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Friday, 29 December 2006

A Little Bite of Venice - Page 5

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,”


“You Venetians are proud of your culture and history, aren’t you?” I asked, already knowing the answer. Everyone chuckled--a slightly intoxicated chuckle--and looked at Giordano, who reminded me of a college professor with his spectacles and intelligent eyes. “Why shouldn’t we be?” he replied, “We have a long, rich history. We were the richest, more enterprising and powerful republic in Europe for centuries. People who come here don’t realize this.” I agreed. “They come here and see San Marco and Palazzo Ducale and often that is all,” he said with a bit of regret and sadness in his voice.


venice“There’s much for you to see here . . . the art, the churches, the Jewish ghetto,” he said, “and there is so much here that is unique to Venice. What other city rises from the water like our Venice? Venice is an architectural feast for the eyes.” “Cin, cin ” I said and raised my glass. I thought about it for a moment. I knew and shared his sentiment, even though this was my inaugural visit to the city. The average tourist knows very little about the history of this most singular city. Many tourists don’t venture beyond Piazza San Marco, and that is a colossal pity, for if they did, the many sights and spectacles would pleasantly surprise them.


Next we moved on to Do Spade which specializes in the triangular sandwiches called tramezzini, which I mentioned earlier, stuffed with a surprising variety of fillings: culatello (similar to salami but fattier and far superior), prosciutto, mortadella, baccala mantecato, ham and olive tapenade, and many others. We feasted with gusto.


The Prosecco went down like juice. I am not ashamed to admit that at this point we were all a tad happy by virtue of the several glasses of wine we had each imbibed, and, despite the feasting, I was still hungry. You mustn’t forget that we had done a bit of walking during our bacari crawl and quickly burned the calories incorporated at each bacaro. The tramezzini were out of this world.


Nothing even remotely resembling the sandwiches I had grown accustomed to growing up in Chicago. The Italians, like the French, have an uncanny ability to turn the simplest ingredients into culinary art that tickles the tummy and leaves you wanting more. I particularly enjoyed the prosciutto crostini, despite the fact that the prosciutto hailed from Parma, and the crostini are merely toasted bread rounds.


Perhaps it was the magical atmosphere, or the alcohol, or the great company I was keeping. All I know is–Italian food tastes better in Italy. The spaghetti with tomato and basil–the simplest sauce to be enjoyed–is elevated to new heights in Italy. The pizza is remarkable. The coffee beverages are to die for. Every meal is a veritable feast.


maskWe continued our culinary adventure, stopping at several other bacari, where we sampled more of the delicacies that La Serenissima is gracious enough to offer her devoted residents and longer-than-one-day tourists, who aren’t afraid to venture beyond the predictable and into the bowels of this fair city, get lost, meet interesting, fun-loving people and, in the end, make Bacchus proud. This was part of our mission, after all, and we didn’t dare disappoint.


(c)  Robert Damien Santagata

Photos (c) Donna Martinez

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

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