Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fruits Of The Sea: Eating In Venice

I've been telling myself that I need to collect my thoughts before writing about the food in Venice, but now I'm running the risk that it will slip away so I had better begin.  We spent less than 48 hours in the city, getting to enjoy two dinners, two breakfasts and only one real lunch.  Oh, and two gelatos.  One would think that it would be easy enough to summarize such a short experience but not so.  Venice.  My God, it was stunning.  All of my senses were fully expanded and indulged.  I wanted to express it all here, but I realize now that I'll be lucky if I can just give you flash impressions.  This will be the first of several.

So!  Did you know that they have eensy, beensy shrimps there?  All (most?) of the seafood in Venice is small.  The lagoons surrounding Venice are teeming with seafood but it grows small, delicate and is intensely sweet.   One of the first things I was given to eat (as a little appetizer to an excellent dinner at Antiche Carampane) was a paper cone filled with tiny, fried shrimps (schie) with the shells still on.  Tiny as in only an inch or so long.  Shells were so delicate as to crunch ever so lightly along with the perfectly fried batter.  We ate them with our fingers, licking the salt away, while drinking prosecco and waiting on our meal to arrive.  We sat in a narrow alley, lined by centuries-old stone and brick buildings, several stories tall. The moon was nearly full and high in the sky.  Dinner took hours, despite the fact that we could only fit in three courses. Here, I had my first fritto misto, a platter of the freshest possible selection of seafoods of the day, along with small bits of vegetable like slivered eggplant, dipped in a very light batter and fried quickly and beautifully.  Delivered piping hot to the table, it was impossibly delicious.  More tiny shrimps, bits of squid and minuscule octopus, sardines, scallop, myriad bites of fishes and so much more.  Each was perfectly fresh, perfectly tender crisp, exquisite.  I think it's my new favorite thing to eat.  Pity that I'll maybe get to eat it only a few more times in my life unless I win the lotto and run away to Venice forevvvaaaaah.  

Also, mixed Venetian appetizers: stewed shrimp on polenta, mackerel in tomato sauce on polenta (remind me to tell you that the polenta in Venice is fine, like silk, and that I need to find better polenta here in the States because now, I am spoiled) and mantis shrimps.  Mantis shrimps are beautiful by the way.  I have no photos of them cooked but here are some from the fish market.

Another gorgeous dish was tagliolini with a delicate spider crab sauce.  All of this accompanied by a lovely bottle of Tocai.  I drank too much of it and can't even remember the dessert but I'm certain we had them and that they were excellent.

It's no wonder that the seafood is so divine in Venice.  Fishing and fish selling is taken very seriously and the fish markets are a wonderland.  We had time to visit the Rialto Fish Market on our last morning and I wandered the stalls of gorgeous (cheap!) fruits of the sea, marveling over them like some girls ogle diamonds.  I think I took more photos of raw fish than anything else.
Is it not beautiful?


Shelly September 29, 2010 at 4:46 PM  

Are those scallops in the last photo? Gorgeous! I can't wait to hear more about what you ate!

NOJuju September 29, 2010 at 4:49 PM  

They are scallops yes, with the roe. Apparently we, in the US, are getting the short end of the scallop stick because no one sells scallops with the roe still attached. In Europe, it is standard to have it still attached. And it is delicious!

Anonymous,  October 1, 2010 at 9:59 PM  

great post juju! how wonderful!!

Laila October 1, 2010 at 10:07 PM  

Those scallops are the most beautiful things ever! What a wonderful adventure you are having!

NOJuju October 4, 2010 at 8:17 PM  

Thanks, termite!

Elbowgrease, if only I could get off my butt and finish writing about it! It was so wonderful.

Tim October 5, 2010 at 12:26 AM  

Off yer duff and write! I agree that there's something nearly pornographic about those scallops. They look like the scallopy hallucinations of a sushi fiend fainting of hunger.

Okay, maybe that's just me. But dang . . .

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