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Friday, 29 December 2006

A Little Bite of Venice - Page 2

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,”


veniceKatherine and Michael were unfamiliar with the bacari concept, so I explained it to them. “The Venetians have been partaking in this little ritual for a long time now. They will stop at various pubs and wine bars and snack and drink – both during the day and at night.  Nobody really knows when or how it initially started, but legend has it that sometime ago, wine sellers in Piazza San Marco would move their wine carts into the shade as the sun made its way across the Venetian sky; that is, when the sun was out. The Venetian word for shade is ‘ombra’ and this word ultimately came to mean a drink of wine, particularly Prosecco, which is produced only in the Veneto region.”


“Oh, we’ve tried Prosecco back in Australia,” Katherine interjected, “and we really like it.” I nodded in agreement. “That’s what they love to drink here,” I said. “I drink it all the time back in the states.”

 

The place was quickly filling up and, because it was getting a bit stuffy inside, we decided to move the party outside. Giordano soon emerged with a plateful of the night’s first cichetti. He extended the plate to each of us. “Now the Prosecco,” he said, and he and Michael reentered the bacaro to get the sparkling wine, which I had come to love back home, long before my departure to Venezia.

 

I took a nibble of my baccala mantecato cichetto and was surprised at how mellow and balanced the flavors were, not to mention how surprisingly “un-fishy.” I would liken it to the whipped whitefish I used to buy at the Jewish delicatessens in New York City, but slightly Italianized what with the olive oil and garlic. Instead of smearing it on a bagel or bialy, however, they spread it on crostini and other edible plates.

 

The Prosecco was seductively soft and bubbly, not nearly as assertive as Champagne and superior to anything I had sampled in the States. The cacophony that night–foreign babble, laughter, popping corks, Bangladeshi men selling roses–was reminiscent of a New Year’s celebration: pure and unmitigated revelry, and I was more content than I had been in a long time. My fellow merrymakers were all extremely interesting, warm, and generous with their smiles and good cheer. We bonded immediately and continued raising our glasses, saying “cin, cin” in unison each time, hoping the evening would last for blissful eternity. venice

 

We all agreed that the baccala mantecato was fantastically delicious, and that we should move quickly on to the next bacaro to sample some more Venetian delights. Onward we walked . . . through the narrowest streets I had ever seen. Our destination was Cantina Do Mori and sarde in saor, a quintessentially Venetian delicacy: fried sardines marinated with olive oil, vinegar, onions, raisins and pine nuts. “Absolutely authentic ” Giordano assured me. “And molto bonissimo ” he added as we followed him into the bacaro.

(Page 2 of 5)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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