Attilio Giacosa Remembers a “Dish of Friendship”


I am an Italian gastroenterologist and I spent most of my life doing research on diet and health and particularly on diet and cancer risk at the National Cancer Research Institute of Genoa. In the mid-eighties I started collecting epidemiological data on the Mediterranean Diet and cancer prevention within the frame of the European Cancer Prevention Organization.  These studies have been very successful and were followed by research projects of many other scientists who could confirm that if you follow a Mediterranean Diet your risk to develop many types of cancer is significantly reduced.  Due to my scientific interest in Mediterranean Diet I have been in touch with Oldways for many years.

One memory takes me to the summer of 2003 when Dun Gifford and Sara Baer-Sinnott asked me to join them in an Oldways Postgraduate Course that took place in Cilento.  This is a marvelous peninsula located south of Naples along the cost of the Mediterranean sea, with miles of sandy beach and various small fishing villages. Here you can find the Greek ruins of Paestum and of Velia (Elea) which was the home of the Eleatic school of philosophy. Here you can find people who met Ancel Keys, a lecturer at the University of Minneapolis (Minnesota), who lived here for many years and who was the first to demonstrate that there is a connection between the diet of southern Europe and heart diseases prevention: He was the first to call this diet the “Mediterranean Diet”. 

During the Oldways course a dinner was organized in the restaurant owned by the family of the lady who used to cook for Ancel Keys in the sixties.  I will never forget that meal. The warm friendship of the participants, the cooking lesson organized before the dinner, the beauty of the place and of the environment, and the quality of the food are still in my memory.  I was sitting in front of Dun and Sara, who are good friends of mine, and we spent most of the evening talking about future collaborative projects and making comments about food, wine, and about how to enjoy life and be healthy.  Among the various dishes that were offered on that occasion, I would like to  describe one dish that will always remind me of Dun Gifford.  I was eating stuffed anchovies and Dun took one fried fish from my plate and said: thank you Attilio, this really is the “dish of friendship”!


Alici ’Imbuttunate (stuffed anchovies)
Serves 6 people

2 lbs  fresh Anchovies
4 eggs
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons sharp cheese (such as Parmigiano-Reggiano)
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup breadcrumbs
Olive oil for frying
salt and some flour

Clean anchovies and remove their heads and slice lengthwise to stuff.

Combine eggs, cheese, parsley, and garlic mixture. Place the prepared stuffing mixture inside the fish. Then lightly apply the flour and breadcrumbs coating with salt and pepper on the outside. Place the prepared stuffing mixture inside the fish.

Fry in the olive oil and serve hot with a piece of lemon.

-Attilio Giacosa

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