This is the first part of a five-part Eating in Corsica series about specific restaurants and food moments that we experienced on the “île de beauté” as it’s called in France, last autumn. This island is known for its love of meaty deliciousness; therefore, vegetarians, you might want to skip this one.
Straight from the ferry, we drove from Porte Vecchio to Zonza, an hour drive from the coast into the mountainous interior. We asked our Airbnb host where to eat and he mentioned the restaurant right next door to our apartment. This, we later learned, was indeed very good and we were tortured for our 3 day stay with the smells of the meaty stews creeping up the stairway from the downstairs kitchen. However, the experience didn’t compare to the feast we had at A Pignata.
A Sneaky Tourist Office Employee
We asked at the tourism office where to go for lunch and I think because it was quiet and perhaps she was feeling generous, she leaned across the counter and whispered: “Normally, I’m not allowed to say about the restaurants.” We anxiously looked at each other. “But, we go to A Pignata. You have to reserve.”
Well, that had our curiosity peaked! I called immediately.
A Forest of Chestnuts
We then decided to go for a walk in the forest as we had ample time; we needed to stretch our legs after the ferry from Marseille. It was Sunday, so the gunshots he heard in the forest didn’t worry us too much after living in Provence for 4 years. It was, after all, hunting season on an island known for hunting aficionados. The forest floor was thick with the spiky cases and smooth interiors of chestnuts. A wild pig’s dream. Indeed, we saw signs everywhere of wild boar, their tell-tale digging a common complaint from friends in Provence lucky enough to have gardens.
After about a couples kilometers of walking, we came to a bend in the path where a large older man sat on a rock holding a rather large rifle. I came to a halt. Worried to make a sound, and therefore scaring potential lunch away (not to mention being accidentally shot!); We warily approached him as he asked in his deep Corsican accent if we had seen any boar around.
He seemed more preoccupied with eating the animal rather than killing it as he went on to describe in great detail the feast they would have if he and his friends were successful that day. Robin saw how excited I was becoming by allowing myself to imagine joining in on such an authentic activity and had to pull me away before I started begging to be invited. The old man smiled as we heard more gunshots in the distance and remained sat heavily on his rock watching the path ahead.
Lost with the Wild Boar
Caught up in admiring the small arbusier (strawberry tree) fruits on the trees, the mysterious stone terracing in the middle of the forest, the purple crocuses and the unbelievable amount of chestnuts on the ground as well as the curiously coloured geckos, we found ourselves lost in the Corsican forest on our first day on the island. Trudging along, we stopped as we were amazed to see a whole family of wild boar sniffing the ground at the edge of the path. They quickly moved on as we wished them good luck!
Thankfully, after some time, we came upon a gentleman that insisted on taking us to the right path and telling us all about his life’s travels along the way. Upon reaching Zonza, and recognizing the cheese wheels I had noticed earlier on our temporary neighbour’s windowsill, I breathed a sigh of relief. We wouldn’t be late for lunch.
This restaurant is located just 10 minutes from Zonza. It is also a charming farm auberge. The long, communal picnic tables look out over the surrounding mountainous landscape. There is only one set menu. It is rustic and copious.
A Corsican Meal
First, we had buttery smooth butternut squash soup and locally cured dried sausage. We were then presented with slow cooked lamb on the bone, cannelloni stuffed with brocciu (fresh Corsican cheese), and large butter beans. Then, a beautiful platter of various local sheep and goat cheeses. With our bellies busting, we waddled into the sunshine for light, crispy sugar doughnuts with coffee on the terrace. Wonderful.
Not a bad first day in Corsica.
A Pignata is located in the countryside about a 10-minute drive from Zonza.
A PIGNATA – Route des sites archéologiques de Cucuruzzu – 20170 Levie – Corse
Coming soon: Eating Adventures in Sartène, Corsica.