An early morning trip to the Rialto fish market in Venice is always a treat. This morning, after coffee and a croissant at my favourite coffee bar in Venice, Torrefazione Cannaregio, I hopped across the Grand Canal at the Santa Sofia, traghetto (a traditional gondola ferryboat) and on to the fish market. I was in search of mazzancolle a type of king prawn in order to make one of the most Venetian of dishes, mazzancolle in saor.
Venice is a city that most experience on foot. Even those residents that have boats do an awful lot of walking and most of that on unforgiving flagstones, and bridges that rise and fall five feet in space of a few yards.
With all that walking, especially in the summer when temperatures regularly top 30 degrees celsius, it would seem a good idea to stop every now and again, pop into a shady bar, and have a drink and perhaps a restorative bite. Well, Venetians would agree and this is how cichéti a typically Venetian snack food came to be.
Have you ever dreamed the Italian dream? Waking up, let’s say in Florence, on a Saturday morning; taking a stroll to the local market to buy fresh produce; making fresh pasta with your own hands; having an aperitivo with friends before sitting down to enjoy the fruits of your culinary labours?
Last week, I was lucky enough to have been invited to live this experience in the capable hands of Eating Europe Food Tours and the Florence Food Studio at their cooking school in the authentic Santo Spirito quarter of the city. You may remember that last year I reviewed their excellent Other Side of Florence tour.
This time of year in Italy can be hot and I mean really hot. In Venice, temperatures and humidity soar making you want to leave the city and run away to the countryside. From a food point of view your body demands fresh, lean flavours to cool it to the core. Luckily, nature comes to the rescue by providing us with a large variety of summer fruit and vegetables of which a personal favourite is melon. At this time of year, Venetian shops are piled high with melons in all varieties and colours and this recipe works equally well with any of them.
La dotta, la rossa, la grassa. These are the nicknames given to the city of Bologna by Italians. La dotta (the educated) because it boasts one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world. La rossa (the red) because of its distinctive red-brick architecture. And la grassa (the fat)? Because of its amazing food of course!
Until the 1960s, Carpaccio was a Venetian painter whose renaissance canvases are valued as a record of what the city looked like during his lifetime. Today, historians pore over his works extracting knowledge of the minutiae of sixteenth-century Venetian dress and architecture contained in them, including a detailed rendition of the old wooden Rialto bridge. But in 1963, Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of the now almost mythical Harry’s Bar, invented a dish subtle slices of raw meat and named it for the painter—there was an exhibition of his work in the city at the time—and for future generations the name became associated more with culinary than with visual arts.