Water and earth: an extraordinary region.
Fish and shellfish from the lagoon and neighbouring Adriatic sea; fruit and vegetables from the islands of S. Erasmo and Vignole, as well as from the Cavallino and Treporti coastal farmlands; the selvadego or migratory game birds that use thebarene(sandbars), surrounded by the stillness of the lagoon waters, for a break in their autumn journey towards warmer lands: ducks, ciossi (widgeons), salsegne (teals), coots and many more.
An exceptional diversity that is reflected in their taste and its multiple nuances.
The fish caught each day in the salty and nutrient-rich waters – perfect breeding grounds where numerous species come to lay their eggs – have a particularly rich taste as well as being of the freshest catch.
Similarly, the vegetable gardens are farmed according to traditional methods in saline soils that enhance the characteristics of the farm produce. These products are often unique varieties, jealously safeguarded and cherished by the land’s farmers: foremost among these is the purple artichoke of Sant’ Erasmo.
However, Venetian cuisine is not solely linked to the peculiarities of local produce. The history and fortunes of Venice have from time immemorial come from the sea, from voyages on far-reaching routes, from seeing the whole known world as but a part of its territory.
Spices, exotic food and special products soon became common in the kitchens and on the tables of Venice: nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves as well as sweet and sour recipes, such as the highly typical saor that is often served with fish, vegetable or meat dishes. This is a ‘symbolic’ recipe where the products of local fishing, such as sardines, are brought together with onions from the lagoon’s vegetable gardens and raisins and pine nuts brought here from the East; but most of all it is a technique to preserve food for a long time to be used by sailors during their long sea voyages.
Originating from far away, wine was also brought to Venice by sea since the lagoon farmlands were unable to produce enough wine or to produce it at an acceptable quality.
It was called vino navigato (sailed wine) and by the time it arrived in Venice it had already aged, having travelled in the holds of the ships.
Every area was known for its production: foremost was Cyprus for its sweet wines, while the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean seas produced Malvasia.
The latter became so common in Venice that it lent its name to taverns and wine-sellers and the name is still remembered today on the nizioleti (typical Venetian place-name signs) for the bridges, calli and campielli della Malvasia seen throughout the city.