Not all anchovies are created equal. The slithery oil-packed ones in jars will do the trick in a pinch, but it's the salted whole fish we hold dearest to our anchovy-loving hearts. Meatier than the jarred varieties, they almost always come in a tin and are tightly packed with coarse salt. These little fishes have a kind of power that chefs have known for years: the kind that lends a dish a subtle, salty, delicious "what's in this?!" undercurrent.
The salt-packed varieties may be a little more expensive and require you to soak and filet them yourself (which, taking the little bony spines out, is actually pretty fun), but the payoff is a longer and firmer piece of anchovy that can be fried into a quick snack, pounded into a paste or allowed to melt away into your pasta sauce or marinated with lemon and oil and topped onto a crispy crostini. When buying, look for the kind that have been cured anywhere from three to 12 months, as that's when their flavor is best. When in doubt, trust the Sicilians. We return to Nettuno ($16.50) and Agostino Recca ($18) brands.