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Friday, 29 December 2006

A Little Bite of Venice - Page 4

Written by Robert Damien Santagata
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I was twenty minutes late when I found my fellow bacari crawlers. Giordano, Clara, Michael and Katherine were talking amongst themselves when I approached them. “I can’t believe I found you,” I said. “I told you it would be easy,” Giordano replied. I looked at him incredulously. “It’s hard to get lost in Venice,”



When I had first reWhen I'd heard about this combination of sweet, sour and savory flavors, I was certain I would find it unpalatable, if not downright disgusting–I was terribly mistaken. The odd combination of ingredients worked quite well together–the fish was tender, flaky and mildly sweet, not at all overpowered by any single ingredient. It was unlike any fish I had ever tasted–delicate and subtle and delectable.


At one point, GiordGiordano inspected my plate and asked, “Don’t you like it?”–Probably because, unlike him, I had dared to leave a few slivers of fish uneaten. “Yes, I like it very much,” I replied, then quickly and dutifully devoured the few scraps that remained on my plate. “Bravo,” he praised. “You want some more? He asked, smiling widely. I was tempted but opted to try something else, knowing the selection from which to choose was great indeed.


More cichM came More cichetti came our way: delicious, succulent meatballs made from mortadella, ham, eggs, cheese, rolled in breadcrumbs and deep-fried; tramezzini (sandwiches) stuffed with a huge variety of savory fillings, from salami, to prosciutto, to more exotic combinations that cause me to salivate even as I write this: We washed it down with more of my beloved Prosecco. “Cin, cin “ The Prosecco, I cannot emphasize enough, is remarkably light and subtle and tasty–it doesn’t take any attention away from that which is being eaten with it. It is a perfectly refreshing, enhancing, well-behaved wine. It is only a matter of time until it catches on around the world.


wineAll the wonderful little bites and great wine and high spirits and mutual fondness between the party that night notwithstanding, I must confess that, because the dollar cannot hold its own against the Euro, this feast was far from inexpensive. The comestibles, to be sure, were not at all cheap; the wine, on the other hand, was most reasonable: about $1.50 per glass. But it was all worth it considering the sheer satisfaction they provided.


As time passed, the more crowded and impassable the streets became. I felt as though I was walking down the busiest street in Tokyo, sans the blindingly bright neon signs, omnipresent pachinko parlors, and the occasional beautifully clad geisha. It was exhilarating: one big Venetian party with new friends and strangers and good food and drink. We found ourselves at an extremely popular bacaro named “Vivaldi.” Surprisingly, I did not hear the Four Seasons or the mandolin concerto, but incessant talk and laughter and toasts to life, friends, good food and drink and, of course, Venice herself.


There was no room to either sit or stand inside, so we ordered our cichetti, the wine, and reentered the night and the symphony of foreign chatter. We stood outside the bacaro and snacked and toasted, laughed and admired the motley parade ambling by us: an incessant flow of humanity all eager to satisfy prodigious hunger of both the stomach and the heart. This was romantic Italy, after all, and love and affection and adoration were saturating the already balmy night. “Ah, bella, romantica Italia ” I said to myself, fully contented and relishing every moment of the night, all my senses satisfied–yes, by this time I had even grown to appreciate even the Venetian stench in the air.


Vivaldi is best known for its fish, particularly the deep-fried variety, which I found uncommonly delicious and nearly devoid of grease: shrimp, calamari, scallops, white-bait–it was all served up piping hot, crispy, fresh, not to mention perfectly cooked. The seafood was prepared to just the right point of doneness–no rubbery calamari or stiff, inedible shrimp at this place; just a heavenly array of fruits of the Venetian lagoon and the Adriatic, “frutti di mare,” as Italians rather like to refer to a medley of seafood. “This is delicious, ” I said as I munched on a baby calamari. “How do they make it so good?” I asked.


Giordano looked at me and smiled his signature smile. “We are Venetians and we are all married to the sea. We have been since Venice was founded. We know how to cook the seafood.” We all laughed.


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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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