Sunday, August 30, 2009

And what will a Vegetarian eat in Venice?

Ah Venezia! The beautiful city on water! I have been here many times and love it! But this year, for the first time, I took the children with me. I must say, in the past, without the little ones, I explored a few eateries, and the traditional bars called bacari. Bacari offer a variety of small bites called Cicheti, similar in style to the Spanish tapas, to be washed down with small glasses of wine called ombre, which in Italian means shades, reminiscent of the times when glasses of wine were drunk under the shade of the clock tower in San Marco square. Cicheti consists mainly of fish: baby octopus, salt cod cooked in a variety of ways, schie (Venice’s tiny prawns), and so on. But the culinary history of the area also benefits from the vegetable gardens which were built in the Laguna throughout the centuries, and particularly sought after are the castraure (small artichokes). Meat cicheti usually come in the form of polpette (meat balls) or, for the more adventurous, brown and boiled veal cartilage.

A few plates of cicheti and a glass of lovely Tocai or Cabernet Franc may suffice for a meal, if you are not a vegetarian, that is! So for me it had to be Aperitif only. I remembered well Cantina Do Mori, near the Rialto Bridge, where you can find a good selection of wines. This is a Bacari and has no tables, but plenty of cicheti, and its convenient location makes it perfect for a quick stop while touring. Cantina do Mori dates from 1462, when it used to be a wine press, and it really smells of old Venice. I asked Rudi, the owner, if women frequented the Bacari and he assured me that, unlike other parts of Italy where bars used to be (and may still be) a men-only realm, Venice, with its liberal and bohemian history, has always welcomed the ladies for an ombra! But traveling with children means that instead of ombre today for us is only water, lots of water, and ice-cream.

It is hot and I see a lot of tourists confused on where to eat; many buy fruit at the market and gather to drink around the foutains, or look for a cheap pizzeria. Only a few sit in the expensive cafes in St Mark Square. I like the historic cafes, the Florian (1720), the Quadri (1775, also a restaurant) and the Lavena (1750), but for me they are better in winter: sit inside, enjoy the decor (not the heat and pigeons) and pay less, as there is no live music then (an extra on the bill).

Saving on coffee and bacari meant that we could splash out on a gondola instead. Ok, it may be expensive and extravagant, but ever so smooth on the canals, and a real experience for the children. As a bonus our gondoliere, signor Pozzobon, could really sing

And now food, but where? If I could really afford it I would go to the Quadri, it may be flash but it has a few lacto-ovo vegetarian dishes on the menu:


Asparagi bianchi di Bassano con mimosa d'uovo e salsa tartufata - euro 23,00

Insalata di pera con rucola di S. Erasmo, parmigiano e aceto di lamponi - euro 20,00

Primi piatti

Vellutata di verdure con pennellata di colori e cialda di parmigiano - euro 19,00

Cornucopia di grana con bigoli freschi alle melanzane e provola - euro 21,00 (Ricetta vincitrice Award 2006)

Cannelloni di magro alla ricotta e spinaci gratinati con tartufo nero pregiato - euro 26,00

Secondi piatti

Strudel di verdure al forno con pecorino di Pienza - euro 24,00

Next time maybe, for now the children are hungry and we need somewhere quiet, not too expensive (pleeeease), and with some food for us...

This one looks empty, on a quiet road, and not too flash:


Here we are, antipasto vegetariano, with mixed grilled and steamed vegetables.

And then gnocchi (seafood only on the china).

We got (the adults) a complimentary glass of Prosecco for aperitivo and some complimentary biscuits at the end to go with our coffee. Certainly I would recommend the cute little table which sits directly on the water to romantic couples (or well behaved children!).

Please Mr Cacciari (Mayor of Venice), restore this city to its former splendor, don't allow too many water taxis, offer better free city maps to tourists, and find me one of those empty houses (there are so many!!!) to live in for a year, so that I can write a lot of lovely things about Venice!!!

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

A little guide to places in Venice I have been during the last few years:

The Historic cafes:

Caffè Florian

Piazza San Marco 56/59

Tel.:041 528 5338

Caffè Lavena

Piazza San Marco 133/134

Tel.:041 522 4070

Caffè (and Ristorante) Quadri

Piazza San Marco 120

Tel.: 041 528 9299-522 2105

If you like to drink:

Cantina Do Mori

San Polo 429, Rialto

Tel. and Fax: 041 522 5401

Closed Sunday

The children liked it:

Ristorante Ai Barbacani

Calle del Paradiso 5746


Tel.: 041 521 0234

Closed Monday

These two are in one of my favourite parts of Venice: Fondamenta della Sensa, near Tintoretto's house!

