Venice in a Glass
Updated: Nov 5
Murano is what comes to mind – the glass blowing island in the Venetian lagoon but, what I was thinking about was more like a Bellini, the famous Venetian drink from Harry’s Bar. For me the name Bellini is synonymous with Venice. It was a seasonal summer treat when the Pesca di Verona were ripe and over flowing at the Rialto Market. The fresh peaches grown around Lake Garda are unique; their flesh of the juicy peach is light in color and balanced by not being too sweet. Giuseppe Cipriani opened his classic bar in 1931 discreetly steps away from the hubbub of Saint Mark’s Square. This elegant and smart man created his luscious drink with the summer fruit and prosecco in 1948 and patrons have been sipping ever since.
I love sitting at the unchanged bar on the leather stool with a dish of olives, watching and waiting for them to slide the Bellini in front of me. After the first sip, I admire the color just as mesmerizing a those beautiful Murano glass mosaics. Today, we are able to drink it year round as they bottle a semblance of the mix. Recipe: a heaping tablespoon of the pure white peach puree and fill the glass slowly with prosecco, do not use Champagne it doesn’t have the same flavor balance. Keep it all local….the Verona plains offer both the Pesca di Verona and the Prosecco Route… grown together - goes together.
As another day winds down, it is Aperitivo time again. Which means it is time to stop for the magical ombra hour after work or shopping for a drink and a snack on the way home. In Italian, the word "ombra" means shadow or shade. According to legend, centuries ago vendors sold wine in St. Mark's Square, following the shade of the Campanile with their carts to keep the wine cool. Venetians don't like to drink on an empty stomach, so "cichéti" were born, some say it come from the Latin "ciccus" meaning "small amount." Ask a Venetian to define cicchetti and you will get as many answers as there are varieties of the tasty finger food. In a town that moves by foot or by boat, munching on cicchetti while having a glass of wine called an ombra and chatting with friends in a bar called a bacaro is a fundamental part of life in Venice.
This time we go to Cantina Vecia Carbonera, an authentic Cicheteria Venexiano for their most impressive Bacari. Many wooden barrels and well-worn old tables, shelves full of bottles, and ancient advertising plates give this "barcaro" an authentic look. Not only are there many choices, but the key to this cozy and casual place is Mama is in the kitchen preparing the trays for the top of the bar. Tonight, I skipped the Ombre and decide on another Italian specialty Spritzer Venetiano. Aperol with prosecco and a slice of orange. Again, a local bitter spirit from Padua, less than an hour away. Aperol is made up rhubarb, bitter orange, a digestive herbal root gentian, and cinchona the medicinal bark also a source of quinine. But it is delicious with a combination of sweet and a bit of a bite of a tart grapefruit. Lesson learned again; drink local! Both drinks are made with Prosecco and both offer the blushing orange rose color of a true Venetian sunset! Saluti!
I have a long list Cicheteria Venexiano to visit on my next trip to Venice including Al Timon, Bar All' Arco, Cantina Do Spade, Cantina Do Mori, and I'll have to go back and see a few old friends sharing that perfect time as night starts to fall in the shadows.