September 2013


20130929-173537.jpgEvery night I walk through Saint Mark’s Square in Venice — because it is my landmark compass to get myself to my hotel. And, it’s the same thing.

The piazza is filled with Bangladeshi vendors: selling dying roses, those squishy gel animals, and these contraptions that soar up high, dotting the sky with ghastly neon green light.

I wonder to myself if centuries ago there were immigrants in the Piazza San Marco selling stupid trinkets.

Were there Renaissance versions of drunken American students singing college beer ditties?

Did fellow travellers think to themselves “stupid tourists!”?

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A simple post about a simple observation of a simple snack: the egg.

After a long day at the Giardini portion of the Venice Biennale (think the MN State Fair of art, albeit the nominally best art in the world) — and a long vaporetto ride going nowhere (at least I had no other goal in mind than to spend some time on a boat in the Venetian lagoon) — I decided, what the heck, I’d head back to the hotel and rest a bit.

Oh wait, gotta stop writing for a second, must be on the hour because the bells are ringing all over the island: my god that’s beautiful.

Here’s a picture from my room while we wait:

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Okay, where was I? Ah yes, the incredible, edible egg. I stopped to get a caffè and some water. No, I answered, I did not want a cicchetto. And then I saw it! A small plate holding little halves of hard boiled egg. Yolks deep golden and all glistening with the sheen of smoky green olive oil.

Oh, I answered, I’ve changed my mind. I’ll have that!! €0,50 for each mezzo uova. When they say, it was the ambrosia of the Gods, I think I just discovered on that little cobblestoned Venetian street what they’ve been talking about. It was that egg.

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Sing it with me now:
You say chee-ketty, and I say key-chetty.
Chee-ketty. Key-chetty.
Let’s call the whole thing off!

There are these Venetian bar snacks, something Venetians pride themselves on — and many of us just stumble upon, called the Cicchetti. They are properly called chee-ketty — don’t embarrass yourself and pronounce it like we would. ‘Cause frankly it feels sometimes that the Venetians just tolerate us. Grudgingly. The way I guess those of who work around Rock Center feel about tourists during the f’ing tree season. Yes, that is what we call it: the f’ing tree. Not sure who I’m cleaning this up for, but I feel compelled.

As usual, I digress.

I was the Cicchetto of some voracious kick-ass mosquitoes my first night in Venice, so I didn’t get much sleep. And once I did, I slept past breakfast time at the hotel. By the time I got moving, it was noon. A tiny bit too early for proper lunch (well, probably not, but this is my story and I’m sticking to it) and way too late for breakfast.

I went on an errand to pick up a fan to fight the skeeters. Got the last ventilatore at the Venetian hardware store (totally COOL) experience — and on the way back to the hotel, grabbed a couple of dates from the miniature “farmers market” near my hotel. Two succulent dates and a handful of filberts I’d bought at the market in Rome later — I headed out for my first full day of art and magic. Even a trip across the Grand canal on a traghetto. The poor man’s gondola. 2€ (€0,70 for locals) and you are propelled across the water while standing.

20130926-234815.jpgI highly recommend it!

I set out to seek the best cicchetti I could find for my meals on this (again) bella giornata — beautiful day. This was not some food-on-a-stick affair although I did approach it with the same fervor I display at the Minnesota State Fair.

Oh, one type of cicchetto is a clever topping on a slice of soft, fresh of course, Italian bread. More like a Danish Smørrebrød than bruschetta. Another type of this Venetian tapas best described here by Rick Steves is a simple bite on a toothpick.

This is what I found.
A lightly cured prosciutto with a dollop of black olive tapenade on a schmear of crema.
(Strictly speaking not a cicchetto but) A tramezzino (sandwich made with crustless white bread with a filling) of egg salad, smoked salmon and thinly sliced dill pickle. I know – sounds ick. Wasn’t.
Grilled charred baby octopus, wild mushrooms, pine nuts and crema.
Lightly-vinegared sardine on a slice of tomato.

Made a reservation for dinner at the same place I got those last two cicchetti. I’ll let you know. That is, if I can find the joint again.

Ah, Venice. To be here is to get lost here.

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It is not entirely unusual to see a seagull in Rome. It is, after all, not that far from the coastline – and there is a river runs through it, but this fella made me laugh. He was one of two gulls sitting atop a delivery van. Look closely at the sign behind: Pescheria. Fish Store. Ha!

Definitely “Right place, right time.”

It was one of my favorite moments (among many) on this beautiful sunny fall day. Apparently there is an expression here in Italy: Roma Ottobre. Rome October. Just as we laud the beautiful autumns in New York, so, too, do the Italians their autonno.

I’m pretty sure this is is a pomelo tree — although those big green citrus fruits (look closely) could be anything as far as I know. I come from apple — or nut — tree territory. We don’t have orange trees in our backyards like they do in California. Actually, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a pomelo — have just read about them.
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This tree sits in one of my favorite places in Rome. I discovered this place only a few years ago. It’s near the neighborhood where I stay. I think it was some kind of villa in its heyday several centuries ago. The park is filled with lots of lime and other citrus trees, some palms, broken off marble statues, and folks from the neighborhood out for a walk, but usually a nap on its many benches. Ha! Maybe I’ll google it sometime.

I am noticing little, if any, change. But then this IS called the Eternal city. Oddly, I had my first restaurant experience of a waiter attempting to shuffle me inside rather than outside at a cafe table in the sun because I requested a tavolo for one. That hasn’t happened to me in years. A huffy “no” and a dirty look is what that waiter got. I wasn’t in the mood. It was my first day off the plane, jet lagged and employing my technique to enter into the city’s time zone by walking constantly, staying in the natural light. It always feels a little surreal. Though it struck me yesterday that I was approaching day one much as I do the Minnesota State Fair (no, not eating everything in plain sight) but by exploring, exploring, exploring as the mood struck.

I did observe some different street action beside the immigrant vendors with these gel characters that they slam down onto a board. They blob out like a raw egg white that has just hit the pan then re-form to their little blobby round shapes. The objects, silly – not the vendors.

Anyway, I did notice some new characters on the piazzas – beyond the ubiquitous green living Statues of Liberty or the pewter-coated gunslingers. They were saffron colored. Both sitting cross legged: one man on the bottom with a rod coming out of his head. On top of that big stick was a platform upon which sat another man. Om, baby! Drew quite a crowd on this beautiful sunny Sunday. Ever so often, a third man would come and cover the sitters with a large black blanket. This so the two men underneath could do, well, can’t say I know what they were doing under that cover. I’da taken a picture but usually by the time I got my phone out to do so – the tableaux had melted into a flattened blob.

Not really.

I shall be sharing my international food experiences here — and invite you to come along. In the days before the @’s — this would not have been called “follow” me.

However, should you wish to “follow” me through the delicious foods of Italia on Instagram — Follow @nyproducer.

Ci vediamo a presto! See you soon!