Ceriva is not a spot on the usual Italy tourist track, nor foodie path. Located between the pulsations and expositions of Rimini and the mosaics of Ravenna, and not far from Venice, Cervia is a low-key seacoast town.
Not so centuries ago when Rimini, Ravenna, Venice and the Papal State all struggled for control of Cervia because of its one greatest asset: salt from its saline or salt pans.
We had first tasted Cervia sea salt on a visit to Ravenna itself, where the brightly colored bags of sea salt from the salt pans sat atop shelves of local goods in Ravenna’s small covered market.Cervia is one of only four surviving salt pans in Italy, a last bastion of coastal culture on Italy’s Adriatic coast . A couple of weeks ago we strolled there and you can still smell the sea, cast your eyes onfishing boats as they pull up along the molo or canal-walled river bed, and imagine the commerce of centuries based out of the sea andsalt marshes. In fact, small stainless steel tables line the walled molo and fisherman sell their early morning catch from under small canvas booths, right in front of the boat that fished it.
In the piazza at the junction of an Amsterdam-like bridge over the canals, sits the expansive one-story salt warehouse which now houses the Museo del Sale or Salt Musuem. Ritrovo first incorporated the mild Cervia sea salt in BruCo salt-tasting chocolate, developed in one caffeine-induced brainstorm in our hotel lobby in Ravenna.
We were meeting with BruCo’s Fabio Lenci andasked, “Why not let taster’s see the difference between Trapani’s minerally, perky salt and Cervia’s milder sale dolce by imbedding them in fine South American dark chocolate, blended by Bruco to exalt each salt?”
Fabio was skeptical at first, buteventually prepared and packaged what has become a RITROVO® best seller. And when wine aficionados in Italy began giving kudos to the way the Salt Tasting chocolate inspired thoughtful degustation, Fabio had to admit that it had been a clever idea.
Cervia’s Riserva Camillone Sea Salt is called sale dolce because of the absence of bitter minerals in the salt, due to careful hand harvesting over about a 30 day period. In comparison, Cervia’s Fior di Sale is harvested over a 3-month period and from a much more extensive hectarage. And with more mechanized methods.
While at the Sale Museum we found ourselves standing next to a an ex-salinaro, salt harvester. In his modest jeans and cap, he picked up a vintage postcard of the Camillone salt pan and said humbly, “Yes, my mother and I used to harvest the salt. All our friends harvested the salt.”
“And how was it as a job?” We were curious after an hour trying to understand the complex salt-production and gathering process.
“Well, we were always together and we worked three months a year in the salt and then could have the rest of the year off, or try our luck at fishing.”
With that he lithely turned to depart, smiling gently.The ease with which he hoppedonto his one-speed bicycle and rode calmly off towards the sea hinted at how the sale dolce had, at least in his case, been the key to a dolce vita.
Ritrovo recommends Riserva Camillone Limited Edition Salt from Casina Rossa for:
Tossing in the cooking water for pasta
Using to season homemade pesto
Garnishing sweet butter for bread service
Putting a crunchy granule on tomatoes and mozzarella in caprese salad
Serving on raw beef or seafood carpaccio
Sprinkling (for the food adventurist) on brownies, hot chocolate cakes, or chocolate ice cream
Hot Maida Golden Tomato Soup with Cervia Riserva Camillone Sea Salt
One jar Maida Golden Tomato
½ Tsp. Michele Ferrante Wild Oregano
½ tsp. Cervia Riserva Sea Salt
1 tsp. whole fennel seeds
2 Tbsp. Tenuta Cocevola Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Place olive oil in a small saucepan. Heat gently over low heat the fennel seeds and wild oregano. Pour golden tomato over the top. Heat through until hot. Season with the Cervia Riserva Sea Salt.