In the evening, Sharon took us up into the hillside just outside of Bastia to wander through the ancient stairwells of Vescovato before dinner. The village 300-400 years old, but still a living village, full of mostly the middle-aged and elders, as their children slowly abandoned them to move on from the small world lost so high in the mountains.
We made our way up hundreds of stone and cobbled steps. We strolled through a series of cave-like tunnels. Emerging from the first tunnel we encountered a handful of men outside scattered on their stairwells smoking and reading, barefoot and buzzed, exchanging a few words between page turns and puffs. After the next tunnel, we discovered 3 little old women in aprons on folding chairs, chatting as their moms and aunts and cousins all would have for centuries. Behind there tiny voices was music that was spilling out of the doorway; dramatic Corsican tunes from ages ago, making its way through the lace curtains and clothes high strung, clutching onto the thick breeze as it flowed through the stairwell up the passageway and fell upon us.
“Dinner will be just right over there,” Sharon points, to an solitary stone cottage perched across from the village and floating on the green hillside, overlooking the valley between us.
“It’s called U Frangu, meaning ‘the mill’,” Sharon explains. “It’s an old site that houses a stone grinding mill drawn by donkeys where they would press olive oil for the whole town, and eventually for the region of Balagne.” The giant mill wheel is still housed within, and the remainder has been converted it into a restaurant. Just a handful of tables are inside, scattered to surround this carved boulder and mill in the middle of the room. Each seat was canopied by abundant rations of Corsican salumi hanging from the beams, freshly baked rustic loaves of bread piled into woven baskets. But the majority of tables are found on the terrace overlooking the hillside.
U Fragnu is run by the strength of a man and his well-fed wife, and the dishes are expedited and served to the tables by their grandson.
“It’s such a tragedy,” Sharon admits while she occasionally looks over her shoulder to be sure no one would catch her divulging into this story with us. “Their son was murdered years ago, and everyone in the town saw it happen and knew the man who did it. It’s very typical of Corisca, this type of Greek tragedy,” one of many this town has seen.
The weight of it all became so clear, through their food. The grandson plopped a terra cotta clay pot full of a hearty ribollita-style soup in the middle of the table. The owner came by to greet us at this moment and showed us the strength of his soup–and strength of his soul, really–by shoving a small ladle in the middle to show off how thick the potatoes had made the stew, so the handle would stand straight up to the sky. He directed only one ladle full, as we had many dishes coming ahead.
And how we did. House cured prosciutto and Lanzo salami, the most golden and light zucchini fritters, a roasted eggplant spread with crusty peasant bread. Braised veal in red wine and olives, spinach and ricotta strozzapreti pasta which were pillows for the veal reduction. Eggplants and zucchini stuffed with delicate meats that tasted of chestnuts in the core, sopping with tomato sauce. Goat cheese with seasonal fig jam. Baked custard and summer melon sorbetto… Jugs of red wine, carafes of moscato, and shots of myrtle liquor to help digest it all.
Lieu dit U Campu 20215 | Venzolasca, Corisca, France
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