Starters & Nibbles

Bruscandoli Crostini with Goat’s Cheese

Bruscandoli, or wild hop shoots, are one of those foraged foods that mark the start of spring in Veneto. And although their fleeting season is coming to an end now that the cool rainfalls of April have given way to days of warm May sun, there is still a little chance to find them.

I had no hope of finding them this week, on my usual walk along the canal. It’s been too hot, I thought. And yet there they were – pale green leaves and curly stems and delicate tops reaching up towards the sky. There they were, growing through the insidious blackberry shrubs that haven’t yet bloomed, and around the rows of rushes swinging in the feeble breeze. Fragile they are, but also vital, and powerful as they propel themselves higher than anything around them like a stretched arm as if to say: “Pick me.”

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Carciofi alla Romana

We entered the deli in via Marmorata, in the bustling Roman neighbourhood of Testaccio, short after noon. A well-nourished crowd of locals was populating the tiny space, raising their voices to make themselves heard by the people serving behind the counter. All were waiting, more or less impatiently, to be served their daily dose of pecorino, guanciale, ricotta, and pizza bianca. We joined the crowd, famished after an early rise and a long train journey.


Testaccio is a great place to be for food, as good traditional trattorias, street food branches, delis, markets and bars aren’t short in the neighbourhood. From our previous Roman trip, we vaguely remembered there was a good deli on the main road linking the river to the Pyramid. Our well-seasoned plan was to just walk until we stumbled upon it. We eventually did and recognised it immediately for the bountiful displays of preserves, hams and whole cheeses in the window. And so, we joined the not-so-orderly queue and started to think about what we wanted for lunch.

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Holiday Gifts + Cod Brandade Recipe

We are going to Venice for Christmas this year, the first Christmas with my family in three years. I am excited and happy beyond words. We are flying on Christmas Eve and landing just in time for dinner. The plan is to get a gin tonic as we fly high up in the sky while watching an episode or two of Boardwalk Empire, just to kick off the holiday season with the right foot.

I am ready to be covered in hugs and fed well and copiously. There will be bigoli in salsa for dinner on the 24th, I am sure, and lots of panettone. There might be cantucci too – now an official threat to my first ever tooth filling as of this week (not proud of that). We’ll take small day trips here and there – perhaps Venice and Padova, or who knows Bologna, or even Milan, or just some small villages in the beautiful Veneto hills. I’ll make sure to report back about any of these, but more about them in a few weeks.

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Sparasi e Ovi: A Venetian Easter Tradition

sparasi e ovi


Sparasi e ovi is a quintessentially Venetian springtime ritual, often consumed around Easter time.  The ritual seems to be originating from the town of Bassano del Grappa, in the Vicenza province of Veneto, where the time-honoured tradition of growing white asparagus has in time reached peaks of perfection.


Many works of art witness the presence of white asparagus in the area: a famous painting by the Venetian artist Giovanbattista Piazzetta called La Cena di Emmaus, for example, portraits a dish of white asparagus as part of the Last Supper, prepared following the local tradition.


A classic sparasi e ovi feast is nothing fancy. It basically entails dipping the steamed white asparagus in a condiment made with oil, salt, pepper and vinegar, in which the egg has been previously crumbled (mimosa-style). The result is not just delicious, but joyfully messy, too. It’s a good way to kick off a springtime meal, as well as a lovely idea for a seasonal picnic.

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Eggs and Anchovies – A Venetian Cicchetto

ovo-acciuga

If I have to visualise the best scenario for an aperitivo, I see a Venetian square bathed in the warmth of a summer evening light. The square is not crowded, but lively with people gathering and forming small, chatty groups standing at the doorsteps of the most popular bars. I see a handful of friends around me, each of them with their drink in hand,  all of us cheering, suddenly relaxed by the simple presence of each other as we chat the evening away. I see someone going back for a refill and some nibbles – perhaps some crostini or cicchetti. And one of them will certainly be eggs and anchovies.

Eggs and anchovies (meso ovo, in the local dialect) is a traditional Venetian cicchetto, which can be found in almost all the respectable bàcari in town. A poor dish, aimed at satisfying some serious peckishness with simple, easy-to-get ingredients, it has for long been one of the most democratic snacks to go with the glass of wine. they are as good consumed in a Venetian alley as they are at home, perhaps with a glass of

Now, if you don’t find yourself any close to a Venetian square, rest assured that they will be as good at home, better still with a spritz to keep the Venetian theme.

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