In the cool, deep waters in the northernmost part of the Como lake, Missoltino (Agone) are caught using pelagic trawl nets, up to 200 meters long and lowered to depths of dozens of meters. The nets are cast in the afternoon and pulled in at first light the next morning.
The fish then undergo a lengthy processing. After scaling and gutting, they are salted for two to three days. Once the salt has been absorbed, they are carefully washed and hung up to dry in the sun for around ten days, until the fisherman sees that the flesh is no longer reddish, a sign that the fat has reached the right stage for the fish to be able to be stored for a long time. The fish (most importantly the heads) are then flattened and arranged in layers with bay leaves in special metal containers called tolle. In the past, wooden barrels called missolte were used instead, the origin of the name Missoltino. Once the tolla is full, a press is used to gently compact the fish. This causes the fat from the fish to rise to the surface and ensures they are covered with a layer of oil, perfect for insulating them from the air and making sure they a properly preserved. The Missoltini are ready to eat after a few weeks, but can also be stored this way for several months.
These days, only a few fishermen still catch agone in the lake, as the work is not as profitable as it once was. Even fewer are not only still fishing but also keeping alive the art of drying the fish naturally in the traditional way.
The long, laborious process involves scaling and cleaning the fish, carefully measuring the salt, hanging the fish one by one on the drying racks and checking how the fat changes during the drying process in order to know when they are ready for slow preservation in the tolle.
The Presidium wants to promote this practice beyond the lake’s immediate surroundings, focus attention on the work of the fishermen who are still producing the Missoltino and guarantee that the fish is entirely locally sourced and dried in the traditional way.
Lake Como, Como and Lecco provinces
Dried Missoltino is available throughout the year.
Cristian Ponzini, Bellagio (Co), via Carcano 12, tel. +39 031 950322, firstname.lastname@example.org
Pamela Fantoni, Bellagio (Co), via Domenico Vitali 24, tel. +39 031 2248628, email@example.com