Monday, 3 December 2012

Venice And Veneto

Just as the Friulians enjoy their ritual Tajut around five o'clock, the Venetian's start a little earlier , around eleven in the morning, with their own l'andare per ombré (moving into the shade). This taditional pastime once was a practical necessity to the ancient wine sellers that used to sell their wines by wandering around the restaurants, bars and cafes of the piazza st. Marco. In order to keep themselves, and more importantly, their wine cool the wine sellers would follow the shadow of the st macro bell tower around the piazza, moving from one bar to another, moving into the shade. Nowadays, people are not moving round selling wine, but drinking a small chilled glass of prosecco, while sampling the cicheto (like an Italian tapas) and keeping cool.

Venetians, by their very nature, are proud of their cuisine and many dishes, that to some may seem hideous, are part of the Venetian proud culinary heritage. A fine example of this is the regions risotto al Nero di sepia, the thick black cuttlefish fish ink risotto, which to many other Italian regions is an example of the venetians poor taste, is one of the regions most celebrated dishes. Another Venetian staple is dried cod, which is known in Venice as baccala, however, is in fact stoccafiso, but the the Venetian's still ref to it as baccala as a matter of principled and due to their love of the melodic sounding name. In all other parts of Italy, except Venice, salted soaked cod (baccala) is distinguished from salted dried fish, stoccafiso (stock fish). Therefore, the Venetian's proffered dried cod should be known as stoccafiso instead of baccala, but no one can really argue with a Venetian. Whatever you call it, cod was imported to Venice already sun-dried, so it then needs to undergo a complex procedure before eating it. Before cooking baccala must be pounded, then soaked in water, replacing the water twice a day, for two to three days to rehydrate. So loved is, and was, bacalla in Venice, that according to the cities medieval laws the cities authorities only allowed the water which baccala was soaked in to be thrown out from homes at night, in order to prevent the deluge, and more importantly fishy stench, from engulfing the city.

Venice is very different from the rest of Venice, the crumbling houses of the lagoon city are all part of the tourist dream to see the fifteenth and sixteenth century aristocratic buildings and ancient air of decadence. Throughout the rest of Veneto however, neat tidy towns re set out among the regions rolling green hills and lush green countryside are a far cry from the quaint yet somewhat delapadated look of Venice itself. In terms of the regions cuisine, there is a similar difference between Venice and the rest of Veneto. The cuisine of the Veneto could be described as mainland, meat, vegetables, limited seafood, but in Venice itself, the cuisine is much more based on the local fish and shellfish that are bountiful in the lagoons.

One of the most beautiful sights in all of Venice is the daily fish market in the centre of Venice, a few steps from the rialto bridge. Here locally caught fish, such as sarde (sardines), Caprione (eel) and coda di rospa (monkfish) are displayed along with a vast array of local shellfish such as caparossoli (clams), cape longhe (razor clams), penci (mussels), moleche (soft-shell crab) and granseole (crab). The moleche (soft-shelled crabs) are often served in the surrounding bars as cicheto. These crabs, which have recently shed their hard shell, are left in a bowl of beaten egg for a few hours, whilst still alive, then removed, floured and deep-fried.

In total contrast, fish is rarely eaten in the rest of Veneto, with the exception of the beloved baccala. One of the regions true delicacies are artichokes, which are eaten in varying stages of their growth. In their youth, canarini are very small, baby artichokes which are eaten dipped in pinzimonio (olive oil with salt and pepper). Then there is castraure (literally "castrations") which are trimmed from the plants to stimulate growth, which are eaten cooked with garlic and oil or fried in butter. Next there are true artichokes, which are prepared in a variety of ways. But then there are the artichoke bottoms which are eaten boiled, grilled or fried and then the artichoke flowers that have bloomed, which are eaten in salads. The artichokes of sant'Erasmo, an island on the lagoon, are so famous, they are trademarked and protected by law.

Despite the opulent riches of Venice, there is a extensive peasant culture throughout the Veneto, simple dishes such as risi e bisi ( rice with tender peas), pumpkin risotto and risotto with asparagus or treviso radicchio are cooked regularly and the regional peasant specialities such as frogs legs, marsh birds and wild duck are hunted in the lagoon.

Venice, however, is still the birth place of many Italian specialities. One bar, the immortal Harry's Bar, in the centre of Venice was the birthplace of many worldwide known Italian dishes. This famous haunt of the rich and famous, and it's iconic owner giuseppe cipriani, have gone along way to putting Venetian cuisine firmly on the worldwide food map. Dishes such as Carpaccio di Manzo (raw, thin slices of fillet steak, pounded wafer thin and served dressed with a mayonnaise containing worcestshire sauce and tobacco), and cocktails such as the Bellini and tiziano cocktail were all born in Harry's bar.

Venice and Veneto

Once a year the Venetian festival of carnivale takes place throughout the city, people dress as pierrots and harlequins, and as you would expect of the Italians, eat special Carnivale foods. Many people visiting for carnivale will usually limit themselves to panini (hard roll sandwiches) and tremazzini ( soft sliced bread sandwiches) whilst wandering around the city experiencing the sights, sound and atmosphere of carnivale. Many people will however sample the traditional carnivale sweets, often served by vendors, such as as galani (dough strips), fritole (sweet fritters) and crapfen (filled doughnuts) are eaten on the go throughout the city.
Wines Of The Veneto
The Veneto region is probably one of Italy's most important wine producing regions, it lies just behind the regions of Sicily and Apulia in terms of vineyard area and production figures, but is probably far better known than its two southern rivals. In terms of quality there is a definite East/ West divide in Veneto. The province of Verona produces some of the best known and most successful wines in Italy - Soave, Valpolicella and Bardolino, as well as possibly the countries great red wines Amarone (click here for more information on The Wines Of Veneto.)

Typical Dishes of Veneto
and Venice
Baccala mantecato  -  creamed baccala served on crostini.
Fish - locally caught fish either simple grilled baked.
First  Course:
Zuppa alla magasso - bean soup with wild duck.
Risi e bisi -  rice with fresh peas.
Risi e bisati - rice with eel.
Risi in cavroman - rice with lamb.
Risotto al trevgiana - risotto with Treviso radicchio. 
Artchokes - in there various ways.
Second Course:
Fegato alla veneziana -  liver sauteed with olive oil and onions.
Moleche - soft-shell crabs floured and deep fried.
Patissada - horsemeat stew.
Pita - roast wild lagoon hen.
Vasetto - confit wild lagoon duck.
Peara - ox brain meatballs or veal meatballs.
Polenta e osei - polenta with roast wild birds.
Toresani - pigeons roasted on a spit.
Fugazza - focaccia with iris root and orange rind.
Pandoro - seasonal sweet leavened bread eaten at christmas.

Tiramisu - dessert made from coffee soaked sponge fingers, sweetend mascarpone and chocolate.
Panettone - seasonal sweet leavened bread flavoured with raisins and candied fruits.


1 comment:

  1. Another great "dolce" is tiramisù which was invented in Treviso ( Veneto)