The Rialto Market

I love the daily market in Venice, at the north end of the Rialto bridge.

Dinner is served on the altana (rooftop terrace).
It isn't quite daily, because it is closed on Sundays, and many of the stalls are closed Monday, as well.
My first tour of the market was given to me by our new friend, Roque, who introduced me to his favorite butcher, cheese merchant, vegetable merchant, and - most important in Venezia - his fishmonger.

Fondi di carciofi with saffron mayonnaise
We didn't buy a thing. This was a reconnaissance tour only.

Mark and I returned an hour later, with euros in hand, and a wheeled cart Roque had loanedus to help us look less like tourists. Sadly, we still reeked of "tourist."

I can't stop myself at markets. My only limit is my dwindling supply of dollars... or euros.

During our two-week stay, we visited the market frequently.

From the vegetable stands we selected plump fresh porcini mushrooms, onions, parsley, dragoncello (tarragon - an herb rarely used in Italian cuisine), pears, salad greens, tomatoes, broad beans, and fondi di carciofi (prepared artichoke bottoms).

From the butcher we bought only one thing: a specialty sausage used in risotto. We went back later to find out its name (because it was so amazing): salsiccia di Treviso. It was almost pure fat inside, melted into the risotto like butter, and I have yet to figure out exactly what it was. If anyone out there knows, please let me know! It made for the creamiest and most flavorful risotto I have ever had.

From the fishmonger we picked up some code di rospo (monkfish), SHRIMP, and half an octopus. I wanted two more weeks to cook my way through all the beautiful fish and seafood I saw.

Roque had recommended a particular cheese to us, so we popped into the cheese shop (not a stall, but an actual store adjacent to the stalls) and ordered a couple of etti (1 etto equals 3.5 ounces) of the Delizio di Capra - a creamy, goat milk Gorgonzola - along with a small carton of fresh Robiola.

Bread was another story. We found several bakeries we liked but always gravitated back to the one in our neighborhood where we bought multigrain bread (pane cereali) almost daily.

We went to the Coop every day or two for our more mundane purchases – pasta secca, butter, milk, honey, jam, mayonnaise, saffron, wine, and the like.

This is the way I like to shop; this is the way we like to eat - fresh, in-season produce and seafood, purchased daily, in a market nestled in the center of a magical place. Venice.

~ David

Spaghetti with Fresh Porcini Mushrooms

8 ounces dried spaghetti
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion or 1 large shallot, minced
2 large porcini mushrooms (or 8 ounces wild mushrooms), brushed and wiped clean
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon butter or extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Add spaghetti and cook for 10 minutes, or until al dente.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion or shallot and sauté for 3-5 minutes until soft, but not brown.

Meanwhile, separate mushroom stems from the caps and slice both into 1/4-inch slices. When onion/shallot is soft, add mushrooms and sauté over medium-high heat until golden brown. Add tarragon, and season with salt and pepper.

Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking liquid; set aside. Drain spaghetti and immediately add to the skillet with the mushrooms. Add tarragon, and season with salt and pepper; add butte or olive oil. Toss to coat, adding a little of the pasta water of needed to keep moist.

Divide among 4 pasta bowls and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Serves 4 as a first course. 

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