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Report 1936: Our Month in Italy - Spring 2011
By Boleskine from NJ, Spring 2011
Page 18 of 30: Venerdi 13 Maggio 2011 - Some Days it is All about the Food
Asparagi at the Rialto Market
Brian is already up and leaving for coffee when Martin and I wake up at 7:00. We both go back to sleep for another two hours, and then walk up to Ciak's around 9:30 with Sarah for our coffee. Brian often goes out early and then sleeps later in the day.
It had been a comfortable night sleeping with the windows open, but I had slept restlessly waking several times during the night, and poor Sarah had been eaten alive by mosquitoes. They must come in through the back window in their little bedroom. It overlooks the air shaft in which in the indoor well head is located along with a Gordion Knot of wires. Workman have been busy in there nearly every day since we arrived doing something with pipes of different sizes, hammering and banging away from early morning until midday. Some days they are back in the afternoon and on other days they don't return until early the next morning.
Two espressi and a kiefer later I am ready to tackle the vaporetto and the Rialto market. First we stop at Pavan Marina and buy four ossi and two cereale - round multigrain rolls from Michaela, who greets all her customers with a smile and friendly words. Sarah brings the rolls home where she is headed anyway so we do not have to schlep them to the Rialto and back.
The vaporetto is pretty crowded, but I am able to wedge into against the railing and take a few photos. We disembark at the Rialto Mercato where we shop at two different stalls giving me lots of photo ops for fruit and vegetables. I buy pears and strawberries at Santin's, and lemons, tomatoes and salad at the next stand. I photograph cherries, lemons, oranges, artichokes, asparagus, pears and strawberries. I notice how every transaction conducted in Italian begins with a "Buon Giorno," and ends with an "Arrivaderci" "Buona giornata," "Ciao" "A presto" or some similar phrase. Of course the regulars discuss children, grandchildren, the weather. If they are using the Venetian dialect, I cannot always recognize all the words let alone follow a conversation. I do find I am much more polite in Venice than in New Jersey.
Then we go to the Casa di Parmigiana and buy meat and cheese for lunch. I buy two etta - an etta is 100 grams - of boiled ham and ask them not to cut it too thin. The counterman asks me if I mean too thick rather than too thin, and I try to explain my husband likes cooked ham cut thicker than prosciutto crudo. I am not sure the man waiting on me is in agreement with this philosophy, but he laughs when I point to Martin, and say, "Il capo ha parlato."
We also buy two etti di Sopresa. Again there are choices: all pork, beef and pork, wild boar in various combinations and seasonings. The counterman says the sopresa I have chosen is molto buono. I also buy a hunk of mild sheep's cheese and a small round disk of spreadable goat cheese, some Pecorino for grating and finally a container of long flat homemade pasta that is called lasagnette.
Since Martin now has quite a bit to carry, we head straight back to the vaporetto. The platform is packed and so is the #1 which pulls in almost immediately. I am the last person allowed on; the rest must wait for the next #1 in ten minutes. I am jammed in next to a group of cheerful friendly women from England, who have been separated from their friends. They know what stop they need to get off to meet up with them, but are not sure on which side of the boat they should be. Happily I can give them that information. They seem quite interested, but find it a little strange, I think, that we come to Venice so often.
At San Toma, we heave ourselves onto the platform; the vaporetto is riding very low in the water and it takes more effort than usual to climb up onto the pontile. Martin walks ahead since he is doing all the carrying, and I make my way home slowly. Once again I resist the temptation to stop at Ciak's for a refreshing spritz and keep going. Sarah and Brian are home; they were also at the Rialto, but had walked there and back. They have done some serious wine shopping at Mille Vini and included a bottle of very fine grappa for me among their purchases. We can all share it before going to bed every night for as long as it lasts.
I sit down to do the crossword, and answer a few emails, and then set out our goodies for lunch. We all make our own sandwiches, and then Sarah puts everything away while Brian washes up. They are such wonderful guests.
They comment on how comparatively empty the Rialto Bridge had been when they crossed over it. The Casa di Parmigiana had been packed, but the produce market had also seemed less crowded than one would expect on a Friday.
Although both vaporetti we rode were very crowded, the ones going by our window as we eat seem less packed than they had been earlier. Maybe everyone is home eating lunch as we are. Work boats go by and the so does the Alilaguna which now stops at San Angelo several times a day - once an hour I think. A long low boat rowed mainly by school aged boys passes first in one direction and minutes later in the other. I wonder if this is a school gym class or a post school rowing club. How cool to have rowing on the Grand Canal as a P.E. option. Despite being rowed by all boys, the boat is called The Pink Tigress; Eva Sofia our granddaughter, who is totally into pink, would like that.
