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schiaccia briaca dell'Elba
Meat and fish

Eating in Elba

A world of delights with roots in cultural exchange

Meat and fish
The cuisine of Elba is simple, even in its most elaborate dishes. It has its roots in the island's history as a destination for migrants, with various populations meeting there, united by poverty and hard work (in the mines, at sea and in the vineyards.) But is is a poor cuisine that surprises with its simplicity and quality.

A glance at the dishes of Rio quickly reveals a strong eastern influence. From the 13th to 16th centuries, when Cosmopoli (present day Portoferraio) was constructed, Saracen invasions of the island were frequent and these pirates left behind them the bitter memory of their sackings, but also something sweet.

For example, the schiaccia briaca (drunken bread), originally non-alcoholic due to its Muslim origins, which gathers the typical ingredients of eastern cuisine: pine nuts and raisins from Smirna. Aleatico wine, which is a key ingredient in the modern recipe, was added in the 19th century, like the walnuts which don't grow on the island ans so are an expensive import. The 19th century recipe also included Elban honey instead of the more expensive sugar. The resulting cake, made without leavening agents or eggs, was long-lasting which made it a perfect accompaniment for long trips at sea. Later other peasant dishes like sburrita, gurguglione and stoccafisso became fixtures of the Elban cuisine, arriving together with the Spanish or through the Neapolitan soldiers who were posted in the south-east of the island under Spanish control.

Another popular recipe are the imbollite, small breads made with grasselli figs which grow all over the island. Sportella is another local bread which used to be traded between lovers during the Easter holidays - it is made in the shape of a symbol of both sexes and was considered a good omen for a fertile season.

The abundance of fresh, quality fish features in local recipes as well. Like boiled octopus, which in Elba is eaten "with a fork," fried or marinated zerri, favolli soup, squid and cuttlefish, fish soups, and fish stew.

Marciana and Poggioare both famous for their desserts like corollo and schiacciunta, made with shortening, which are best dipped in a good glass of moscato, aleatico or ansonica passita.

The local lobster, fished  in Spring off the Marina di Campo, are sought after by gourmands.