Many, many, many places on Earth describe themselves as “the Venice” of something or somewhere. Some of these alternati-Venices we find intriguing; others appalling. We have even visited a few of them. As we’ve also been lucky enough to visit Venice itself, we can assure you nothing really compares.
Begun as an escape from brigands and barbarians, the sandy archipelago became a commercial (some might say piratical) powerhouse—an island nation of amazing canals, buildings and bridges.
Steve, especially, was quite dubious about Venice before our 2011 trip, imagining a seedy, sodden city stuffed with tourists, tacky crap and tons of shifty souvenir stalls. He was right, and we loved it anyway. The canals, the art and the street-to-street shift from crass commericalism to sleepy, shabby glory made the city endlessly enchanting.
For food-loving folk like us, it’s nice that besides restaurants boasting about their cuttlefish ink pasta (gourmet, perhaps, but not Gourmandistan) Venice also offers bàcari—small bars serving small bites known as cicchetti. Like the pintxo places were to Basque Spain, bàcari were to us the true Venetian treasures.
Our favorite place was All’ Arco, a small establishment where we wolfed down salt cod, anchovies, crab, mushrooms and more with an ombra (glass) of wine or a Spritz while locals, tourists and tiny dogs mingled happily amid the decaying chaos.
We weren’t about to try our hand at homemade salt cod. And while we’ve had a wet, cool summer so far, we haven’t dug any canals. So when we felt the urge to revisit our bàcaro binge, we decided to attempt some tramezzini, triangular sandwiches we usually passed over in Venice for more exotic items. Steve made up a batch of soft, snowy white bread (Mitt Romney has some serious competition now) and Michelle dressed out an array of sandwiches with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, prosciutto, coppa, artichoke hearts and tuna in olive oil, tomato slices, capers, eggs and other good things found around Gourmandistan.
We can’t say the tramezzini transported us back to Venice, but we can say they were very, very delicious. Perhaps next time we’re in the Commune (and we’re open to traveling with anyone who wants to take us there), we’ll actually see how they compare to All’ Arco’s.
RECIPE NOTES: There is not much of a recipe. Use soft white bread with the crusts removed and cut into triangles. Slather with mayonnaise before filling with whatever Italian-ish ingredients strike your fancy. We took inspiration from many places, including Saveur Magazine’s March 2012 issue, the BBC GoodFood website and Tessa Kiros’ lovely Venezia: Food and Dreams cookbook.
Beautiful. And yummy! I didn’t think I’d love Venice. I was wrong.
It’s a magical place. (But you know that. I remember your post!)
I completely agree about Venice… It is one of a kind and left me awestruck. Your tramezzini look delicious!
Thanks, Lindsey! The Adriatic rocks! I can’t stop thinking about Croatia since I saw your recent post. 🙂
Venice sounds wonderful. Beautiful post.
I’ve not seen nor sampled tramezzini in far too long. Yours look wonderful. I’ve enjoyed Venice each time I’ve been lucky enough to get there. I’ve also been to a few of the other “Venices” and I always got a chuckle when I heard/read the description. If the place has a canal, it’s the Venice of wherever. I’m a polite American on tour and say nothing but no one who has ever been to Venice could possibly confuse it with any other place else on earth.
Oh, John, you’re so polite! Steve and I have sniggered and snarked our way through so many faux Venices, ugly Americans that we are. And we haven’t even made it to Las Vegas. 🙂
Beautiful! I love Venice — consider it the most romantic city I’ve ever visited — despite the smelly canal water. I’ll have another of those yummy sandwiches, please.
We were so lucky to have beautiful weather and no bad odors on all our days in Venice. Which was a lucky thing. For years, every time I’d say I wanted to go, Steve would start into some harangue like “I’m not going to take a vacation to go sloshing through sewer water…” So, if we’d been there with stinky water smells, I’d have never heard the end of it! It turned out well. He was as smitten as I was.
Beautiful post and breathtaking pictures!! Even though I live in Rome, it’s been quite while since I visited Venice! When did you visit this marvelous city? The tramezzini look delicious!
Thank you so much. We spent September 2011 near Padua in the Colli Euganei and so were able to make quite a few days trips to Venice. Plus, because I wanted to be there in the nice light without all the cruise ship folks, we splurged and stayed one night in a hotel. (Renting that house was my way of tricking Steve, who really wasn’t interested in going to Venice despite my lifelong desire to do so! Turns out he loved it as much as I did.)
“Shabby glory” gets it right, I think, although after a hot summer day spent there I was happy to retreat back to the Veneto countryside for more cycling. The best part of my visit was the cicchetti, wandering in, having a glass of wine and few baby octopus, wandering for a bit, repeating the experience, but this time with sardines, and then salt cod, and then squid… often served on little triangles of polenta as well as bread. Great stuff. I can’t wait to go back to the city some February or March. In the meantime, these look delicious. Maybe you can start an American fashion for tramezzini. Great photos, by the way. Love the way the Plague Doctor snuck in there. Ken
Ah, you cyclists! You who terrified me every time I’d have to drive up or down the big hill toward our rental house in the Colli Euganei! We had beautiful weather when we were there in September 2011, but someday I’d love to go all “Don’t Look Now” and visit Venice in the dead of winter. (Without all the grief and dread of the film, of course. :)) But, who can resist a Plague Doctor? You are talking to people who went on a special Plague Art Tour with an art history professor when we were there, and it was one of the highlights of our many day trips to the city.
