24 July, 2006

60. Local delicacies

A pre-lunch eatery window piled high with biscuits and buns and involtini – rolled up flatbread with various fillings – is a common site in almost any city in today's world, but if you look a little more closely you will realise that you could be nowhere else but Venice (if you didn't know you can do this, click on the picture to make it big enough to read the labels).

To the left on the middle shelf is a small pile of peculiarly Venetian fat crunchy biscuits with almonds on top known as 'Pan del Doge', or Duke's Bread. Next to them is a pile of similar biscuits, but dark with chocolate, here labeled 'Moretti', but generally better known in Venice as 'Pan del Moro', or Moor's Bread. Perhaps this was the very place that Desdemona came to buy Othello's favourite biscuits? It wouldn't surprise me to find some enterprising bakery in Venice making that silly claim.

There are other foods and some famous dishes that are very Venetian, many of them derived from the types of seafood commonly found in the shallow lagoon or beyond in the northern Adriatic. Mussels, clams, octopus, and squid are all high on that list. 'Pasta al vongole', pasta with clams, is one such delicacy, and any kind of pasta cooked in cuttlefish ink so that when it hits your plate it is black – and I mean really black, not some dirty-washing grey tint – is another dish the locals are very proud of. To me, the flavour of the squid ink is not that appealing, and the weirdness of the dish's appearance actually puts me off enjoying it, but the Venetians love it and you'll see it on almost every restuaurant menu.

Here is one very simple but utterly delicious Venetian dish:

Fegato alla veneziana

About half a kilo of calf's liver cut into slices
A couple of large onions
150-200g butter
A nice juicy lemon
Lots of parsley

Fry the chopped onions in a pan with half the butter and some salt and pepper. Tip the onions out (or use a second pan) and cook the liver with the rest of the butter, and of course with some salt and pepper. Put the onions back in with the liver and squeeze in the lemon juice. Serve on a plate covered in finely chopped parsley.

...Don't skimp on the butter. If you're worried about the calories, cook something else.

10 Comments:

Blogger The Old Foodie said...

From one food blogger to another - naturally, I love this post!

July 24, 2006 3:29 PM  
Anonymous Georgie Groves said...

Love the site, love to love Venice: I'll put 5 minutes aside each day to read it. Could Venice compete with my passion for France? On ne sait jamais!

July 25, 2006 7:55 AM  
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