Every one of us is a citizen of Venice, whether it be the fabulous Venice of painting, music and literature, or the scintillating reality we can see from a gondola or touch as we cross one of her low-arched bridges. Venice is simply the most beautiful, human-scaled and irresistible city the world has ever created.
It is a spiritual republic, too, not a kingdom or an aristocratic fief. The celebrities and ex-royalties who flock there have not an ounce more domain over it than any of the rest of us who love her dearly. And the superb cuisine of Venice, which Betty Evans describes so effectively in this little book, is not a grand, courtly cuisine, but the simple, earthy cooking of ordinary people–people, mind you, with eight or nine hundred years of experience in cooking the superlative seafood and rice and vegetables and fruit of the Venetian territory.
Most of us have our own vivid memories of time spent in Venice. I recall a frosty December in Venice, and watching a priest and censerswinging acolytes accompany a coffin across Piazza San Marco to a waiting hearse-gondola; an evening in the tiny bar of a hotel when Massino, the precocious six-year-old son of an opera singer warbling Mozart at that very moment in Venice’s exquisite opera house, La Fenice, insisted on joining us and bringing a handful of fresh ice cubes every few minutes for our drinks; a simple trattoria along the Rialto with the radio tuned in to excellent chamber music; “Our patrons insist on this kind of music;” a private supper club in the beam-crossed attic-loft of an old palazzo, with candlelight, fine crystal and silver but the same succulent risottos and fegato Veneziano and polenta and calamari served in the most modest restaurants. Great, memorable meals, and exactly the same cooking for everyone, of low or high degree. Brava, Venezia!
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