Venice – Off the beaten canal

Photo by Helen Cathcart

Giancarlo and I spent a lot of time enjoying the bars, restaurants and foodie hang-outs of Venice while researching our book ‘Venice – Recipes Lost and Found’ and I thought it would be nice to share some of our favourite places with you. This list is in no particular order but I have separated by the various areas of the city:-
 al covo
Al Covo
Campiello della Pescaria
Castello 3968 Tel: 041 522 3812
Very good food. Owner Cesare is passionate about his choice of ingredients. Do book. They have a tiny, more modern sister restaurant called Covino down the road.
Bistrot de Venise
San Marco, 4685 Calle dei Fabbri Venezia, Tel: (+39) 041 523 6651
Really great traditional food but also amazing historical food recreated from the work of Renaissance cooks. Do book and have the historical menu if you can, you won’t taste anything as lovely and unusual as this elsewhere. The owner Sergio Fragiacomo is a passionate foodie, send him our regards.
La Cantina
Strada Nuova, Cannaregio 3689
Tel: 041 522 8258
Don’t expect to rush Francesco Zorzetto as he meticulously prepares the food for you but it is amazing and worth the wait. Go for cicchetti or lunch or dinner. Watch his knife skills for the sheer joy of seeing an expert at work. And do try his selection of wonderful cheeses and artisan beers.
Corte Sconta
Castello 3886, Calle del Pestrin dietro rival degli Schiavoni, 30122
Tel: 041 522 7024
Elegant restaurant, you have to book. Service and food excellent.
Enoteca Mascareta
Castello, 5183
Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa
Tel: 041 523 0744
A buzzing place open late, go for a huge variety of wines, cheeses, quality antipasti plates as well as cooked food. Lovely atmosphere.
Harry’s Bar
Calle Vallaresso, 1323, tel: 041 520 8822
Treat yourself to a Bellini or two and plate of Carpaccio in their place of origin. It will always have a buzz about this place, there is nowhere else like it in the world. 80 yr old Arrigo still regularly frequents the bar keeping an eye on the food and service.
Osteria alle Testiere
Calle del Mondo Novo, Castello
Tel: 041 522 7220
Tiny but busy place with great food so you need to book well in advance.
L’osteria di Santa Marina run by Danilo and his partner Agostino. It is elegant, food and service is outstanding. Agostino’s food is traditional with a twist. It is best to book especially in the evenings Tel: 041 52 85 239.
Trattoria Antiche Carampane
San Polo 1911, Tel: 041 524 0165
Tucked away next to the Ponte delle Tette in a less busy area behind the Rialto bridge. Really traditional but ‘cool’ feel and warm hospitality. Food is delicious, try a Gianduja semifreddo and a Sgroppino after dinner.
Taverna La Fenice
San Marco 1939
Tel: 041 52 23 856
Just near the Fenice opera house.
What a romantic, warm and elegant place to eat. The wood paneling and warm lighting draws you in. We loved it. You have to try the potato spuma on secoe on a traditional Venetian stew served in a martini glass.
Trattoria La Madonna
Calle della Madonna, San Polo 594 Tel: 041 522 3824
Near Rialto bridge and all the locals know it. Big and bustling, the waiters wear white tuxedos and work a long day including cleaning the spider crabs and all the other shellfish freshly every morning. Have the seafood risotto and black cuttlefish. Don’t wear white.
Vini da Gigio
Cannaregio, 3628/A Tel: 041 528 5140
Venetian wine bar and restaurant run by a brother and sister. Traditional food but updated by this young couple. He can’t eat wheat so there are lots of alternatives for those like him. Try the borlotti bean and pasta soup – it makes you sigh with comfort. Wash it down with Prosecco in the style of the Contadino (peasant farmer), cloudy and light but full of flavour and dry. They also have gluten-free food.
On the pretty island of Burano – Go for lunch and have a walk around this colourful toy-town like island; the two best places are:-
Il Gatto Nero
Fondamenta della Guidecca, 88 Tel: 041 730 120,
Run by father and son team. Massimo is the son and charms the visitors speaking English with a Scottish accent while Dad works furiously in the kitchen making just delicious food. Sit outside and watch the world go by.
Trattoria Da Romano
Via Galuppi, 221
30012 Burano
Tel: 041 73 00 30,
The oldest restaurant on the island, full of charm and run by the original family. Grandma and mum cook in the kitchen while Dad serves the customers. They are busy and bustling and serve simple, traditional food. The fritto misto and risotto are their specialties, ask to watch Mirko throw toss the risotto in the pan.
On the glass making island of Murano
Busa alla la Torre da Lele
Tel: 041 739 662 – you don’t need an address just ask when you get off the boat.
Flame haired Viking-like Lele shops, cooks and breathes Venetian food. Very traditional and good cooking from a passionate man.
Bacari – bars that sell cichetti and drinks
These are great often stand up bars where the locals go for a snack like little fried meatballs or tiny filled panini. You can sit down in some but they are often small. Drink Proseco or order an Aperol or Campari Spritz. No need to book unless you want to sit down. There are so many bars but these are our favourites.
Al Merca
213 San Polo – as its name suggests it is near the old market at Rialto and sells really good cichetti. You have to stand outside as the bar is miniscule. Go at 6pm and mix with the locals drinking Spritz and eating meatballs.
Cantina Do Spade
859 San Polo
Tel: 041 521 0583 – serves risotto to the locals at 12 noon, cichetti and simple plates, good for lunch or light supper. Its snug, warm and busy so good on a cold day.
Il Cantinone già Schiavi
Fondamenta Nani, 30123 in the Dorsodoro area. A really lovely wine shop, bar and caffe all in one serving cichetti made by the owner Allesandra de Respinis. She has written a book about her recipes which you can buy. Lovely atmosphere and choice.
 IMG_1723BoatBurano_hi copy

