Over the next several weeks, Marist Italy will be posting about the gastronomical specialties of the 20 regions of Italy. These guides were created by Alessandra Bianco, Marist Italy MA, 2013-14.
Next in our series is the region of Veneto. With its famous capital city of Venice and magical Verona within its borders, Veneto is widely known outside of Italy. Visitors flock to this region (and especially Venice) to celebrate Carnival, leave wishes for Juliet and travel the canals, and perhaps acquire a Venetian mask or some glass from Murano. But what about the food? Though Venice often gets a bad rap for catering to tourists only, this region is full of wonderful options. With this guide, hopefully you can visit Veneto and leave with a satisfied and full belly…
In ancient times, polenta was first made with wild grains from primitive wheats including faro, millet, spelt, and chickpeas mixed with water to form a paste, then cooked on a hot stone. Polenta as such continued to be prepared in this manner until the Saracens introduced buckwheat, or ‘grana saraceno’ to Italy. This became the most popular grain used for polenta until the 15th or 16th century until maize was introduced. Today, maize is still dominant grain used in polenta.
Pandoro from Verona. Pandoro is a sweet, golden bread, most often seen during the Christmas holiday season. It is a plain bread, unlike its cousin Panetone which is filled with candied fruits or raisins, but is usually sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Local Organic Produce
Cherries- Marostica, in the Province of Vicenza, is the center of cherry production in the Veneto, where orchards cover the Chiampo Valley up into the Colli Berici. Over 15 varieties are cultivated in the region.
Chioggia beets – (These are the beets that are common in the US too, probably brought to the US in the 1800s by Italian immigrants!) Bright pink-fuschia-red color. They are originally from the Italian coastal town of Chioggia.
White Asparagus –The beautiful historic Pre Alps town of Bassano del Grappa is renowned for its white asparagus. The asparagus grows in “sandy, soft, well-drained and slightly calcareous soil aside the Brenta River.”
Read the fascinating tale about the introduction of Cherries to the region, and the legends about the White Asparagus at http://www.italiaoutdoorsfoodandwine.com/index.php/food/veneto/11-food/veneto/8-cherries#sthash.CAqXTmUA.dpuf
The most famous, and most popular, after dinner drink in Northeastern Italy is grappa. It is primarily served as a digestive. Grappa is made from distilling the skins, pulp, seeds and stems (called vinaccia) of grapes left over from the winemaking process.
Nardini at Ponte deli Alpini – You must visit Bassano del Grappa. “Nardini is located at the end of the famous Ponte degli Alpini in Bassano, and is popular with the locales; you will see quite a crowd there, spilling out onto the bridge itself in the late afternoon. Poli is located here as well, and has a very interesting museum that leads you through the production process. Many small antique bottles are on display, and a ‘sniffing’ room, where you can explore the aromas of about 20 or so different grappas.” – See more information here.
Riso Vicentino – Produced in the lowlands and in the area of the Grumolo delle Abbaddesse province of Vicenza. You will find these typical dishes made with rice: rice with peas (risi e bisi) and risottos made with the region’s delicacies, such as red radicchio, mushrooms, and black truffle.
Mostarda Vicentina – Mustard made entirely of a mixture of mustard seeds from quinces. Quinces are a fruit from this Veneto region that apple (minus the repungent smell). Mustard is taken from the ripened seeds of this plant, which are dried, steeped and ground. The quinces are pressure-cooked then cooled and carefully stirred with the mustard.
‘Pasta e Fagioli’ (pasta and beans) – Soup with beans, potatoes, carrots, onions, celery, rosemary, and short pasta.
‘Sarde in Saor’ (savory sardines): The dish consists of fried sardines in layers, alternating with caramelized onions cooked with vinegar and oil; to the original recipe, frequently sultana and pine nuts are added to embellish the dish and at the same time moderate the onion’s taste.
‘Bigoli in salsa’: ‘bigoli’ (a thick, spaghetti like pasta, similar to Tuscan pici), with anchovies
‘Fegato alla Veneziana‘: calf liver Venetian style
‘Polenta e Schie’: polenta and shrimp
‘Moeche Fritte’: soft shelled crabs, fished during the season when they change their shell
To find out more about food from this region, check out:
Much of the information on this post is courtesy of and © Marianna Serandrei, http://www.capisanihotel.it/history-venetian-cuisine.html