Posts Tagged ‘Venice’

Do MoriWhenever I traveled to Friuli–Venezia Giulia, I could never bear to leave without visiting the neighboring Veneto region and my favorite city in the world: Venezia. My five-week-long trip of summer 2005 had almost come to a close, and I was taking the train from Udine into my beloved La Serenissima for the day. After three previous visits to Venezia during Carnevale (of which only one was intentionally planned to coincide with the event), I found myself desperately longing to encounter fewer crowds. The Biennale film festival was scheduled to begin the following day, however, so I was inevitably doomed to battle another sea of tourists.

Do MoriWhen I got off the train, I headed directly for the Rialto. Instead of choosing a single restaurant at lunchtime, my plan was to nibble on cicchetti throughout the day at my favorite bacari. My first stop was one of the best in the city, Do Mori, where I savored crostini with baccalà mantecato (puréed salt cod), a crab claw, and a baby octopus, all washed down with a refreshing midmorning glass of prosecco.

scallopsAt the nearby fish market, I wandered through the crowded aisles, wishing I had an apartment where I could take some of the beautiful seafood home to cook (that dream would come true one December five years later). I did purchase some scallop shells, which I needed for my recipe capesante gratinate (scallops baked with a bread crumb topping). Even though the oven-safe shells that I had bought at a gourmet food store back home were usable, they had been bleached an unnatural shade of white, their enormous size dwarfing the scallops within. The ones I picked up in Venezia were the real thing, fresh from the sea, with all the markings in pink and mauve that a scallop should have.

Cantinone Gia SchiaviI crossed the Rialto Bridge and made my way through Piazza San Marco to the Accademia Bridge, which led to one of my favorite sestieri, Dorsoduro. I had stayed in this relatively quiet neighborhood twice before, and my heart was still brimming with wistful memories of hidden alleys, misty canals, and the most tantalizing cicchetti at Cantinone Già Schiavi. Their vast selection of crostini, for which they are best known, included toppings of baccalà (both mantecato and alla cappucina); tomato, brie, and anchovy; and fluffy herb-flecked ricotta with sun-dried tomato. Knowing that I had one more stop on my bar-hopping lunch, I settled for just one bite—tuna salad sprinkled with cocoa—and another glass of prosecco.

By early afternoon, the late July sun was becoming unbearably hot. Not a single breeze blew in from the lagoon to ease the scorching temperatures. In an effort to cool off, I treated myself to a gelato (cioccolato and stracciatella) on my way to the Chiesa di San Vidal, where I bought my mom another CD by her favorite string ensemble, Interpreti Veneziani.

Ai Promessi SposiThe throngs of tourists in San Marco proved to be too much for me, so I decided to wind my way back through the less populated calli of Dorsoduro and Santa Croce. By the time I reached the Cannaregio sestiere, it was already 3:00pm. My final cicchetti stop of the day, Ai Promessi Sposi, was still open, though empty. Seeing as I had been snacking on and off all day, I only wanted a few more bites. I requested a crab claw, a little eggplant, some baccalà, and one canocia (mantis shrimp). The man at the counter told me to find a table, and he would bring me my plate. When he did five minutes later, the plate was twice as large as I had expected, piled high with food, and heated in the microwave. He had given me four crab claws (these were deep-fried and not nearly as exquisite as Do Mori’s), a huge serving of marinated eggplant, and a mammoth portion of baccalà (this one prepared with potatoes, olives, and anchovies). He had forgotten the canocia, but I wasn’t about to point that out. I just ordered myself a third glass of prosecco and decided to call this meal an early dinner.

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gondolasSomehow or other, I always seemed to wind up in Italy during Carnevale season. The first time was coincidental, when I went to Friuli to visit the Ledragomma GymnastikBall factory. I had stayed in Udine for several nights, which gave me plenty of time for some day trips—one of which was to my favorite city, Venezia. It must have been a weekday, for the crowds were virtually non-existent, and I had been able to drift along the calli in pure bliss.

The second time was with Mike; we had planned a few days in Venezia before heading on to Udine and then Firenze. Since we had found a quaint hotel on a quiet canal in the Dorsoduro, we were able to avoid much of the Carnevale chaos. With the exception of one weekend, when we found ourselves in human gridlock trying to cross the Rialto Bridge, things weren’t too bad. Or possibly the wonderful moments—like meandering back to our hotel after dinner, hand in hand, alone in the dark mist, with ghostly images of masked figures and strains of Vivaldi echoing through my mind—pushed all the bad ones to the recesses of my memory, because I had the crazy idea on yet another February trip to spend a day in Venezia.

This time, it happened to be a Saturday—a rainy Saturday. Venezia during Carnevale on a rainy weekend—it sounds like a recipe for disaster, but it was the only free day in my schedule, and I just couldn’t bear being in this part of Italy without seeing La Serenissima at least once.

From Udine, Venezia is a leisurely 2-hour train ride. I had no plans for the day, except to wander around the labyrinth of narrow alleys and lose myself in the magic of the city. This was not to be. As soon as I stepped off the train, I did become lost—lost in the throngs of tourists pushing their way to San Marco. The rain was gushing down, and we were packed like anchovies in alleyways barely wide enough for one umbrella. It was impossible to see anything but the tourist in front of you; if your focus strayed for one second to look in a shop window, you risked being shoved and knocked to the ground. A ceiling of umbrellas masked the skyward view but didn’t seem to block the downpour. My pants were soaked up to my knees. My umbrella broke as I struggled to wrestle it free from the gusts of wind that whipped around corners and threatened to carry me aloft.

When the tight passageway finally opened up into Piazza San Marco, I could breathe a little easier, although the masses were still too close for comfort. The line to enter the Basilica stretched halfway across the square! I continued walking westward in the direction of the Dorsoduro, where I hoped the crowds would be somewhat thinner. I was also craving a bite to eat in my favorite cicchetti bar.

Cantinone Gia SchiaviThe Dorsoduro sestiere lies across the Accademia Bridge, and while it is home to many of the city’s tourist sites—including Santa Maria della Salute and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection—it doesn’t typically see the same crowds as San Marco or the Rialto. So when I reached my destination, Cantinone Già Schiavi, situated on a small canal across from Campo San Trovaso, there was room for me to squeeze my way up to the bar and enjoy a plate of bite-size treats. There were chunks of salami, mortadella, and cheese; anchovies, pearl onions, and peperoncini; and freshly prepared crostoni (mini open-faced sandwiches)—each serving speared on a toothpick. The crostoni came with countless irresistible toppings such as baccalà (both mantecato and alla cappucina); tomato, brie, and anchovy; fluffy herb-flecked ricotta with sun-dried tomato; and tuna salad with a sprinkle of cocoa. All of this I enjoyed with a glass of prosecco.

Heading back to the train station, I took a roundabout path along the outskirts of the Dorsoduro and avoided much of the madness. Even though I appreciated being able to pause occasionally to gaze around in awe, I still found myself continually dodging hordes of people as they streamed by. There was no chance of getting myself lost on this trip—literally or figuratively.

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My recipe for baccalà (salt cod stew), as excerpted from Flavors of Friuli: A Culinary Journey through Northeastern Italy,  is featured this week at www.chicgalleria.com.

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My recipe for sarde in saor (sardoni in savor, in Triestine dialect), as excerpted from Flavors of Friuli: A Culinary Journey through Northeastern Italy,  is featured today as a Super Food Recipe at www.alwaysnewyou.com.

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