Tramezzino, the diminutive of ‘in the middle’ is the Italian word for sandwich. Said to have been coined by the early-twentieth-century poet Gabriele d’Annunzio, the word is used to refer to sandwiches made with white pancarré bread, again said to have been invented in the Bar Mulassano in Turin. Notwithstanding their Piemontese origin, the most famous tramezzini are those made in the city of Venice.
Venetian tramezzini differ from those found elsewhere in their general scope. While normal tramezzini contain thin layers of filling laying politely between two horizontal blankets of bread, the Venetian variety are super-sized with their innards bursting out in advertisement—less elegant perhaps, but much more inviting. As you will know from my post My Venice, a vast amount of my childhood was spent in the city, where I was born. And for me, the sight of tramezzini piled up in shop windows is one of the sights most evocative of the city.
As one of my Venetian friends recently pointed out to me, while we were enthusiastically discussing (and eating) tramezzini, the fillings fall into two main categories: those based on tuna, and those based on ham. A large number of them also contain hard-boiled egg (which goes well with both tuna and ham). The other indispensable ingredient is mayonnaise, which is lightly spread over the inside of the bread, and often mixed in with the tuna to hold it together.
Venetians will eat tramezzini as a snack durung a pause from walking round the city, for lunch, or with a drink or aperitif, known in Venetian as un’ombra. It was while I was enjoying one, or three, as a snack with my friend that we started discussing the relationship between tramezzini and ciccheti. Although cicchetti—snacks usually eaten with un’ombra—have always existed they have become trendy only relatively recently when they started to be billed as the Venetian tapas. For him, they formed part of the same category of snack or street food.
Tramezzino asparagi e uova
White sliced bread
1 hard-boiled egg
8 pieces of green asparagus
1 Take two slices of white sliced bread and remove the crusts.
2 Spread the slices thinly with mayonnaise. Make sure to get right to the edges of the bread as this will help them to hold together.
3 Slice a hard-boiled egg and place it in the middle of one of the slices of bread. Be sure to leave some space around the edges to close the sandwich. Sprinkle a little salt on the egg.
4 Take some asparagus which has been blanched in salted boiling water for about ten minutes. Cut it to size and then completely cover the egg with it.
5 Cover with the second piece of bread and gently press the edges of the bread together with the edge of your hand.
6 Gently cut diagonally with a sharp bread knife and serve.
You could make these with any filling that you like. Other traditional fillings are:
- tuna and mayonnaise
- tuna and egg
- mushroom and ham
- ham and egg
- tuna and paprika
What will you put in your tramezzino?