Another absolutely gorgeous day in Venice, and I had the great pleasure of spending the afternoon with Monica Cesarato, a Venetian and Venetian food afficianado. Monica writes a blog about Venice and owns and runs the Faronhof bed and breakfast, outside of Venice. She also is one of the two people who run Cook in Venice, where they offer Venetian cooking courses and food tours in Venice. Our plan for the afternoon was to eat a lot of cicheti. The day was so warm and sunny, we veered off course a little, walking along Zattere and stopping for a gelato (yes, it was that warm). Instead of just cicheti, I learned a lot more about the food in Venice.
Venetian Carnival Treats
Since it is Carnival time, we did a lot of talking about the fried foods treats of Carnival. I have seen the round "doughnuts"(frittelle) in five different variations. The three most typical are alla Veneziana (with rum soaked sultanas and pine nuts), filled with pastry cream, and filled with Zabajon (zabaglione). I've also seen them filled with cream chantilly (sweetened whipped cream). On our walk, we also found some filled with Nutella. There were also sliced apple rings dipped in frittelle batter and fried that I found at Tonolo Pasticceria. Lastly, there are Kraffen. These come from Austria and stayed in Venice after the Austrians left.
On our walk, Monica also gave me a lesson on some of the other sweets that fill the pastry windows in Venice. One thing I noticed was that the same cookie were called different names in different pasticcerie windows. The Venetian dialect is still very strong in the city, and that's the reason for the two types of spelling for the same foods.
These cookies that are between are a sort of crunchy cake are made with corn flour, which gives them their yellow color. The name comes from Venetian dialect for yellow.
Bussole are ring shaped shortbread cookies, with a little lemon zest added, and come from the island of Burano. I also saw these cookies with little chocolate chips in them. Monica told me she was a purist when it came to recipes, so I think she might not approve of the chocolate chip filled cookies, but they looked good this chocolate-chip cookie loving girl.
Monica explained Pinza as a kind of a bread pudding, made with corn flour, where you put whatever you have leftover into the mixture. This pinza had sultanas. She also suggested I buy a Venetian cookbook, A Toea coi Nostri Veci. It's traditional Venetian food. The only problem is that the book is written in Venetian dialect. (Monica, I'll be emailing you frequently for help ;-) I bought the book and plan to make and share several recipes from it.
Of course, there is Tiramisu. We had a nice discussion about this dish, which is actually from Treviso (not Venice, but nearby). Monica, being the purist, said you cannot call it Tiramisu unless the eggs are raw. I knew I took liberties with my recipe, making a French bombe and cooking the eggs by whipping in cooked sugar, but she also didn't like my idea of adding melted chocolate to the espresso. Oh well, I might have to change the name of my recipe and make a new "original" version of tiramisu here.
Cicheti (cicchetti) and Ombra
Cicheti and Ombra are all the rage now, but at one time the person who went out for an ombra was considered a wino. Ombra means shadow. Legend has it that the little tumblers of wine that go with the finger food, known as cicheti, gets its name from the old wine sellers. They would move their barrels/carts to be under the shade, keeping the wine cool. Ombra can also be the "shade" or small bit of wine you get in those small tumblers.
Cicheti is another word that I've seen spelled two different ways. Monica let me know that cicheti (pronounced chee-keh-tee) is the Venetian spelling and cicchetti is the Italian spelling. Both are correct, and both are used throughout the city. We had cicheti at La Cantina Carbonera Vecia. Monica also gave me a list of other cicchetterie that she likes. I'll have more for you soon on all the cicheti I've been tasting.
Chocolate and Hazelnut Gelato from Nico
During our walk, we also talked about Carnival in Venice. Monica reminisced that when she was younger everyone would be in costume. It's dress up for people of all ages. There were less of the extravagent costumes - those are furnished by many of the costume and mask stores in the city who pay the wearers to "pose" around St. Mark's Square. Not everyone was dressed up, but all ages were definitely participating.
One of the more extravagent costumes riding in a gondola
Adults in Costume on a Bridge in Venice
The youngsters posing and celebrating Carnival with confetti
Thanks again Monica for a wonderful afternoon and for all the information on Venetian food and Carnival in Venice!