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.
Cotolete de sardele (or cotolette di sarde in Italian) is another dish I tried for the first time in Venice while researching cichéti and discovering that I liked sardines, It’s simple, can be prepared in a few minutes and served as an appetizer, starter, or even a main course depending on the quantity.
I came to this dish very late, which is a surprise since it is one of the classic dishes of Venetian cuisine, and a pity since I have been missing it all my life. From just before my teenage years until adulthood, I wouldn’t touch fish on principle since I knew I didn’t like it, despite evidence to the contrary. For example, I remember at the age of about ten being fed what my parents told me was prosciutto di parma. It was delicious, but turned out to be smoked salmon.
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.
The magic of Florence is legendary. The city, with its red-tiled roofs fills the wide valley of the river Arno, straddled by the ponte vecchio, literally paved with gold shops. The enormous cupola of the duomo, also red-tiled, has given Florence one of the most recognized skylines in the world, to rival, Paris, London, New York, but it’s a renaissance skyline—how precious.
Most tourists regard Florence as a hot city, where the art-filled arcade of the Piazza della Signoria provides welcome shade for the consumption of gelato, and where the breezes skipping up the river Arno from the sea offer respite from the ninety-degree heat.
In the winter, however, Florence is a cold city, and at this time, with fewer tourists, and much shorter queues at the Uffizi gallery, it can be a Christmas treat in itself.
Nothing is as Italian as pasta, or is it? Its origins remain unclear and many other cultures, most notably the Chinese, have similar foodstuffs in their traditional repertoire. Did, as the legend says, Marco Polo first bring pasta back to Italy from China in the 12th century? This seems unlikely since Marco Polo was from Venice, in north-eastern Italy and pasta seems to have its origins in the south. Also, a reference to pasta in Sicily has been found dating to 1154, exactly 100 years before Polo was born. Some authors have even linked an ancient Roman dish called lagana to modern lasagne al forno so pasta could have been present on the Italian peninsula a lot longer than we think.