Venetian food is often uncomplicated. It isn’t always easy to prepare or quick, but quite a few dishes are good, fresh ingredients, in classic combinations, assembled with respect for the traditions of the city. The dish above is called Bigoli in Salsa. It’s the kind of meal that can be prepared from pantry items, and it’s one of my favorites. It’s pasta, with fish and onions. There are other ingredients, and the manner of assembly is important, but it’s a wonderful dish, and I eat it only where I know they will do it well.
Go Risotto is one of the dishes almost never found outside of the lagoon. The gobi fish is an ugly little fish with bones everywhere. In the right hands, however, the fish can be used to make a delicate broth which is then used to make the risotto. The fish are hard to transport, aren’t very good unless really fresh, and if you don’t know the right technique, you get a terrible mess instead of heavenly broth. None of the ingredients are fancy things – the fish are the kind of thing once only eaten by the very poor, but the craft involved, and the time to produce it correctly mean you will pay more for it than an ordinary risotto. Do it.
Risi e Bisi. It’s a classic Venetian thing, but not found in too many restaurants. It is a simple but delicious loose risotto made with peas and a little pancetta. To the locals, it’s home cooking – comfort food. I compare it to Mac & Cheese to illustrate that it’s something a lot of people like, but they wouldn’t order in a restaurant. It’s great food that doesn’t need to be fancy.
Spagetti alle Vongole. I wrote a separate blog post about this dish. It’s clams (best if local) cooked in olive oil and a little white wine, tomatoes are sometimes added, and parsley. Italians do not put cheese on this.
Cicchetti [Chick-KET-ti] are small bites to things. Many are served on small slices of bread, but some don’t include bread at all. One of my favorites is a half of a boiled egg with a fillet of anchovy wrapped around a caper and held to the egg with a toothpick. If I have one or two with a glass of wine, go to another place and repeat that, I’ve had a nice lunch.
Mixed Grilled Fish is about as Venetian as food gets, but Italians everywhere do this dish. Fresh fish, whatever was good at the market that day, lightly seasoned and grilled to perfection. If the fish is really good, the lemons are just for decoration.