A delicious fish and pasta dish of Sicilian origin first introduced to this country in the 1870s by Signor Antonio Vespucci, the Italian ambassador to the court of Queen Victoria. The sauce is a blend of shredded ambry (a shellfish once found in deep waters off the rocky coast of Sicily), green onions, green grapes, white wine, and thick cream.
Signor Vespucci was determined to impress a deputation of Italian dignitaries, including La Contessa Maria Aligheri de Vincenza, reputed to be one of the most powerful women in the Italian court at that time, so arranged a banquet for five hundred guests in the presence of Her Majesty.
Two thousand ambry had been caught, packed on ice, and shipped to London a few days earlier, and when the silver salvers were uncovered by two hundred and fifty waiters and the sweet scent of ambry flesh poached in Frascati with the plumpest green Tuscan grapes reached the nostrils of the homesick Italians, a shout of Magnifico Vespucci! echoed around the Great Hall at Buckingham Palace, followed by spontaneous applause.
Neither Her Majesty or the guests, however, were ever made aware of the outrage felt by Sicilian fisherman whose fishing grounds had been voraciously depleted of this delicacy, an irresponsible act that threatened the shellfish with extinction. They protested at the central government buildings, marching around the main square dragging their nets and spitting as they chanted Vespucci’s name. But they hadn’t counted on the weight of the Contessa’s influence on the island and their protest was broken up by the Italian Royal Guard, two fishermen losing their lives during the stampede of the soldier’s horses.
Within twenty years not a single ambry could be found around Sicily and today’s recipe books use white crabmeat or monkfish in its place.