Couple of days back, I chanced upon this interesting site that arranges professional gourmet food tours in Italy. The foodie in me was jumping for joy! I wish I had done more research before my trip to Venice (2014), which led to sub-par pastas and touristy rip-offs (although you never go wrong with seafood risottos). Venice is a perfect locale for sightseeing, but at the same time the hustling-bustling city is bound to overwhelm you unless you come prepared with a solid list of where to go and what to do. Loads of pizzerias and pasta houses would lure unsuspecting tourists into their midst and serve up mediocre cuisines, tricking you into believing that this is the best you can get in Venice.
There’s this Italian saying, “Non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco.” – literally translated as “not all donuts come with a hole”, metaphorically alluding to things not always turning out as we expected. I’d projected all Italian restaurants to be fantastico. Truth is, locals have got way higher expectations than the average tourist, so it turns out you can actually hire a tourguide to bring you around for the best cuisines! Next time round probably I’ll be engaging tours – what better way to pamper your belly than Emilia Delizia’s filtered list of delis, chosen through personal samplings from the native Italians themselves. Way too cool!
Where: Emilia Delizia
Who: Experts in food and wine travel in Parma, Modena and Bologna
What: Holiday planning to various Italian destinations in your native language (Russian, English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Japanese, German, you name it)
What I love: Cicchetti Crawl
The same question popping up in your head right now was in my own, the first time I read about cicchetti. What’s that?
Well essentially they are snacks, rather like Spanish tapas, served in wine bars and taverns. According to Emilia Delizia, a cicchetti adventure should begin at bacari (wine bars) or osteria, both of which serve such simple, traditional snack foods: chunks of salami, pieces of cheese, fried olives and fried seafoods. However modern cicchetti can be much more elaborate, and can even be dinners in miniature. Also what better way to sample the best local wines than to get locals to drink them with you! The Italian vocabulary for wines is amazing: did you know, ombra are small glasses of wine (about the size of a double shot), and also nicknamed ‘shade’ after wine sellers in the Piazza San Marco, who kept in the shade to keep the wine cool and fresh. I remember having an aperitivo (a pre-dinner drink to whet my appetite) during my trip, and was awed by the wine selection. Due to our language disparity, unfortunately, the Italian wine connoisseur could not express what was in the aperitivo – I think it had something to do with sparkling wine and bitters. Which is why a food tour would be extremely helpful, and could save you a lot of trial and errors in the Venetian food-maze.
I should probably warn you not to read Emilia Delizia on an empy stomach…I got so hungry after reading their gourmet descriptions. I needed no further proof that these guys know their stuff. Popular cichettis include “tidbits served on toast (crostini) or on squares of savory grilled polenta”, and “squid ink toast with or without curried shrimp”, and “tramezzini (little triangular sandwiches) made from special, soft white bread, stuffed with a delectable variety of fillings including ham, olives, cheese or tuna”. Tramezzini. What a mouthful.
Where To Go: Rialto Fish Market
The best seafood based bacari and osteria are in San Polo, where they serve “swordfish croissant and scallops served in the shell – all served in a buffet style” and “hearty plates of polpette (meatballs) served with an aioli sauce, topped with truffles, cheese and mushrooms”. Honestly, I never knew these existed till I read this off E.D.!
Venice, I’ll be back for you with a hearty appetite!
P.S. All pictures are my own, circa 2013