Venice, welcome!

August 5, 2020

Dreams and plans are wonderful to create, build and pursue. Some of them come true, some of them don’t, c’est la vie.

I still can’t believe that we are here. Initially it came about as a vague idea a couple of years ago. After yet another visit to La Serenissima that germ of an idea started to evolve and acquired a shape of something more of a mere plan and we decided to move to Venice. I’ve heard so many comments about it’s „smelly” canals, disappearing residents, mass tourism, humidity and bad winters. On the positive note, there have been some very encouraging words, opinions and very best wishes for the new chapter ahead.

We are here, ready to embrace it as it is. I haven’t built any expectations towards it. In my opinion, expectations can constrain your overall experience and become the result of many frustrations or disappointments, especially when the reality doesn’t live up to the bar you’ve set. I’d rather hope for Venice to be a place I can call home and let me be a part of it.

We arrived in Venice, I’d say, a bit tired after organising the boxes and the move of our belongings, which didn’t go exactly as planned. It was raining all day in Venice and the tide was high. We took a risk and decided to still have the boxes delivered on that day. My beloved marble table top must have stopped the boat carrying it on many bridges, I didn’t exactly arrive as I remembered it. Well, it’s the beauty of having perhaps too many belongings. The boxes were wet, almost falling apart and stacked one on top of another in the new apartment. So I decided to unpack as many as I was able to, and we are talking abut many, maybe too many boxes.

We needed something for lunch. We had taken an early morning train from Rome to Venice and to our surprise during our first trip during Covid, almost everything at the train station was closed. No coffee or tea on the train either. So we grabbed an umbrella, crossed Campo San Barnaba and stumbled upon a lovey cosy place for a tramezzino, a triangle shaped sandwich which actually has a lot of finesse and care to it. The owners of this family run place were so happy to finally hear a foreign language. It was in early June just after the Italian regions and borders reopened. The nearby restaurateurs were fairly inquisitive, purely to understand who is coming over to Venice, from where and how they traveled. By arriving from Rome by train we didn’t tick any boxes, but we were made very welcome at their premises. Which was lovely.

The fallowing morning we couldn’t have missed a trip to the Rialto fish market. One of the main reasons for us of moving to Venice. I’ve been dreaming about shopping at it for many many months. The choice is so vast across so many stands. Perhaps, a little bit less so over the hot summer months, not to mention the Coronavirus and the obvious complications that go with it. We have always been overwhelmed by the abundance of beautifully displayed local produce, which mostly comes from Sant’ Erasmo island, the orchard of Venice. Apart from the fish as well as fruit and vegetable stands there are so many little shops around the market in which you can find, broadly speaking, almost everything else that you may want or need, for cooking of course. I am still finding my way around them which is part of the fun.

Another thing that I absolutely love about Venice are it’s pastry shops pasticcerie. A morning ritual of a coffee and a pastry, most often still warm, is something that I am looking forward to every evening before going to sleep. I actually love having the pastries at home, on the balcony overlooking a sun kissed canal in the morning. I believe that might change over the course of the winter. I’ve always loved Italian croissants with cream cornetti alla crema, but the more pastry shops I discover here I tend to always have a new favourite treat of the week, at least for now. I feel spoiled for choice.

But above all, it’s the misty, foggy and atmospheric weather conditions that have attracted us to La Serenissima the most.

Almost immediately upon our arrival we took a vaporetto and treated ourselves to a Sunday lunch at Locanda Cipriani on Torcello Island. The place that we fell in love with a few years ago over the New Year’s Eve period, on a cold crispy and wintery day. Delicious food, excellent wine and a fire place near by. So many fond memories. On this occasion however, this sweet little island was brimming with local people as well as Locanda Cipriani itself. Something that we didn’t see for a fairly long time due to lockdown and it’s further restrictions. Our table was in the beautifully kept garden this time and we made it just in time before the sky cleared and it turned very sunny and warm. I had the best fried in a light and crispy batter courgette flowers stuffed with prawns that I can remember.

Although we knew Venice to some extent before moving here we’ve been really enjoying so far finding and trying out new places for a tramezzino, aperittivo or dinner. The food is so different from what we used to have in Rome, which I must admit, I miss and I will gladly cook it in my little kitchen in Venice (once it cools down a bit). After all, The Eternal City is where we spent almost five unforgettable years and the first years of our life in Italy. The memories I hold in my heart are grand and laden with nostalgia.

My venetian kitchen is smaller to the one I had in Rome but very sweet. Despite the enjoyment we are having eating out, I head to the market on a regular basis. The delicacies like langoustines and scallops initially were dominant in our shopping basket. Langoustines eaten raw with a drizzle of good olive oil and some lemon juice are just second to none. Scallops, in particular, is what I’ve missed the most since I left England. They are just not very common in Italy. I love having them with fried cubed chorizo finished with a generous squeeze of lemon juice and copious amounts of fresh coriander. We’ve regularly been having baked fish in a salt crust, which keeps the flesh very moist and is always a safe way of baking it. The crust seals all the moisture within so even if you keep the fish in the oven for slightly too long, it will still be just wonderfully tender and delicious.

I have also made cod fillets baked in a herb and walnut crust several times, another simple and local recipe that I felt like sharing with you. I just serve the baked fillets with a green leaf salad and thinly sliced raw fennel. I have also posted a recipe for gamberi in saor, a Venetian way of preparing prawns in a sweet and sour sauce with onions, raisins and pine nuts. Traditionally the dish calls for sardines, but very often prawns are used as a substitute or even langoustines for a more luxurious version.

I’ve also made us some duck ragù, which is very popular in the Lagoon, tossed with pappardelle pasta as well as roast duck legs served with baked spiced plums in wine.
Soft and delicate potato gnocchi covered in cinnamon, butter and sugary sauce is my ultimate comfort food from Veneto.

A new recipe on the blog for desserts is for a semifreddo with raisins, walnuts and Marsala wine (my favourite one to cook with), decorated with ripe and sweet figs, if you can find them of course. It is just a perfect summer (but not only) cold dessert, incredibly easy to make and the one to wow your guests with. Just take it out from the freezer a few minutes before serving and decorate with fresh fruit or crumbled amaretti biscuits when the season for fresh fruit is over.

So, here we are, in Venice, not knowing yet for how long. It’s still peaceful and lovely. Although, more tourists have been arriving recently, bringing the place slowly back to life.