The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Dec 23, 2010

But Venice Is A Fish

In Tiziano Scarpa's lovely little paean to Venice (Venice is a Fish: A Cultural Guide), he makes the point that the true flavour of his city is not sweetness. To taste its full character, the visitor should repair herself to a bácaro, a kind of inn. There are fewer and fewer of these remaining these days, so go and grab and table while you can.
The windows of the bácari offer you halved boiled eggs, rolled anchovies, crabs' claws, olives all'Ascolana, rice arancini, polpettini, stewed saltimbocca, nervetti (pork or beef tendon), fried sardines, masanete (small crabs), folpi (small octopus), creamed cod, onions, coppa di toro (bull salami), wild boar ham, squares of mortadella, cubes of dressed mozzarella, parallelepipeds of gorgonzola. These are all, of course, washed down with an ombra, a glass of wine that was once tapped straight from the barrel behind the bar. 
It isn't clear where the 'technical term' ombra (shadow) comes from: and that's as it should be, even its etymology should remain in darkness. At the most banal level, ombra might designate the misty translucency of the wine. But it's more likely that it refers to the open-air wine stalls in the summer, in the shade of the campanili, where people sheltered from the heat by drinking a glass of chilled wine. 'Andiamo a prendere un'ombra - Let's go and take the shade,' was a kind of wink, implying: 'Let's go where the drinking's done.'


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