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Pasquale Torrente

It was these anchovies in particular which made chefs and food writers across Italy sit up and take notice. Pasquale began designing entire menus around anchovies, serving them in all sorts of different ways. Fried, raw, in pasta, stuffed, pickled – he has managed to find every possible way of making an anchovy taste delicious and put it on the menu at Al Convento.

That’s not to say Cetara wasn’t known for its food at all before Al Convento, however. It is home to an ancient type of fish sauce called Colatura di Alici, which is similar to the Ancient Roman sauce garum. This intense amber liquid is made from fermenting anchovies in brine and collecting the liquid that’s drawn from the fish. This is then filtered and bottled, and has become an icon of Campanian cuisine in recent years. It also happens to be one of Pasquale’s favourite products to cook with. ‘I love colatura because it is such an ancient product which I feel particularly close to,’ he explains. ‘It is part of our heritage and the traditional way it is made has to be protected. The flavour is so intense, and invokes memories of my childhood and hometown. There are so many ways it can be used, and it’s so easy to add to dishes. Everywhere I go and in all my restaurants I make sure there is some colatura to hand.’

Over the years, Al Convento became a must-visit for any food-lover visiting the Amalfi Coast. But a trip to London in 2005 struck Pasquale with a new idea; why not utilise his experience running a rosticceria to add yet another reason to visit Cetara?

‘When I was in London I saw a huge queue outside a fish and chip shop. I bought some for a crazy amount of money and it wasn’t appetising at all. I thought, ‘if they can sell this stuff here, then I can do it too in Italy, but with quality ingredients – after all, I come from the homeland of street food’. That’s when I decided to open La Cuopperia del Convento in Cetara, a restaurant that specialises in fried food, even though at the time the word ‘fried’ was thought of as heavy and unhealthy. But it worked.’

Now with two incredibly successful restaurants under his belt – plus further outposts across the world in partnership with Eataly – Pasquale has cemented his reputation for serving incredibly tasty yet unassuming food, simply by sourcing incredible local ingredients. ‘Today, in my fifties, I believe I have completed everything I set out to do,’ he says. ‘I have accomplished my dreams.’ And that’s something all chefs want to achieve.

Three things you should know

When he was still at school, Pasquale and his family used to sell clothes alongside studying and running the restaurant so they could afford to eat out at the best restaurants in the area.

As well as his restaurants in Cetara, Pasquale has opened many branches of his Friggitoria fried food restaurants in outposts of Eataly all over the world, and has a rustic tavern specialising in fish called Burro&Alici in Lombardy.

Pasquale refurbished Al Convento in April 2018, to make the dining room more communal and break down the barriers between the kitchen and the customer.