History of Venetian cuisine
We are having a wonderful summer here in Venice. After a few very hot and humid days in July, we are now benefiting by some absolutely perfect ones: sunny, dry and fresh. These are the best conditions to explore Venice by foot and walk along her narrow streets, ‘campi’ and cultural places. So much walking, then, will make you quite hungry, so it is time to introduce some of the most typical Venetian specialties, which have been cooked for centuries and handed on from one generation to the next.
Thanks to the extensive ship journeys during the times of the Venetian Republic and the innumerable contacts between Venice and far away countries such as Greece and Turkey, Venice witnessed a growth of merchandise exchange and the import of many different spices which were sold in the ‘Fontego dei Turchi’ (‘the Turks’ Inn’) serving as house, depot and market for the Turkish traders from 1621 to 1838 (after an extensive restoration work, the building housed first the Museo Correr, and from 1923 the Natural History Museum: msn.visitmuve.it/en/home/ ). For this reason, spices in Venice were (and are) extensively utilised, and if you walk to Rialto and step inside the ‘Mascari’ shop you will find all of them. I would like to suggest a few dishes which are quoted in many books on Venetian cuisine, and are still cooked and served in town:
•‘Pasta e Fagioli’ (pasta and beans): A soup which is prepared all year round: hot in winter and cold in summer. The main ingredients are of course the beans (the ones produced in Lamon are the best), potatoes, then carrots, onions, celery, rosemary, and short pasta. According to personal tastes, at the end, usually some olive oil is added, and some people even add red wine.
•‘Risi e Bisi’ (rice and peas): A Veneto Spring thick soup that - despite looking like a risotto - is correctly served with a spoon, not a fork. It is made with green peas using the stock from the fresh young pods, flavored with pancetta. As with the ‘pasta e fagioli’, you can add other vegetables, too.
•‘Sarde in Saor’ (savory sardines): These were the perfect food for Venetian fishermen and navigators who sailed for many days and needed something which would not perish for long periods. The dish consists of fried sardines in layers, alternating with caramelized onions cooked with vinegar and oil; to the original recipe, sultana and pine nuts have been added to embellish the dish and at the same time moderate the onion’s taste. Today, other types of fish such as ‘scampi, small soles and sea bass are cooked in the same manner, and in some cases even pumpkin and red chicory from Treviso.
Due to space reasons, I can only quote some more famous traditional dishes: ‘Bigoli in salsa’ (‘bigoli’ with anchovies), ‘Fegato alla Veneziana‘ (calf liver Venetian style),’Risotto di Go’ (‘go’ risotto), ‘Polenta e Schie’ (polenta’ and shrimp), ‘Moeche Fritte’ (soft shelled crabs – fished during the season when they change their shell), and the renowned ‘Castraure’ (small artichokes grown on Sant’Erasmo island, also called the vegetable garden of Venice). I would like to add a few cakes - Venice is famous for her biscuits (these, too, had to be eaten by sailors on long voyages) among which ‘Buranelli,’, ‘Zaleti’ and ‘Esse’ (‘S’) are the most famous. They are usually served along with a glass of sweet wine. Moreover, only during the Carnival period, ‘Frittelle’ and ‘Galani’ will be found in the most famous pastry shops in town - they are very tasty, and, like cherries, you will probably want to eat one after the other!
Once in Venice, we will be very happy to give you suggestions about where these nice dishes (and many others) can be tasted around town. We hope you will also decide to try ‘La Caravella Restaurant' (in our sister hotel) where besides finding some of these specialties you can take advantage of a 10% discount, and also ‘La Rivista,’ here at ‘Ca’ Pisani,’ for boards of cheese and cold cuts and simple dishes like pastas, salads and ‘deli.’