Sounds great, a plague tour! By any chance, are you a fan of Donna Leon? Great writer of mysteries set in la Serenissima. Ditto on the Don’t Look Now. Sad, sad film, but would love to go there same time of year. Also, Dan Brown’s latest is filled with lots of obscure Venetian trivia. Not exactly deathless prose, but if you’ve been there it works to kill an afternoon. Ken
You know, I think I read one of Leon’s books when I was in Italy. Couldn’t tell you which though. I also remember hearing her on NPR once talking about how she won’t let her publisher translate her books into Italian which I thought was really funny. My law partner was telling me that about the latest Brown. I am probably the only American who hasn’t read any of his books (though Steve read the 1st one, I think). See you in Venice! In the winter!
What a wonderful, evocative read! Venice has been on my bucket list for some time and I’m so looking forward to exploring its crumbling streets. Love the tramezzini, all my favourite ingredients on one plate!
Thanks so much, Angelica. I hope you get the opportunity to go. Venice was one of those rare places that lived up to nearly every one of my expectations.
Wonderful tramezzini and beautiful pictures! I went to Venice when I did a backpack tour at the age of 21, long time ago. I remember that I didn’t like Venice that much at that time. Seeing your pictures, I think I have to visit there again to experience real beauty of Venice.
Thanks, Jessie! And do! (Just avert your eyes from all the other tourists.)
My first experience with Venice was the real deal.. and I’ve been to the “subterranean” Venice of Vegas a few times.. and was hoping to get there this May when we traveled to Italy. Unfortunately it just wasn’t in the plans time-wise, but I know we’ll be planning our return and in the meantime, we’ll have to try a few of little nibblies!! xx
A little hard to cycle across a lagoon, eh? 🙂
I am taken by your gorgeous photos of Venice! They can serve as my passport for now.
They look absolutely brilliant – delicious summer food. Not sure about white bread but I’m not going to be found out as colour consciousness so I love it. Pictures of Venice are really fab. Lovely post.
Thanks so much, Roger. I had fun going through those photos again and was pleasantly surprised at how some had turned out. I know… white bread… But Steve has made some good loaves lately.
Can I have that whole tray?
I spend a good amount of my time trying to recapture Venice. It’s a worthwhile endeavor. Beautiful photos.
Indeed. And, thanks.
Looks so drlicious, when you mention a Spritz, I’m already there! Funny enough, I’ve not had a chance to venture to Europe yet, my darling siblings have though and they constantly taunt me with stories of the incredible food and such. I love being to travel through what (I’m beginning to call,) my ‘arm chair food!’
Ah, Alice, and that’s exactly the way I feel about, well, all of the Pacific Rim! And, yes, Spritzes are so good. I wish I had some bubbly stuff to make one now. 🙂
Venice!!!!! You wonderful jet-setters, you! Every time I read about Steve’s snowy white breads I get excited. I WILL MAKE HIS BURGER BUNS, OH YES I WILL. And I love love LOVE the new look of the blog. LOVE.
Grazie mille, Susan! Yes, strangely, Steve has become the King of White Bread. It’s very strange and unexpected. But I won’t complain. 🙂
So glad to have found your very cool blog this morning. I have never been to Venice so thank you for sharing just a bit of it in this post. Your photography is wonderful and the tramezzini look fantastic. I am looking forward to reading more!
Why thanks, Danielle!
I’ve never been to Venice, but I loved seeing it through your eyes. Funnily enough, I was having tramezzini for lunch the other day, something very similar with tuna held together with olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and chopped olives . . . Maybe I had a feeling you were putting this post together? 🙂
Oh, Daisy, you need to go to Venice! Hmmmm, we must have been sending out some food vibes… (I so seldom eat tuna anymore … you know, being so p.c. and all … that I was amazed at how much I’d missed it.)
I totally need to go to Venice! As for tuna, moderation in all things. I think I eat it about once or twice a year and try to get the pole-caught fancy pants canned tuna.
Love this idea. In Prague, they have a similar open-faced sandwich idea, I guess along with tramezzini and the pintxos it’s a universal (bread as a food delivery system, of course!). Just like multiple claims at Venice (or Paris), have you noticed how many cities claim to have seven hills as well?
You’re right! I actually had a theory (until somebody more knowledgeable disabused me of it—though now I can’t remember what their evidence was) that all cultures have some form of dumpling. But the little sandwich idea, open-faced or not, probably runs a close second.
Too funny–I said the same thing in an old blog post re dumplings (and then proceeded to post about something out of rice that was totally unrelated)
You have the right idea -go to Venice out of tourist season(summer heat = smelly canals). I always try for February. A bit bleak, but you have the city to yourself w/ the residents. Someday (when I win the lottery) I’ll spend a winter there studying the art of Venice, and eating!
Oh, what a grand idea! I think I better go buy a lottery ticket. 🙂
Oh my gosh. I should not have read this before dinner. I would love to try these little small bites.
I need to go to Venice. Sounds amazing; no wonder one would reinvent the meal at home and add their own (Kentucky) touch. Michelle, I like your version. Interesting about the similarities of the dish in Pais Vasco and Venice! Mitt Romney and Steve… never in a sentence shall the two meet.
Oh, Shanna, you need to go. It’s really wonderful. Just ignore the (other) tourists and enjoy the magic.
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