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.