Photo by Helen Cathcart

Things to do
Take a rowing lesson with Row Venice or better still a Cichetti Row when you are shown how to row a gondola and you stop off at bars along the way! Our guide was Nan and she is really knowledgeable about wines as well as rowing.
Take an authentic and informative cooking lesson with two fun local ladies; Monica and Arianna or let Monica take you for a tour of her favourite cicchetti bars, see
See all our recipes and recommendations for Venice in our book ‘Venice -Recipes Lost and Found’ which you can be purchased here.

All Roads Back Lead to Rome…

We have just returned from a research trip for our next book on regional Italian food which is due out next year and covers the food of the island of Sicily. On our way to the Island we flew via Rome and spent a day doing something that both Giancarlo and I find the one of the most rewarding part of writing our books. We visited some of the wonderful people who helped in our research for ‘Rome – Centuries in an Italian Kitchen‘ and delivered them signed copies ‘hot off the press’.
stefania 2
Stefania Menichetti is a busy mum and family friend who cooks dishes with three ingredients for speed after a working day. When we asked Stefania how she would describe Roman food, she told us, ‘Roman cooking is a kitchen of rich flavours and poor ingredients. It is generous and light cuisine – because doesn’t miss anything’.
Wendy Holloway is originally from Pittsburgh but has lived in Rome for over 30 years and tuns the culinary experience company ‘Flavours of Italy’. Wendy told us that it has always been easy to get fresh ingredients in Rome, both in terms of what is grown locally but what also what is imported – it’s easy to eat seasonally in the city.
Paolo at Campagna
Paolo Trancassini is the owner of La Campana, who, when we vitiated the restaurant gave us a book about the origin of the restaurant, which is one of the oldest in Rome and has been standing here since 1518 – it even gave its name to the street it’s on, Vitolo della Campana.
Anna Pierluigi
Anna Davies is a home cook who has lived in Rome for over 30 years. Once a member of the Royal Ballet she met and married an Italian and also fell in love with the Roman food culture. Her favourite ingredient is Rosemary which she uses for everything from roast potatoes, white pizza, beans and chickpeas.
It was so lovely to meet with our friends and thank them for their help in giving us hints, recipes and pointing us in direction while we delved into the depths of what makes Roman cuisine what it is today.
For signed copies you can click here or if you’d like to join us on one of our special cookery courses cooking recipes from the book then click here.

When In Rome…

During our research trips for our new book ‘Rome-Centuries in an Italian Kitchen’ we stumbled across some great bars, restaurants and food shops that are not part of the normal ‘tourist trail’. There’s a full list in the book but here’s a few of our favourites:-
Trattoria De Teo
Situated in the Piazza dei Ponziani, this fabulous little trattoria is run by Teodore Filippine and his wife Tiziana. It’s always full of local diners which is always a good sign. Try the arrabbiata pasta and the polpettine de bolito. Say ‘hi’ to Teo for us.
La Taverna del Ghetto
Specialising in traditional Jewish Romanesque food this traditional tavern is situated on Via Del Portico d’ottavio. Try the wilted tomatoes, the chef’s bean dip and bread. The courgette flowers stuffed with sea bass and their Carbonara Jewish style are also worthy on note.
Dress up and enjoy spotting the celebs while you sit outside, drink bollicine (bubbles) and eat the freshest seafood or try their home marinated thinly sliced beef and delicious pasta. It’s situated in the Piazza dé Ricci a short walk from the banks of the Tiber.
Pizza da Forno Campo dei Fiori
Quite simply we think this is the best pizza in Rome, which is strange given it’s location in the centre of the tourist haven of Campo De’ Fiori. Press your nose up to the window and watch them making them before going inside and ordering a slice or two of pizza perfection.

