I love small foods. Tapas, appetizers, hors d’oeuvres. Anything that can be eaten in one to four bites, especially if I can make a whole meal out of little nibbles of this and that. What can I say? For all my love of food I can’t ever eat very much at once, and since I want to try as many things as possible I usually avoid entrees in favor of a couple appetizers. Here are a few of the little bites we enjoyed on our trip:
Cicheti are Venice’s famous bar snacks, and since I slavishly marked down a bunch of recommendations from the NYTimes before we left, we found our way to Enoteca Schiavi, a bacaro a few blocks from our B&B, soon after we arrived in Venice. We ordered spritz cocktails (prosecco with Campari, in this case) to go, along with a few of the little crostini from behind the counter. We didn’t really know what was in any of them so we picked the intriguing-looking ones, toted everything to the little piazza across the canal, and kicked back.
Let’s see. The upper left and lower right are both mozzarella rolled around fillings: Spicy chili paste with julienned zucchini on the left, salmon (lox-like) and arugula on the right. On the lower left is my favorite by a long shot, though I’m not really sure what it is. The base is some sort of meat–I’d assume a head-cheese type pork product? (Appetizing, I know!) It is topped with a puree of artichoke, and maybe a bit of eggplant? Amazing. I should have gotten a few more of those! I didn’t get a taste of the one on the upper right, but I know it was ricotta with some sort of topping and random kiwi slice.
Ben *HATED* the Campari. I forgot to warn him about the flavor, which I like, but even I thought this was a bit strong. I think there was about a tablespoon of prosecco in with that very healthy slug of Campari! (Sorry about the close-up of my thumb.)
Ben had to jog back across the canal to the gelato place next door for a bit of flavor correction in the form of chocolate gelato.
The next day we made a lunch of various options from a different bacaro, where a crowd of old men standing around the counter slugging back little glasses of wine (it was not quite noon) drew us in.
The three crostini are topped with a black olive spread, an artichoke spread, and one made from radicchio (upper right). I loved the radicchio one but when I asked about how it’s made it turned out to be from a jar. Worth experimenting, though. That little pizzetta in the corner was excellent.
“Panini piccole,” little panini. Those were eat about four inches wide, I’d guess? We shared the salami one and each had one with ham.
Oh, and wee little gelato for dessert.
(Please excuse the astonishingly ugly photos you’re about to see. The light was unspeakably bad and I could barely hold the camera steady.)
From the bread basket at Le Vecchie Mura, on the walls of San Gimignano, a simple but delicious hard-toasted bread that had been rubbed with tomato and herbs before baking:
And our appetizer of lardo bruschetta:
I am a strong believer in lardo (why mess around, let’s get straight to the pure fat!), but the seasoning here was very different from what I’ve had before. It was almost sweet; I think there was some spice like nutmeg used in the cure?
At an amazing lunch at the Antinori family’s Tignanello estate the next day, we ate a prototypical Tuscan meal (about which, much more later), beginning with the most famous crostini of all, chicken liver. Also delicious little tomato tartlets. Both were packed with flavor and definitely made me wish I could quiz the kitchen staff.
Finally, when you’re in Rome during a heat wave you need as many cooling snacks as possible. One of the best we had was a granita di café con panna (panna=whipped cream) from the famous Tazza d’Oro coffee shop. The photo tells the story, I think.
This would be easy to do at home, too. The granita is very, very sweet, while the cream is completely unsweetened. I would sweeten the coffee less and use more of the granita with less of the cream for a summer dessert.
Still to come: Produce Porn from markets in Venice and Rome, the highlights of our actual meals on the road, plus a bit of home cooking (best salad ever!). I’m back on the road starting tomorrow, until early next week, but will do my best to post while I’m away. Thanks to everyone who has given me feedback re. what they like on the blog and what they’d like to see more of; please keep it coming!
Also, the title of this post makes me think of Italy in Small Bites, one of my all-time-favorite cookbooks for reading during an after school snack. Our dining room table at home was always next to my mom’s bookcase of cookbooks, so I would grab one and read a few chapters while I ate, and Italy in Small Bites and the China Moon Cookbook were the best. I need to get my own copy! It has recipes for all the snack foods, flatbreads, fried nibbles and other little delights that you actually want to reproduce at home. Plus it’s a very good read.