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Scapece (derived from the Spanish word, escabeche), in caprione or in saor, as it's known in various parts of Italy, is the method of preserving something, often fish, by frying it lightly then marinating it in a sauce with vinegar (plus perhaps oil, wine, onions, pepper, spices, etc).

It was especially popular as a way to preserve before refrigeration or for long sea journeys. Common fish include anchovies and sardines, tuna and trout. In Puglia they usually add saffron and bread crumbs to the scapece*, as in the famous scapece gallipolina, made usually with pesce azzurro.

Olives get the scapece treatment too, as well as vegetables: zucchine alla scapece, with mint and garlic, and sometimes carrots, is a popular Neapolitan dish.

Other spellings include scabecciu, scabéggio and scabeccio.

In the north, especially, this style of preparing and preserving food is usually called in carpione from carpione, a fish from Lake Garda.

In Piedmont they also make it with courgettes (zucchine fritte carpione), as they do in Rome: concia is zucchini fried in olive oil and then marinated in white wine vinegar and fresh mint leaves, recipe from the Jewish community.

Saor is the Venetian version of scapece. Sardines done this way, sarde alla saor, is a Venetian classic, derived from Jewish cuisine (in Trieste it's called sardoni in savôr*). Sometimes they prepare aubergines as well as courgettes and even pork and chicken in the style.


Text © Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls

Image by dante