The Italian Island Where Tuna Reigns Supreme

The tiny Italian island of San Pietro is a tuna lover's dream. The 19-square-mile island is tucked away off the southern coast of Sardinia (per The Guardian), and in the island's port town of Carloforte, tuna reigns supreme. In particular, Carloforte's bluefin variety steals the show and is on nearly every menu in town (via Food & Wine).

The Carloforte tuna fish meets the highest quality standards for bluefin around the world (via South China Morning Post.) According to Fine Dining Lovers, its smell (or lack thereof), feel, brownish-red color, and cut, all come together to make the bluefin of Carloforte superior to other bluefin and other tuna, in general. Even its nutrient profile is better than other tuna as the temperatures in the west Atlantic help the tuna stay fatty, which helps it remain tender while cooking. Importers are prepared to pay as much as $1 million euros for the right bluefin because of its particularly tender flesh and the preservation techniques used on the island (per South China Morning Post).

Generations of local Italian fishermen have perfected traditional harvesting techniques

Tuna fishing in San Pietro is a thousands-year-old practice (via Passion Italy TV), and Carloforte fishermen are the only ones in the world still catching tuna using these ancient techniques, according to Fort Village Magazine. For generations, fishermen have tracked and captured their prey during the tuna season, which runs from April to June. The Killing of Tuna explains that Carlforte fishermen use anchored nets called "tonnara" to capture bluefins as they migrate through the Strait of Gibraltar during their breeding season. The tonnara nets are cast as the bluefin approach the southwest coast of Sardinia on the port town where they spawn, or lay eggs. Each bluefin tuna can weigh up to 1,200 pounds and grow to 10 feet long (via Biological Diversity). 

National Geographic explains in a video on Carloforte tuna fishing that the process involves an intricate maze of nets, which gradually shrink in size. This complex maze leads the swimming prey into the final section of the maze called the "death chamber." In the death chamber, fishermen raise a final net to help hoist the bluefin to the surface for slaughter. Local fishers drag the fish out of the water using large, sharp hooks, then pierce or impale the tuna to bleed out, says The Killing of Tuna. The bluefin is then cleaned and prepped for sale and consumption.

A delicacy around the world, the fish is sold as "tono rosso," and packed in olive oil. If you'd like a taste of Carloforte at home, you can buy the island's natural catch online but it will cost you. A 4-ounce portion can cost nearly $40, putting Carloforte tuna up there alongside Wagyu beefsaffron, and other expensive delicacies