Aubergine, eggplant, melanzane: they sound good in any language and, in my opinion, taste even better. These have been my favourite vegetables since I was a child and my mother used to prepare melanzane al funghetto alla veneziana, a kind of cold salad of marinated aubergine. Heaven. Italy is the largest european producer of aubergine and produces more than the whole of the USA. Another reason why it plays such a large role in Italian cuisine. And it’s in season all throughout the summer.
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.
One of the things that surprises most English-speaking tourists, when coming to Italy for the first time, is that in restaurants main dishes don’t come with vegetables. That’s not to say that Italians don’t eat vegetables with main dishes, but you have to order them separately. You find them on the menu in a little section of their own called contorno, which translates approximately as side dish.