in his family for many generations. He gets up early to captain the morning catch, then cleans up and transforms himself into our waiter. You can’t get closer to the raw materials and those who nurture it into food than this.
Once he’s got your beverages sorted out, out comes Marco with a platter of what they’ve caught that morning. He explains how you can have it cooked. On that platter is the biggest seppia (cuttlefish) I’ve ever laid eyes upon. We don’t order it. We go for an assortment of smaller species.
And for an antipasti Martha selected her usual insalata di polpo, a refreshing and rather large helping of very tender octopus with tasty celery. Knowing that mackrel is one of those fish that has a trashy reputation in places like the US where it’s less possible to get it really fresh, I had that. It was darned good. Don’t miss it. I mean, you have a trifecta of Gargano goodness going here, the local olive oil, the local lemons, and the fish that just came out of the net.
Next we shared a pasta, something we wouldn’t normally do, but wanted to share more of the fishy goodness. We had a pasta allo scoglio, literally pasta of the shoals, with shellfish. It was great—and there was still too much of it.
Then we wait in anticipation of our grilled fish, sipping the crisp and citrusy white wine of the area, made from Bombino Bianco grapes. I can’t help thinking of Babe Ruth. I don’t know why. It was a home run anyway.
And there is is on the right. Bella, no? Fish deteriorates quickly once it’s yanked from the water. If you don’t like fish because it stinks of fish, then you haven’t had fish done right. This is the way to prepare them, just grilled. You’re tasting what you ordered. Nobody has to cover up anything.
This experience isn’t cheap. It isn’t really expensive either. Lunch with a fabulous wine cost us 90 euro.
How to get to Ristorante Al Trabucco
The restaurant is just outside of Vico del Gargano, despite the address:
Localita Monte Pucci – S.S. 89, Peschici (FG)
If you are on the SS 89 coastal road, stop when you see the square tower with a parking area in front of it. The road down to the trabucco starts on the east side of the parking lot. You can also come by boat, of course.
Reservations are recommended.