Unexpected Flavors: Lost and Found in Venice

I don’t need a paddle, I need pasta.

Upon returning to Venice for a day trip with my brother I had set my heart on finding the little patio restaurant I discovered on my last trip into town. Only problem was I couldn’t remember the name… or where it was…or what the dish was called. Only that we decided to find an authentic meal in Venice on a Friday night, and that was going to take some reconnaissance. We waited till around 8:30 near one of the piazzas, and watched for the most Venetian looking group of adults speaking Italian and walking with purpose…and followed them.. Down the maze of winding streets and bridges we walked a few feet behind until finally they darted down an alley. This was either exactly what we were looking for or we were about to get yelled at in Italian.

There is pistachio ravioli here somewhere, and I intend to find it.

A charming courtyard of winding green foliage and hanging lights, like a quaint garden party. They spoke little English and we spoke just enough Italian to order and It was perfect. Out of everything that was memorable about that meal the pistachio shrimp ravioli with cream sauce was otherworldly. It has haunted my dreams and was the kind of course you return to a place just so you can try to recreate a moment of perfection….and find what else they can blow your mind with.

So with this in mind I racked my brain on the flight, checked Google keywords  as we checked in at the hotel, read through hundreds of restaurant reviews and as we wandered the winding streets and shops and asked strangers while the regatta boats partied on by, still it eluded me. Tired, cranky and hungry, I opted for a quick nap before venturing out for replacement dinner. When I opened my eyes as if delivered by dream, “Al Profeta” was magically on my tongue! It came up in Google Maps! It was mine!

I poured over the menu again and again,  searching in vain through the menu for my long lost pistachio love. When I still came up empty my Italian still proved insufficient in my attempt to ask If it might still exist. The waiter pointed out another dish with pistachio, but it seemed a little strange.. But I had come this far. So I picked the entree with pistachio even if the other ingredients didn’t entirely make sense to me.

And a believer was born.

Pistachios, Ricotta, bacon “jumps” and… Cocoa pasta? I admit, I doubted it’s power. God help me I doubted.

I wasn’t sure what to expect,  but dammit I was on an adventure and not stopping now. When it arrived, I was intimidated by the inky color and silky black noodles. But if anything ever inspired me to soldier on it was the happy little bacon squiggles on top that dared me to dive in. The biggest shock in the first bite?  IT WAS NOT SWEET AT ALL. The predominant flavor was the bacon “jumps” throughout, which I at first somewhat unappealingly  mistook at first sight for onion. But the cocoa pasta had no sweetness in the flavor but rather added depth to the savory tones (not unlike a good buckwheat noodle) but with a lighter texture. The ricotta was smooth and fluffy and carried the lightly nutty flavor of the pistachios. Never before had I really considered cocoa as a savory ingredient, even knowing it wasn’t always sweet. But hello darkness my old friend, I will never underestimate you again.

And Al Profeta…we will dance again soon.

Lambrusco

First of all let me say I love bubbles and can happily drink sparkling wine all day.  Im a firm believer in pairing vintage champagne with every course of a meal.  So naturally I love the mostly dry, slightly earthy inky sparkler known as Lambrusco.

Lambrusco has had a bad rep in the united states. Real Lambrusco is nothing like the insipidly sweet wine that was originally popular in the 1970s (I blame you mom and dad). It can be made in several different styles but they all similar in the respect that they are phenonenmal when paired with the rich, fatty salumis and cheeses from their shared region (They also make Lambrusco in Lombardy but Im focusing on Emilia Romagna here.)

I tried several different labels of Lambrusco, only one had I tried before. But as Ive expereinced countless times before the place, the people and food really affect how a wine tastes and the experience

I had had this lambrusco before in my wine bar in Boca. I remember the first time I tried it. I was skeptical but  it was brought to me by one of my reps that was a “Cool Girl”. Meaning she knew all the cool wines and hip winemakers. Like the stuff people were drinking at much cooler places other than Boca Raton. I tried it, and this  was my first real impression of Lambrusco. Earthy, slightly sweet, great acidity. Fun. Easy drinking. Perfect Boat Wine (all I need is the boat). So its only natural that my first Lambrusco in Bologna was the first Lambrusco I ever had.

This one was had at a tiny “restaurant” off a green market. Its bright acidity went beautifully with the salumi. Sadly this was some of the most disappointing cured meat that I had on the trip. Still better than most I have had in Florida. So yes, I can complain about better quality than 99 percent of  I can get at home but sub par for the area.

So this was special. The upside down bottle in his hand is straight out of the barrel and wasn’t quite to maturity. The finished product was great, fruity,  and fragrant of perfume that is reminiscent of berries and cherries. The whole experience at the vineyard and then winery was amazing.

So they make the lambrusco that comes in the chalkboard bottle that you can write messages on for gifts. Since I wasnt planning on trying to take sparkling wine on a plane (it may be a myth that the bottles explodes, but I have had it happen), I decided to try the otello. This bottle had the most tannins out of the ones I tried, which I really liked. Lots of strawberry and blackberry aromas on the palate.

This wine was suggested by the Owner/Sommelier/Waiter/Chef(I suspect) of a teeny tiny place in Modena.  This was on the lighter side and definitely had more acidity than the previous lambrusci (I like that as a plural).  It had a fun tart cranberry flavor with sour cherry on the finish. It was really great with the octopus appetizer and crab pasta I had.