Wednesday, April 7th - Tuesday, April 13th
The Veneto region, nestled between the majestic, snow-tipped Dolomite Mountains and sparkling Adriatic Sea, is in northeastern Italy and is covered over with a verdant plain between the Po and Tagliamento rivers. The ancient world wistfully imagined the Trojans to have first settled the Veneto after the Trojan War, for the Veneti displayed the Trojan talent for training and breeding horses. Around 420 A.D. people escaping the invading vandals of the mainland are thought to have found Venice. Though the earliest settlers are still shrouded in mystery, we can surely say the Veneti were destined to create the extravagant and impossibly luxurious Venetian Republic, lasting an astonishing 1,100 years.
At the height of its grandeur, Venice was a poetic, seductive, and theatrical city that sparkled like her courtesans, draped in lavish, gold-threaded brocade gowns with pearls woven in their blonde-dyed tresses, lounging in the dappled light sprinkled across terraces and glinting off turquoise canals. Its food delights in color and light as greedily as its artists, from Giorgione to Titian. Color, a Byzantine import, whether in the form of exotic spices for foods or as the base of paints, distinguishes the unique culinary and artistic vision that can only be Venetian. Venetian color came into its own when met with the glittering light reflecting off its resplendent places, its copious Renaissance glass, curving canals, and tinted-marble facades. Of course, the abundant rainbow of vegetables grown in the region also contributes to the Venetian celebration of color in its cooking. Venice built its fortunes upon its maritime trade of spices like saffron, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and the highly coveted pepper (once as precious as gold) and a monopoly on salt from its marshes. As the first to introduce sugar to Europe, we’ll celebrate Venice’s sweetest discovery with one of its most famous desserts, Tiramisu. The vibrant dishes of the Veneto still dance with the colorful riches of its sumptuous and imperial past. Come enjoy the splendid Venetian mosaic of exquisite, bright tastes that we’ve prepared for you.
Fish is at the heart of Venetian cuisine. This culinary tradition centered around fish is the expression of a region made up of water. The whole Veneto region sparkles with rivers, streams, lakes canals and lagoons. Shellfish and crustaceans are amongst the most popular and commonly enjoyed types of fish in the region - especially when fried. Our “fritti misti” consists of lightly fried bay scallops, shrimp, octopus, asparagus, and zucchini - served with lemon and spicy chili pepper 'bomba' sauce.
Saffron Gnocchi and Shrimp
The people of Verona are so in love with Gnocchi that they elect a Father of Gnocchi each year and celebrate with a festive procession where the locals dress in 14th century costumes. And the charming city of Verona, paved in glistening, Roman red-marble, is known for love. It is the setting for those infamous, star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. In fact, romantics travel the world to Verona to see the Balcony of Casa di Giulietta, where Romeo reportedly declared his love. No matter that the balcony was constructed in 1936 - love needs no reason! This dish delights your senses, with the vivid crimson of saffron and its sweet, complex, floral taste and bright, succulent shrimp, evoking the Venetian love of the sea.
Rabbit and Amarone Risotto
Growing around the valley of the river Po, the Arabs introduced rice to Italy in the south. And as it made its way up north, it was embraced with welcome arms. The valley of the Po produces the most rice in Italy and it was controlled by the Venetians for centuries. Venetian Risotto is famed for its elegant flavor, jewel like appearance and ability to befriend almost any ingredient. Venetian risotto is made all’onda, literally ‘to the wave,’ meaning that the dish looks like the ruffled currents of the sea. Its velvety, near liquid consistently differs from the drier risotto made in the other northern regions of Italy explored in past posts, including Piedmont, Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna. Though the Venetians largely prefer fish to meat, the rabbit in this dish highlights the game and other farmland animals that are plentiful inland and typically enjoyed in the Veneto.
This dish also highlights the famed Amarone of the region. Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG is a full-bodied, rich, chocolatey red wine with typical notes of red cherry - in short, it’s a wine-lover’s dream. It makes sense then that Amarone shares its home in fair Verona with those star-crossed lovers we recalled above. The rolling hills of the Valpolicella region are outside of the city to the northwest, near beautiful Lake Garda. The region is home to four grape varieties: Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, and Molinara. To make gorgeous Amarone a special process called appassimento takes place, beginning with picking the grapes far into the harvest season. After the late picking, the grapes are left out to dry all winter on wooden racks, where they concentrate their sugar level and become little shriveled up jewels, allowing for the creation of higher alcohol content. The result is a powerful, lush, bold red wine ready to seduce your palate.
Tiramisu literally translates as ‘pick me up’ and Treviso, a canal-laden city of the Veneto, lays claim to this delicacy, beloved all throughout Italy and the world today. But Friuli-Giulia Venezia disputes this claim and likes to take credit for it. We may never know its origins for certain, but we’re content with simply experiencing the glorious flavors of coffee-soaked ladyfingers opulently layered with mascarpone cream and brandy-fortified Marsala wine - a decadent pick me up that we never want to put down.