To wake up with a blue sky in Forte dei Marmi (a small charming town in Versilia) is a rare gift. If you take the beautiful day and decide to spend it at the Bagno Bruno with Rita (her dedicated children Daniele and Serena and the wonderful staff) it’d be great. Even more so, if you call the emerald green beach cabins establishment and manage to book two lettini, sun beds by the water then you can bet your day will be one of your years’ best!
On our arrival we park our bikes and are greeted by Rita herself in a scooter. The owner of Bagno Bruno is the daughter of Vittorio and his wife Pina who have left her in charge of the beach and restaurant management since 2004. Rita is in a rush as she must pick up some fresh fruit from the mercato and will be back in time for lunch to make sure we do not miss anything. She does this for all her clientele. She knows far too well we are kosher and always makes it a point to instruct the kitchen staff personally about the different ingredient options available that day.
It’s a promising and hot day. Serena smiles proudly, today’s catch is exceptional. After all there must be a good reason why her customers have been coming back every summer over and over again for almost 4 generations now.
We have picked our fish and reserved a few antipasti and are now ready to surrender to the some serious tanning with the sea and the Apuan Alps at our back. After a few sips of San Pellegrino water, a long walk and a few dives into the mild sea water, my husband and I have the same thought. We should follow the aroma brought to us by a light breeze of oven-baked bread, slightly flattened, with a fragrant darkened crust or even flavoured with olives, rosemary or extra virgin olive oil – the bread we have been craving for almost a year now.
We are not far from artisan bakeries that produce corn, wheat, chestnut flour, spelt and potatoes, and mills that still employ stone grinding. Here in Versilia and especially at Rita’s kitchen, it is possible to trace the ideal trail on a discovery of ancient flavours.
Daniele in a white impeccable apron and focused in meticulously scrubbing and rinsing large black shells, locally called cozze. The affordable Mediterranean mussel will be soon sautéed in olive oil, a few garlic cloves, peperoncino (red pepper) and white wine in a dramatic presentation with spaghetti al dente and obviously topped with fresh parsley. Without getting distracted from his task, Daniele lets us know that our favourite table is set under the yellow shade of an ombrellone.
The old wood Capannone where the family enjoys some deserved rest was kept in the same original wood it was built in 1900. Wi-Fi is an add-on. The family wants you to feel at home and part of that love they share with each other, with the culinary tradition of their ancestors. Part of their hospitality is to surround you with staff that themselves have been part of the family for more than 20 years.
From the pretty menu with a picture of Vittorio and Pina and with a note from the family wishing buon appettito, my husband picks his primo, the starter. It’s called Spaghetti alla Nerano. The Neapolitan specialty was invented in 1954 by Maria Grazia who owned a restaurant with that name.
I spy furtively into the kitchen of Bagno Bruno with the excuse of going to the restroom. While the pasta water boils, the zucchini is being fried and the spaghetti cooked. A quick purée is then quickly created out of some of the zucchini, some of the boiling water, and then all tossed together with some freshly grated Provolone del Monaco parmesan cheese.
The result is an 18 Euros masterpiece with two glasses of the sfuso della casa, the house white wine. My dish is improvised. Being kosher, I avoid seafood and shrimps. Alessandra, another family member, brings a mélange of red mullet, sea bream, Scorpio fish, sole and anchovies pasta dish. Caprese salad and basil for two, oven baked focaccia farcita with delicious fontina cheese olive oil and rosemary, affogato ai fichi with chocolate and rum, fresh berries, two espressos and we are in heaven until next year.
Photos credits: Jacopo Ventura