Supplizio, Rome

Visit during the day for Dandini’s amazing suppli and a cold beer. They won’t bettered. You’ll find them in Via Dei Banchi Vecchi.
Volpetti and Volpetti Piu, Testaccio
A shop selling a huge variety of artisan cheeses, salumi and pastries. Down the road in Via Marmorata you’ll it’s cafe serving tavola calda dishes and wonderful pizza.
We also found the Buzz in Rome website very handy for suggesting places to eat and local events of interest.
For a full list of our favourite places, Roman food blogs, recipes and a lot more then buy ‘Rome – Centuries in an Italian Kitchen’ here.

What makes an exceptional panettone?

I asked food journalist Michela Di Carlo who writes for the Italian national paper, La Republica, what makes one panettone stand out from the others and why I should spend so much money on what is essentially just a piece of cake.
Here she refers to her favourite brands as the Rolls Royce of bakery and wants us Brits to understand how panettone should be made in the hope that we can discover the true delights of a ‘real’ pannettone.
What to look for
For me to properly appreciate a panettone Michela and I unwrapped one of the brands we have on sale at Caffe Caldesi. Firstly I noticed the weight of it, the heaviness, Michela explained, was a good sign. Secondly the aroma, vanilla, orange and general baking loveliness wafted upwards as we cut into it.  Inside it had a good amount of candied fruit and was dense and moist rather than dry and crumbly. This accounted for the weight we felt earlier. This panettone is from Piedmont and local hazelnuts were used to make a coating to the cake which was then studded with almonds giving added crunch.  Albertengo Tradizionale Panettone retails at £22 so it isn’t a Mr Kipling price but it would serve 10—12 hungry Italians at Christmas.  We ate it with a dessert wine in the evening and had more in the morning with cappuccino.
Michela explains the following:
As the rich order caviar straight from Russia, panettone devotees can experience the real thing by ordering straight from Italy.
It’s a very artisanal job and these bespoke cakes can only be made to order. Each panettone takes three days to be ready, that’s why they are so expensive and so good. For people living abroad, the only way to get these luxury panettone is to contact these bakeries (via telephone or via website) and place an order well in advance. You can find the details, addresses and phone numbers below.
Soft, fruity, with the seductive aroma of vanilla and citrus, and so Christmassy. This is Panettone, the typical sweet bread loaf originally from Milan, one of the most popular Italian icons during the seasonal holidays. With its distinctive tall dome shape, it could be eaten toasted or filled with mascarpone, chocolate or custard, even if the traditionalists prefer it plain. The name is generally believed to hail from the word panetto, which means small loaf, but other explanations suggest that it comes from the Milanese phrase “pan del ton”, meaning luxury bread.
Nowadays, you can find Panettone almost all around the world, but it’s still very difficult to find an authentic product. The best ones are not usually seen sitting on a supermarket shelf, don’t need a fancy packaging and are only baked by Italian Master Pastry chefs who follow the original recipe. So, if you are a real gourmet keen on following Italian tradition, take note of our top five Panettone, but be ready to join a long waiting list if you want one (maybe next year you can place your order well in advance?)
1) L’immortale by Iginio Massari
Always sold-out well in advance, this is the masterpiece of the Milanese Maestro Iginio Massari, the King of Italian pastry chefs and founder of the Italian Master Pastry Chef Academy (Accademia Maestri Pasticceri Italiani). It is said he is the only one who can do “pure” miracles with yeast and we are sure you will make a “bella figura” with “L’Immortale” (The Immortal) on your Christmas table. It’s the best panettone coming from his ovens filled with candied orange pieces, chocolate chips, sultanas. Its heavenly soft.
Pasticceria Veneto
Via D’Acquisto Salvo, 8, Brescia
Ph. +39 030 392586.
Price 35 Euro
2) Pepe by Alfonso Pepe
Acclaimed every year as the best one ever by italian food experts, it conquers you every time with unusual twists. Try the one with Limoncello or milk chocolate and apricots from the Mount Vesuvius Volcano. The biggest surprise is that these delicacies are baked by a Master Pastry chef from Salerno, Alfonso Pepe, and not by a typical maestro from Milan. Its impossible to resist the temptation from the South!
Pasticceria Pepe
Via Nazionale 2/4,
Sant’Egidio Monte Albino (SA),
Ph. +39 081 5154151.
Price 32,50 Euro
3) Paradiso by Achille Zoia
A real treat by the Pastry Master Chef of the year, Achille Zoia from Cologno Monzese (Milan). His panettone is made using a formula which continues to remain a secret. All we know is that the dough is made in a different way compared to the other ones: a mix of butter, sugar, honey to which may be added sultanas, hazelnuts and chocolate drops. The top is usually covered with soft icing, almonds, and powered cocoa.
La boutique del dolce,
via De Giorgi, 2, Concorezzo (MB)
Ph.+39 6049251.
Price: 27 Euro
4) Panettone Cilentano Pan di Bufala by Salvatore De Riso
If you want to surprise your guests, this is the right panettone for you. It is produced with fresh buffalo butter and stuffed with white Cilento figs, walnuts, hazelnuts and wild fennel. Salvatore De Riso, alias Sal De Riso, is a Master Pastry Chef from Salerno, member of Accademia Maestri Pasticceri Italiani. He makes 10 different types of Panettone and is always searching for new ways to give pleasure and satisfaction to the sense of taste with new tricks  and combinations of ingredients. This year, he won the “Re Panettone” National Championships.
Sal De Riso, Costa d’Amalfi
Via Santa Maria della Neve- 84010 Tramonti, Salerno
Ph.039 089856446
Price: 28 Euro
5) Barocco Panettone with Prosecco Wine by Dario Loison
This is the best selling one from The Dario Loison production. A naturally leavened product, with the surface cut with a typical crisscross. The yellow dough is made with fresh milk, butter, cream and natural Madagascan Vanilla (Slow Food Presidio) and is enriched with Sultana Raisin and “Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore D.O.C.G.” wine. Dario, a Master Pastry Chef from Vicenza, comes from a tradition of family bakers since 1938.  He is proud of his sourdough obtained from the natural fermentation of rye flour, water, milk and fruit as well as the production process: 72 hours of patient waiting. The secret of this success lies in the matching of tradition and modernity.
Dolciaria Loison
S.S. Pasubio, 6 – 36030 Costabissara (Vicenza)
Ph. +39 0444 557844
Price: 17,50 euro