Tonight we will eat at Vini da Gigio, which means taking a vaporetto to Ca d'Oro. Even though the ones passing us at the moment look empty I'm sure according to Murphy's Law or its Venetian equivalent, by the time we board one this evening they will be crowded again. We have to take a # 1 and since it is a "local," they are always more crowded than the #2 which makes fewer stops.
It is a hazy day. We've been having spectacular blue skies, and today we have a grayish blue, but it is not actually raining and though quite warm and humid, it is not unbearably so and I have no complaints especially after the gorgeous weather we have been enjoying.
On the way to the vaporetto, we pass a cute little girl playing with a dachshund in the Campo San Toma. My mother always had dachshunds so I am drawn to them, and both this little girl and the dachshund are cuties. There are several adults standing around the girl and the dachshund and I get the impression they are friends with the girl belonging to one set of people and the dog to another because they all seem to be enjoying the girl/dog interaction too.
On the vaporetto we see a small rather unhappy boy on a leash. The leash is attached to a stuffed animal backpack which he is wearing. He doesn't seem to mind the leash, but he is not at all happy about standing on the crowded vaporetto instead of being held by one of his parents. He is not shy about letting the fact he is unhappy be known. Eventually one of his parents picks him up, and he calms down. I can understand the feeling; it must be a little fighting to be completely surrounded by people who are all so much taller than you are that you see mainly legs, and behinds instead of faces.
It is a short walk down the calle past Ca d'Oro to the Strada Nuove. There is another new hotel quite near the vaporetto stop on the side across from the Ca d'Oro. It looks interesting and has a great location. Vini da Gigio is just over the bridge that crosses the Rio San Felice. When we reach Vini da Gigio we are seated in a corner of the back room near the open window, which is good as it is a warm evening and every breath of air helps in a crowded busy restaurant.
After studying the menu and listening to some additions we order. Martin and I start with the capesante al a venexiana, which are scallops broiled with lemon juice and white wine. We get three each and they are incredible. We actually pick up the shells to sip and surreptitiously lick the briny tangy and yet sweet juices from them. Brian goes with tagliolini and spider crab meat, and Sarah has the tagliatelle made with chestnut flour and duck sauce the pasta dish Martin and I had enjoyed on our first visit. We drink a Riballo giallo with our primi.
For our secondo, Martin orders the duck breast, but tonight it is not a petto di anatra, as listed on the menu; it is the half a duck stewed in the Buranese style which he has had before and really likes. I think it tastes wonderful, but I miss the crispy skin, which for me is one of the main reasons to eat duck. Brian has a steak and Sarah orders my favorite - the lamb. I am seduced away from the lamb by the moeche - soft shell crabs, which come with a small slice of white grilled polenta. The soft shelled crabs are fantastic. I think this may be the first time I have had an all sea food meal at Vini da Gigio, and it is fabulous.
We drink a Sesti Brunello di Montalcino 2001, which Brian has chosen; it is not inexpensive here, but it is less than half what it would cost in the US, and it even goes with my crab. Brian is a genius at finding the right wine to go with an odd assortment of dishes.
Sarah announces dinner is her treat, which is a lovely surprise. We all order dessert - Brian and Sarah order after dinner drinks, and Sarah and Martin order the semi-freddo croccante with chocolate sauce. I have the dessert wine with assorted cookies. The biscotti are many and varied and are delicious. The vino dolce is pleasant, but after a sip of Brian's wine, it does not bowl me over.
Sarah and Brian choose to walk home; Martin and I opt for the vaporetto. We have a pretty long wait, but we are entertained by watching a woman apply nail polish on her finger nails as she sits on the bobbing vaporetto platform. I have clumsy hands and could not do as neat a job sitting at a table as she does on the pontile, which is in constant motion.
The #1 going towards Piazzale Roma is overloaded and not everyone waiting is allowed to board, but our #1 which is going in the other direction is not very crowded at all so we lean against the railing and watch the shimmering dark water ripple out around us. I think I could literally spend the night riding around Venice watch the dark water highlighted with sparkles - after dinner, of course.
At San Toma, where we get off, a tall and striking blonde woman strides past us on the calle that leads towards the vaporetto; a minute later she passes us going the other way. We find her standing in the middle of Campo San Toma. Martin asks her where she wants to go and she says she doesn't know. I ask her what she wants to do, and she says have a drink and some fun. We send her off towards Campo Santa Margherita, and continue on home. At the entrance to our calle we meet Maria Teresa who is returning from dinner at da Ignazio with friends. We stop and visit for a few minutes; it is always fun to meet people we know in Venice.
By the time we reach our apartment, Sarah and Brian have been back long enough to change into comfortable clothes. They open the grappa they had bought me, and we all enjoy a digestive and some conversation before they head off to bed. I finish my e-mails and then Martin and I do the same.
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