This weekend I was invited for barbecue at my friend’s house to celebrate the finishing of some extension work. I wanted to take a dessert, and so still influenced by my trip to Modena, I decided to take the most Modenese of desserts, a zuppa inglese.
Probably one of the most famous Italian desserts of all time, many people don’t realize that the tiramisù is only about fifty years old. It’s now generally accepted that the dessert was invented in Treviso at the Osterie alle Becchiere in the late 1960s early 70s.
Located only 27km as the crow flies from Venice, Treviso has always lived in the shadow of the campanile of San Marco. For most of its life, that was a good thing. Its proximity to the capital of the great Venetian Republic meant that the government ringed it with a great defensive wall and moat which made the city impregnable. The wall is still there today and can be walked almost in its entirety.
I first visited Verona thirty years ago. I was in Venice having lunch with an aunt and two cousins who I had never met before. During the memorable lunch, which you can read about here, it emerged that my eldest cousin, Silvia, sang in the chorus at the Arena di Verona—a well-preserved Roman amphitheater where a summer season of operas are staged in a manner that Cecil B DeMille would be proud of—and was appearing in Aida that evening. A moment of summer madness resulted in my going with her (Verona is about an hour away from Venice) and hearing Verdi’s music soaring up to the stars while a cast of a thousand ballerinas danced on a vast pyramid behind the stage.
One of the hallmarks of Tuscan regional cooking is that a lot of it makes use of stale bread. I recently wrote an article about it outlining some of the traditional soups and salads from the region all with stale bread as their main ingredient. However, it’s not just savory dishes which use it. In many parts of Italy, not just Tuscany, stale bread is used to make cakes, such at the Venetian pinza. Like a lot of dishes which started out in poor kitchens, these bread cakes are now seen as part of the traditional cusine and something to be proud of.