A Recipe for Venice
Italy Diary: In Venice, few things are more alluring than the produce. Despite being a cluster of islands, the city manages to import the most beautiful fruits and vegetables — artichokes of every kind, cases of white asparagus, crates of tomatoes, lemons, cherries. You see them arriving at the Rialto Market on boats, and it’s all you can do not to summon a dinner party of strangers.
In case this happens to you, I suggest renting an apartment with a kitchen. It also makes dining in Venice very inexpensive. Here’s my recipe for enjoying the city without spending all your cheese money.
Fix your own meals.
As every guide book will tell you, Venice is spendy. But Air BnB is full of housing options, and we rented a one-bedroom from a woman named Gilda on the top floor of a palazzo. It proved to be the best decision of our stay. It kept us far from the touristy bustle, and it gave us the freedom to cook for ourselves.
We stocked up on fruit, veg, buffalo mozzarella, and plenty of wine. In the mornings, we made eggs and toast, then skittered out the door to sight-see and enjoy a long lunch, returning late in the evening to play cards over a snack plate. Melon with prosciutto, olives and cheese — what better nibbles are there?
Download Elizabeth Minchilli’s “Eat Venice” app.
Food and travel blogger Elizabeth Minchilli offers an app for Venice that can help you locate markets, bakeries, and off-the-beaten path restaurants where Venetians go to get away from the tourists. On a Sunday morning, we used her map to ferret out the tiny family-run Trattoria Altanella overlooking a lazy canal on the island of Guidecca. The seafood was superb — fresh from the market, it was so sweet and delicate.
Make a morning out of the Rialto Market.
If you have never seen a lemon with a stem on it or heaps of live snails, the Rialto Market will make your eyes pop. The colors add brightness to a city that is otherwise squid-colored. Vendors line the corridor to the west of the Rialto Bridge, and you can purchase everything from wild strawberries to scallops still in their shells. Once you’ve made your purchases, you can swing into a snack bar for a glass of wine and some cicchetti (little bites) or keep strolling along the edges of the market, where you’ll find spice stores, pasta shops, and bakeries.
Make up stories about the inhabitants of Burano.
If you buy a pass to ride the vaporetto (the local water bus), you can visit other islands — we went to Guidecca to hear Gregorian chants, then daytripped over to Burano to stroll through quiet streets and take pictures. Every house is a different color; it’s an island of crayons.
Abundant roses made it easy to get lost in reverie.
Eat Zaletti for a bedtime snack.
I fell in love with Zaletti, a cookie with a scone-like crumb. It’s made with cornmeal (polenta), which is common in northern Italy, and dried currants. Now that I’m home, I’m curious to try making a batch of these cookies myself — David Lebovitz offers a recipe.
The best zaletti I found were sold at Pasticerria Garbo on the island of Burano, a recommendation from Elizabeth Minchell. They had a touch of lemon. I am thinking of them still.