"Norwegian stockfish is fantastic, and Lofoten is like a beautiful cold store".

That's the verdict of Norway's new  stockfish ambassador in Italy, Marianna Vitale, says after her very first trip to the homeland of stockfish.

Michelin-starred chef Marianna Vitale is so fond of  stockfish that she can easily be called the "stockfish queen". But the actual title is "stockfish ambassador". Marianna is the twelfth in line of Italian stockfish ambassadors - appointed by the Norwegian Seafood Council, and the first woman to be able to take this prestigious title.

Marianna runs the Michelin restaurant "Sud" in Pozzuoli, a small town on the outskirts of the southern Italian city of Naples. She grew up with stockfish for dinner once a week, but as a child she had no idea that the traditional raw material came from Norway. This knowledge is now ingrained in her mind.

Now she has also learned about the skrei's long migration, become acquainted with traditional methods, and learned about sustainability, quality and scrapping. She has visited fish processing plants and stockfish producers. She has also cut cod tongues and sampled numerous  stockfish dishes prepared by skilled chefs in the Lofoten archipelago.

An educational trip to the home of stockfish is a "must" for those who are going to represent "stoccafisso", or dry fish, in Italy, Norway's most important stockfish market.

Un piatto della memoria


Our  stockfish ambassador was delighted to catch her first fish. Here together with former junior stockfish ambassador, Francesco Cardace. PHOTO: Norwegian Seafood Council.

With a big grin, the fresh  stockfish ambassador pulled her very first skrei out of the sea outside Henningsvær. Blessed by glorious weather and a sun that glittered in light ripples.

"It was a memory for life", says Marianna.

By the same token, she describes the stockfish as "un piatto della memoria" - a dish full of memories.

"For us Neapolitans, stockfish is part of our history. It brings back good memories. Reminds us of delicious smells, good friends, family and celebrated moments. Stoccafisso is something we ate 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 100 years ago - yes, something we have always eaten".


Three chefs with a passion for stockfish: Marianna Vitale, Tommi Bjørnsen and Franesco Cardace cooking together in the kitchen of restaurant Maren Anna in Lofoten. PHOTO: Norwegian Seafood Council

Although many Neapolitans eat stockfish up to twice a week, Marianna is a little worried that young Italians will forget this important raw material with deep roots in Italian tradition. Because Italian stockfish consumption is showing a slight downward trend, especially among younger people. As a stockfish ambassador, she therefore wants to accelerate consumption and contribute to continuing the old tradition.

"This is a task I take on with a sense of great responsibility. I want to show the young people how to make simple and delicious stockfish dishes, and I want to preserve and renovate history in a kitchen that combines Norwegian and Italian culture".

Providing inspiration for increased consumption is one of the most important tasks for a stockfish ambassador.

These days, Marianna Vitale is planning new and easy-to-prepare stockfish recipes to be promoted on social media. She also plays with the idea of stockfish as street food. And in the future, Marianna and the stockfish will appear in several Italian media in the form of interviews and articles.

An appetite for making food

Marianna Vitale grew up in the heart of Naples, in a simple home surrounded by narrow streets and laundry hanging to dry across the alleyways. As a child, she was always hungry, not because they lacked food, but because her appetite was great. Since her parents were full time at work, she had to take matters into her own hands.

"From 5 or 6 years old, I started cooking my own food. The first thing I made was a vegetable soup", she says.

From then on, things progressed rapidly, and soon she was the one cooking for the family and for friends who came home after school. As a self-taught chef, several years later she was to receive a number of awards such as "best young and up-and-coming chef" and "best female chef". She has appeared in TV programmes, and in 2011 her restaurant received the prestigious Michelin star - a star it still holds.

Stockfish pasta


Stockfish like you've never eaten before: with pasta, baby tomatoes, citrus, olive oil and seaweed - one of the stockfish ambassador's favourite dishes. PHOTO: Norwegian Seafood Council

Ristorante Sud has also been voted Italy's best pasta restaurant. That's no mean feat in the homeland of pasta!  Among the pasta dishes served is of course also pasta with stockfish. One of the signature dishes is a pasta mixture of stockfish, olives, olive oil, citrus peel and sun-ripened baby tomatoes that have grown in the nutrient-rich soil at the foot of Mount Vesuvius.

