Pasatina figs—a breed native to Sardinia—aren’t a common ingredient in the U.S. Yet if you look for the fruit in Houston, you’ll have little trouble finding it.
Twenty years ago, Efisio Farris, owner of beloved Italian restaurant Arcodoro in the Galleria area, brought a single stick from one of his father’s trees back to Houston from Sardinia. He planted it in his yard, and in the space of a couple years, had a sizable tree—“The climate here is just like in Sardinia,” says his wife Lori, with whom he co-owns Arcodoro.
Farris started sharing branches with staff, customers, friends and family, some of whom reside as far away as Dallas and Phoenix. Gabriel Vega, a longtime Arcodoro busboy, says his Missouri City home is now surrounded by fig trees, and that he’s also gifted twigs to friends and neighbors. His family enjoys some of the fruit, and the rest goes back to the restaurant. “My boss give it to me,” he reasons, “I give them to my boss.”
Was bringing that first branch into the country wholly legal? Probably not, according to environmental lawyer Charles Irvine (who did not work with Farris), although, he adds, regulations are stricter today. “If they brought in a single twig 20 years ago,” he says, “I can’t say for sure what the law was, but with the statute of limitations, they are probably safe.”
At Arcodoro, Farris puts the figs to use in pizza, kale salad and even risotto, particularly this time of year, as September is the most plentiful time for the earthy, syrupy figs. “It’s a really fun tradition that started with a stick, and it’s got lots of memories and emotions tied to it,” says Lori. So sweet.