The portion of the Italian coast that, in the northeast, curves over the uppermost tip of the Adriatic Sea, is part of a region known as Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The Venetian Republic ruled here once, and the stamp of Venetian dominion is still clearly discernible in the local dialects and in the structures of the old towns. Both architecturally and gastronomically, the most important of the historic coastal towns is Grado, which, like Venice itself, has based its cuisine on the submarine delicacies of the upper Adriatic.
Of the many superb varieties of seafood native to those waters— the crabs, shrimp, mussels, clams—the most famous is the crustacean called scampi. It is a large prawn with an orange shell whose features— two long pincer claws, a flat tail ending in a fan shape—resemble those of a miniature lobster. Everything can be done with scampi, boiling, frying, stewing, using it in soup, in risotti, in pasta sauces. The tastiest pasta sauce I know made from scampi is the one that originates in Grado and is called, in the dialect of the town, alla busara. Busara means something thrown quickly together, and essentially that describes the sauce, a base of onion, garlic, parsley, and wine cooked briefly in olive oil, to which the shellfish and tomatoes are added.
Fresh scampi does not swim in American waters, but marvelous lobster does. The flavors are similar, and I found it irresistible to profit from the easy availability of New England lobsters and give them this simple and delicious busara treatment.
First choice is imported, high-quality Italian boxed dry pasta, specifically spaghettini, thin spaghetti. The only homemade noodles that may give you comparable satisfaction are the square ones known as tonnarelli;.
The meat will have the sweetest flavor if you kill the lobster yourself just before cooking it. Turn it on its back, holding it down with an oven mitt on your hand, and with the other hand plunge a knife between its eyes and deep into its head. Although the lobster dies immediately its nervous system may continue to flex the claws for a few more seconds. A less traumatic method—for you, not the lobster—is to drop it into boiling water for 2 minutes. If you don’t feel prepared to deal with a live lobster yourself, you can have the fishmonger kill it, but time it so you can get back to your kitchen and cook the lobster as soon as possible.
© 1997 Marcella Hazan estate. All rights reserved.