Our Favourite Italian Food Stores

Do let us know of ones in other areas in the UK and the world, we would love to add them to the list.
Italian Continental Stores
Jubilee House, Denmark St, Maidenhead SL6 7BN
Tel: 01628 770110
Camisa and Son
61 Old Compton Street, Soho, London W1D 6HJ
Tel: 020 7437 7610
Lina Stores
18 Brewer Street, London
Tel: 0207 437 6482
For great Italian meats and cheeses go to:
Fabio at La Credenza
Unit 9 College Fields Business Centre, Prince George’s Road, London SW19 2PT
Tel: 0207 0705 070
For mail order try:-
Fratelli Camisa
Tel: 01992 763076
Nife is Life
Tel: 0208 961 0210

The places and people we love in Amalfi

Earlier in the year we returned to Amalfi to take copies of our new book  as gifts to the many wonderful local people who helped us while we researched the unique food of the region.
With the holidays coming up I thought it would be useful to share with you some of the places we would recommend should you visit the Amalfi coast this summer… Places where we enjoyed memorable meals and met equally memorable people.

Ristorante Il Pirata is my favourite restaurant it perched on the waters’ edge, with fresh fish, chilled local wine and with stunning views of the Mediterranean – what more could you want?  Rino the patron will give you a great welcome… tell him that we sent you.
Ristorante Il Pirata
Giovanni is the host at Il Giardiniello and serves up wonderful pizzas in a vine covered garden.
Il Giardiniello

Chef Patron Francesco serves the best local fish and anchovies try them deep fried.
Ristorante San Pietro
Andrea Pansa Pasticceria in Amalfi and Sal de Riso Pasticceria in Minori are must tries for the famous local patisserie.
Andrea Pansa Pasticceria
Sal de Riso Pasticceria

Run by a mother and daughter team, Chef Tanina cooks with a wonderful lightness of touch. Her food seems to melt in your mouth, try the smoked cheese gnocchi.
Next 2 Ristorante
Via Pasitea 242
84017Positano  (SA) Italia
Netta runs her family restaurant Cumpa’ Cosimo in a tiny back street away from the main square in Ravello. Make sure you book in advance her cooking is renowned and she champions Slow Food.
Cumpa’ Cosimo
Try to book a table on the terrace at Trattoria da Gemma and enjoy the Amalfi lemon and prawn risotto amongst other treats.
Trattoria da Gemma
Amalfi (SA)
Watch the sunset from the terrace at the 5 star San Pietro Hotel just outside Positano.

‘The Amalfi Coast – A Collection of Italian Recipes’  published by Hardie Grant is available here