Marianna also brought sun-ripened baby tomatoes from Vesuvius to Lofoten when she visited restaurant Maren Anna and owner Tommi Bjørnsen in Sørvågen. Together, the two chefs created delicious stockfish dishes in front of drooling guests and spectators. The tomatoes ended up in a variation of Marianna's signature dish, where the icing on the cake was topping with local seaweed from Lofoten Seaweed.

"Stockfish has so many possibilities and works together with so much", says Marianna, who is a little surprised that not "all" restaurants in Norway have stockfish on the menu.

"You can also leave it lying around for a long time, put it in water and suddenly you have a "fresh" fish that tastes completely unique".

Tørrfisk a la Tommi Bjørnsen.jpg

"New thinking and innovation are needed to get more people to eat stockfish", say both Marianna Vitale and Tommi Bjørnsen. Here's a delicious and super cool creation from the latter. PHOTO: Norwegian Seafood Council.

Northern Norwegian and Southern Italian "passione"

Pozzuoli is perhaps one of the closest you can get to a stereotypical description of Italy. Its narrow, ancient streets reverberating to the sounds of traffic and loud voices.

From one window the sound of drum practice can be heard, from another opera singing and from a third 80's pop tunes flow out into the streets and merge with the frenetic honking of car horns. It's hot here, and living here is all about "passione" - passion. Therefore, it was a bit of a shock for Marianne Vitale to encounter the relative silence of Lofoten, surrounded by ice and snow-capped fjords and mountains.

Hele gruppen hos Langaas.jpg

The delegation from Italy certainly saw Lofoten at its best. Here on a visit to stockfish producer JM Langaas. In the middle (in blue) you can see Johannes Langaas Berntzen, Johan Martin Langaas Berntzen and Marianna Vitale. PHOTO: Norwegian Seafood Council.


"I felt as if I was walking around in a beautiful cold store”, Marianna says.

A natural cold store filled with fish on shelves where a man turns. And what Lofoten may lack in hot Italian "passione" it makes up for with passion for nature and craftsmanship, believes the stockfish ambassador.

"I was overwhelmed by the whole story behind the stockfish, and the strong collaboration between man and nature. It is about a lifestyle, about identity and an authenticity that is completely unique"


When a passion for food becomes a tattoo. Marianna Vitale at ristorante "Sud" and Tommi Bjørnsen at restaurant "Maren Anna" PHOTO: Norwegian Seafood Council

Quality and origin

In the middle of Pozzuoli, in an area that Marianna herself describes as neither pretty nor particularly charming, is Ristorante Sud. It was opened in 2009, by Marianna and her colleague Pino Esposito.

"We couldn't afford a nicer place, and so we just ended up staying there", says Marianna Vitale.

But the humble neighbourhood surroundings are more than compensated for by the charming interior to the restaurant, as well as its picturesque back garden and fantastic food based on a few ingredients of the highest quality.

"For example, we prepare the stockfish simply. We avoid mixing it with too many ingredients to preserve the taste, and that means the quality must be top notch and the meat must be white."

However, she points out that it is not always so easy to get hold of, and calls for better labelling of the Norwegian stockfish.

"Stockfish from Norway is known for its high quality. Then it is also important that the fish is more clearly marked with Norwegian origin" says the star chef.

Value and amore

Like so much else, stockfish prices have also increased in Italy recently.

"Those who know the product love it, but when the prices become high and the wallet thinner, people think a little more before they buy", says Marianna.

That is why she is keen to convey value by showing all the work and the traditions behind it. She believes these origin stories add an extra value to the stockfish, which increases people's willingness to pay a little more.

"Stockfish is not a mass-produced product, but a "slow" product made with pride, love and good craftsmanship".


In this Italian store, the stockfish is clearly marked with Norwegian origin mark, Seafood from Norway. PHOTO: Neumann/Norwegian Seafood Council

Marianna herself has her own fondness for raw materials produced with "amore". On a visit to Lofoten, she trawled the grocery stores for typically Norwegian products, and was not deterred by the prices. In addition to stockfish, stockfish snacks and tomato herring, goat's cheese, lefser and crackling bread also ended up in her luggage for the return journey back to Pozzuoli and Ristorante Sud.