Osteria ai 40 Ladroni

Fondamenta della Sensa

Cannaregio 3253

Tel.: 041 715 736

Osteria Anice Stellato

Fondamenta della Sensa

Cannaregio 3272

Tel.: 041 172 0744

Closed Monday

This one is really expensive and worthwhile only if you eat fish. It has a Michelin star.

Osteria Da Fiore

San Polo

Calle del Scaleter 2202

Tel.: 041 721 308, Fax 041 721 343

Closed Sunday-Monday

This one is quite famous:

Osteria Giorgione

SS. Apostoli

Cannaregio 4582/A

Tel.: 041 522 1725

This one is in the beautiful Hotel Londra Palace:

Ristorante Do Leoni

Riva degli Schiavoni 4171

Tel.: 041 520 0533, Fax 041 522 5032

This one has cicheti all day long:

Trattoria Ca’d’Oro (Alla Vedova)

Calle del Pistor

Cannaregio 3912

Tel.: 041 528 5324

A tip from Enit: if you travel to Venice check out Venice Connected

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Photo by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Click here for some 'Good' Apple recipes.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Hiking in the Dolomites

I am still in the North of Veneto, in the National Park of the Dolomiti Bellunesi, recentely a Unesco site. I came here before, this is a great hike, and I wanted to return with my family now that my children are good walkers.

From the city of Feltre we took a bus to Passo Croce D'Aune (20 minutes) and then walked up towards the refuge Giorgio Dal Piaz, 1993 m.

A third of all of Italian flora can be found in these mountains, many species endemic, and the orchids alone count 49 species, some with a strong scent of vanilla, like this one.

In summer many cows are taken up here to eat Alpine grass and all these precious flowers. They live in manghe, summer stations, where they are milked, and cheese from raw milk is made on site.

The views are spectacular, and the path not too difficult.

There is a metal road, but many paths cut through it and, although steep, they greatly shorten the ascent.

Finally we reach the refuge, after 3 hours walk.

Waiting for us there is a warm fireplace, and cold local beer, Birra Dolomiti, made by Birreria Pedavena.

Also Anna Mainardi, who looks after the refuge, is famous for her wonderful cakes!

A good rest and then dinner, fresh tagliatelle with mushrooms,

and then polenta with grilled local cheese

We sleep confortably in bunk beds, and the morning after we have breakfast, with cakes, and bread with butter from the malga (alpine dairy) which is 1 km away.

Here is Anna (left) and her team.

Another walk up hill toward mount Pavione

and more precious flowers like the Cortusa matthioli (above)
and, of course, the sweet Edelweiss.

Finally we turn back, and on the way we eat many wild strawberries. So delicious and fragrant...

Back in Feltre I am still dreaming about mountain berries...
luckily I can still get many in the markes and shops here. These are local, all from within the National Park. I love mountain food!

For more info about the Dolomiti Bellunesi National park click here and here
Rifugio Giorgio Dal Piaz
1993 Vette Feltrine
Contact Anna Mainardi
+39 348 2208808 - +39 0439 9065

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Healthy Kai, Healthy Communities

Cultural and Environmental Sustainability Maori Organics Conference in New Zealand New Zealand - A three-day hui (gathering) was held in Ahipara, in northern New Zealand this June to bring together producers, cooks, educators and students around the topic of organic food production in Maori communities. Representatives from the Terra Madre network were involved in the organization of the event which presented a varied program: discussion of the Maori standard for farming and gardening Hua Parakore; celebration of the young farmers who participated in the Manawhenua Challenge; and the opportunity to enjoy pure traditional kai (food) and learn new recipes from long-time Slow Food members Alessandra Zecchini and Mariapia de Razza. The common motivation of all those who traveled from around the country to participate – of all ages and backgrounds - was a ‘passion for healthy food', said Terra Madre 2006 delegate Percy Tipene, also chairman of the Maori organic authority Te Waka Kai Ora. ‘Indigenous food systems are now being recognized internationally for their sustainability. Hua Parakore standard for Maori organics is our response to this growing market for culturally and environmentally responsible foods and medicines.’ Terra Madre 2008 delegate Rueben Taipari-Porter commented that the conference brought together many inspiring people, and provided an opportunity to network, share knowledge and learn new skills. ‘I hope the many cooks and caterers who attended will take with them some new found knowledge about healthy food to our people, and especially to our children.’

For more information:
Rueben Taipari-Porter

from Slow Food - Terra Madre newsletter, July-August 09

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Outrageous Fortune Drinking Game

Libro International's latest book, Outrageous Fortune: The West Family Album,
is featured in the NZ Herald
(including an extract from the Outrageous Fortune drinking game).

Click here to read it, and happy drinking!


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