The Quilimarí River Valley is located in the Region of Coquimbo, Chile; the valley has an approximate length of 45 km from its starting place in the town of Tilama, to its mouth at the Pacific Ocean, near the beach town of Pichidangui.
Pichidangui and the Quilimarí River Valley
The village of Pichidangui is famous for its beautiful horseshoe-shaped bay of green-turquoise waters and its 6-km-long beach of fine white sand. The surf is gentle in the southern section of the beach and somewhat stronger in the northern sector. The southern part of the beach is protected from direct exposure to the waves and the southern winds by a small peninsula and a little island called “Isla de los Locos”.
Pichidangui, a semi-arid area with subtropical climate, is about 200 kilometers north of Santiago de Chile and has close to 1,200 permanent residents, since nearly 80 percent of the houses in the village are summer residences used primarily by families from the capital. In the village there is a fishing cove and a craft fair where local people sell handicrafts made of leather, pottery, seashells and quartz stones.
Until some years ago, the town and the small villages along the Quilimarí Valley were poor and had very basic services. The place was known as the "Valley of Tears" because of the dryness of the soil and the helplessness in which people lived. In recent decades there has been a remarkable renewal and development of agricultural traditions. The communities are planting crops including avocados, clementine oranges and olive trees, and working on the production of jams, goat cheese and excellent varieties of olive oil. This is contributing to change the "Valley of Tears" into a "Valley of Cheers".
Today the Quilimari Valley is considered one of the places that manufacture some of the best olive oils in the world. In the late twentieth century, a family of European immigrants, led by Augusto Giangrandi planted in “Hacienda Los Cóndores” (The Condors Ranch) groves of Italian and Spanish olive trees. “Hacienda Los Condores” produces over 35,000 liters of olive oil per year. Giangrandi’s company, originally called Agricultural Quilimarí Valley, became Giangrandi Gourmet, with offices in Santiago and Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, USA.
In addition to producing fine olive oils, Giangrandi owns Restaurant L'Incontro, a trattoria located about 16 kilometres north of Pichidangui, next to Route 5 North, which runs throughout Chile from north to south.
L'Incontro Restaurant is a pleasant stop by the sea on the long highway to northern Chile.
The restaurant is located on the side of the road, on a coastal cliff with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. It is an ideal place for a break on the long journey to northern Chile, to enjoy a wonderful view and enjoy lunch from a menu of Italian and Chilean specialties with a focus on fresh salad vegetables and fresh seafood. Of course, there is also a wide selection of olive oils. Here are the premium varieties of extra virgin organic olive oil, and the Mild, Medium and Intensely Fruited blends.
Among the entrees are several Italian specialties such as Fettuccine Alfredo with prawns, and also several dishes typical of the Chilean cuisine such as “Sopa Marinera” (Mixed Seafood Soup) and “Chupe” made with local shellfish and finfish.
View of the Pacific Ocean from the windows of L'Incontro Restaurant, near Pichidangui.
We ordered an appetizer called “Locos en salsa verde” (Chilean abalone) that came on a bed of crisp lettuce and served with “green sauce” (a mix of fresh cilantro [coriander] – raw onion – lemon juice), potato salad and mayonnaise. The main course was “Medallones de Congrio Frito” (Deep fried Chilean Kingclip [conger eel] medallions) in a crispy batter accompanied with thick fries, decorated with a small salad of radishes, shredded lettuce, and red onion. Perfect matching for the delicious shellfish and the deep fried conger eel was a Chilean “Santa Digna” Chardonnay Reserve (2012) of Miguel Torres Vineyards.
“Medallones de Congrio Frito” (Deep fried Chilean Kingclip [conger eel] medallions) in a crispy batter accompanied with thick fries, decorated with a small salad of radishes, shredded lettuce, and red onion.
Both dishes were excellent. The quality and presentation of the food and the service were consistent with good experiences at this location in the past. After lunch, a walk along the edge of the cliff, above the rocks, to admire the wonderful view of the wide ocean, was a perfect end to a nice lunch by the sea.