Thursday, July 6, 2017

What is on the plate in Venice?

 Liver and  onions!  My mother made this dish at least once a month, always remarking that it is “good” for us.  Basically I rated it  as bad as eating dog food, so I buried it in a pile of ketchup.  Things change, my taste for food changed and I was challenged  to see liver and onions on menus in Venice.  Not like mom’s!  I had to find out more, and discovered that this is a dish featured in Venice, a favorite among Venetians.  It is now frequently what I order when we do a day visit to Venice.  You should give it a try.

Bigoli is a larger type of spaghetti, usually home made by restaurants in the Veneto.  You can find it in Venice, usually with wild boar (chingiale), or in the hills south of Venice with donkey (Musso) .  If you order biggoli, expect it to be filling.  You may not need a second course.  Give a hard look in the markets and you might find bigoli to take home as a souvenir.  Our guests always get a package of this from us.  Nothing like taking the taste of Venice home with you.

Pasta with Sepia Black
Teeth black after
Spaghetti and onions….There is a quaint restaurant we visit in Venice, called Il Millione.  They make lots of different kinds of pasta dishes, but the one we go back for is bigoli with onions, spaghetti alla cipolla.  When I first saw it on the menu, I skipped over to the next item, but then my wife told me that this is a specialty, so I tried it.   The smoothness of the sauce and the flavor can’t be  beat.   They make their own pasta which makes it especially smooth.  BTW never expect spaghetti and meatballs in the Veneto.  This is an American tweaked dish.  If you see this on the menu, sneak out  and find another restaurant.

Take Home Tourist Pasta
Sarde in Saor is basically small fried sardines marinated in a vinegar with onions.  You will  find this and other types of small fish in Venetian restaurants.  The one we sometimes visit is called  Trattoria alla Rivetta.

A Type of Clam, Quite Good
But It Looks Like Worms
We found Rivetta by watching where the gondoliers go for pranzo (lunch).  Figuring that if they go there, they must know something we should check out.   (Like finding good pie would be where the truckers stop.)  Seating is tight, and usually when you wait for a table you can look into a countertop display of appetizers.  Venetians frequently just order from this display and not from the menu.  You will see why when you check out the shelves of items that Venetians love.   Beware of the prices of these appetizers, once we sat near a table of 4 people  and they were more than adequate eaters, their bill was 252 euros!  I think they tried every  single thing available, with 3 bottles of vino.  Kaching!!!

Not My Favorite
Breads of the Veneto.  Don’t expect much.  The majority of bread  brought to the table is unlike Tuscan bread, the type found in good Italian restaurants in the  states.  The bread here, if you break it open is almost powdery and loaded with air.  Your table will be covered with crumbs, and  when you taste it, there is hardly any taste.  It is okay manners to place your broken bread on the  table cloth.  Also, those of you who are used to the waiter providing a plate of oil, flavored with something like chili sauce, vinegar, truffle, or….Don’t expect this in Italy.  It’s strictly an American thing, this sopping of bread, in flavored oil.

People in northern Italy seem to like their grilled meat over cooked a bit.   Many of my Italian friends are happy to see  pieces of meat charred.  Most places grill meat until it is fairly dry.  Making beef a choice, you must tell the waiter you want it al sangue (rare).  A good waiter spotting you as a foreigner will probably ask you how you want your meat cooked.   Remember they are paid a living wage and are not dependant on tips, most of them have been trained in school to do their job.  You should not have to ask them if they are expert on wine, for instance.  You should not have to tell them to bring the food out slowly and not rush things.  If you have read my previous blogs you know that Italians can sit for 2 1/2 during a meal.  They even get up and walk around to stretch before returning to the table.  

A good steak, is called fiorentina, after the famous Tuscan white cows.  This cut will be sold in a restaurant by the weight.  Those white  cows, are eye candy now, if you see them at all when you drive through the Tuscan hills.  Those so called fiorentina cuts are mostly brought to Italy from Spain.  They won’t tell you this in the restaurant, why mess up a legend.  Restaurants in the Veneto will sometimes feature Argentinian or Irish beef.  My butcher sometimes has beef from Nebraska, and once had buffalo from the U.S.  All at a surprisingly low price!  

Please, Let Me Find More Of This!
Wine.  This was a complete surprise for me, moving from the states.  In the past I looked for wine from Montalcino, or any area in Tuscany.  I hardly ever saw  wine from the Veneto, and when I did, mostly pinot griggio or soave, I found it to be not very good.  The reason, I believe, is that they send wine out of country that is not the best.  When we go back to the U.S. we see a lot of Italian wine in restaurants that are found on the 3 euro shelf at our market.  Now that I have lived in the Veneto for almost 9 years I have tasted many great wines.  The hills south of Padova (Euganea) are volcanic, and they have some great wines.  A second  area is the area near Verona called Soave.  In fact, the best wine we ever had was from this area.  Some British friends were with us, when we took a chance and ordered it.  It turned out to be  huge!    Completely discovered by accident in a small restaurant high on a hill.   The Brits think I am a wine expert now.  NOT!  Actually, I hope that the wines of the Veneto remain undiscovered by the vast majority of wine lovers out of country.  You can figure out the reason for this.  

A shopping tip:  If you want to take wine home as a souvenir in your checked bag, visit a super market where you will find good  wine at a lower  price than a wine seller.  
One of the most famous canals has a webcam complete with sound.   View this webcam at:

Weather:  It will continue to be hot with increasing temperatures through August.  Today it was 89 and in the next few days will approach 99.  This is why Italians take a beach vacation in August.  Until next time…


No comments: