The legendary bruschetta with telline that won over Fellini (and where to eat it on the Roman coast)

Jun 7 2024, 13:28
In the prime area for harvesting small mollusks, the Roman Coast, a recipe was all the rage during the Dolce Vita years: bruschetta with telline. This dish elevated the small restaurants born in the Fishermen's Village of Fregene to legendary status

Dunes, oases, archaeological areas, and agricultural zones make the Natural Reserve of the Roman Coast truly enchanting. The entire coastline from Anzio to Passoscuro has been renowned for two thousand years for the fineness and quality of its sand, an ideal habitat for telline.

The Telline of the Roman Coast

In this small mollusk—once widespread, now rarer—the artisanal fishing of this Tyrrhenian stretch finds its culmination. The species is protected by a Slow Food Presidium, which safeguards manual harvesting. While hydraulic dredgers operate elsewhere, here the licensed tellinari fish individually or in small groups on calm sea days—except in April, when there is a biological rest period—using boat rakes or smaller hand rakes on the beach. This fishing system is so ingrained that, aside from various written records since ancient Rome, it accounts for the origins of current coastal settlements (still visible today in places like Fregene). Nomadic fishing communities formed to catch the "tuniole," moving seasonally to the most fruitful fishing grounds, seeking shelter in wooden huts.

Bruschetta and Cinema

Sweet, small, and delicate, the tellina is the queen of coastal spaghetti dishes but is best showcased in a simple yet delicious recipe: bruschetta. The mollusks are shelled and sautéed in oil, garlic, and parsley, then placed on toasted bread. Bruschetta with telline was wildly popular in the splendid 1950s in Rome, when Italian and international actors and directors, drawn to Cinecittà, flocked to the coast and the restaurants in the fishing villages. Federico Fellini was very fond of it and frequented these places, often transforming them into his film sets. The sunrise on the beach at the end of La Dolce Vita, for example, was set in the Fishermen’s Village of Fregene. Ennio Flaiano, who eventually fled the frenzy of Rome to settle in Fregene, wrote the screenplay. Today, he rests in the Maccarese cemetery, his grave tended by one of the town's historical tellinari, Mariano Micco.

Where to eat bruschetta with telline

Gina Ristorante - Fregene

A well-kept restaurant with a beautiful garden, opened in the Fishermen's Village in 1960 by Grandma Gina, who delighted personalities like Moravia, Mastroianni, and Fellini with telline and fried potato chips (which she practically invented). Today, her granddaughter Rita leads the way, but the great classics, like bruschetta, are always on offer: with telline, clams, bottarga, or simply with tomatoes.

Gina Ristorante - via Silvi Marina, 36 - Fregene -

Mastino - Fregene

Opened in 1961, this beach establishment has seen the likes of the entire cinematic, artistic, and literary intelligentsia that revolved around Rome, from Monicelli to Gassman, and Gianni Agnelli. The simple cuisine centers around the sea, with dishes like grilled mussels, spaghetti with lupini, and, of course, bruschetta with telline aplenty.

Mastino - via Silvi Marina, 19 - Fregene -

La Scialuppa da Salvatore - Fregene

With tables in the dining room or directly on the beach, enjoy Fabio Di Vilio's cuisine, which over the years has brought contemporary flair to the dishes of this historic establishment, started by Salvatore Maduli in 1956. In honor of the times of Sordi and Fellini, traditional seafood specialties are always on the menu, including bruschetta with clams (in the photo) or with telline, depending on availability.

La Scialuppa da Salvatore - via Silvi Marina, 69 - Fregene -

Il Cavalluccio Marino - Passoscuro

This beach establishment with a bar and restaurant opened in 1954 in a quieter area compared to bustling Fregene. The menu includes delicious, trendy dishes, fried foods, and cocktails. Traditionalists need not worry, spaghetti and bruschetta with telline—here with the addition of tomatoes (as seen in the cover photo)—are house specialties.

Il Cavalluccio Marino - via Carbonia, 25 - Passoscuro

Lilly alla Fiumara - Fiumicino

With a terrace overlooking the sea, classic cuisine, and daily fresh fish arrivals, this family-run restaurant has been a local favorite since 1950. Known for its hot and cold appetizers, here, in season, telline adorn bruschetta and, of course, spaghetti.

Lilly alla Fiumara - via Passo della Sentinella, 126  - Fiumicino -

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