Did you know? Our Rialto Market here in Venice is the oldest market in Europe still located where it was founded. According to legend, on 25 March 421. A market that is paradise, I was told a couple of years ago. But isn’t it dying, I was asked a few days ago. True, during the past few years, the market and the composition of stalls underwent changes. For example, the front row of stalls was removed because their owners had given them up. Fortunately, there’s still an incredible bounty of produce we get. So let’s benefit from the first days of August to show you what’s here, sustainably harvested at our doorstep, the Lagoon and Estuary.
The Rialto Market needs clients. Una clientela that returns and shops several times a week or even better, daily. The market needs predictable clients, and a certain number of them, to survive.
These clients are lucky because they can taste the most succulent and fresh fruit, herbs and produce anyone can imagine. Mostly grown here, in the Lagoon and Estuary, or in the Veneto and in some cases, imported from southern Italy. That’s one of the perks of living in Venice, even during the hottest days of the year. There are those incredible ingredients that go into grandmother’s family recipes. Some recipes go back 150 years. So here’s what you get to see – and eat! – at the Rialto, right now.
Gocce d’oro: Golden drops is the name of these yellow plums which grow in abundance along the shrubberies on the Cavallino peninsula, and along the fertile vegetable gardens of what is called L’Orto del Doge, the Doge’s vegetable gardens, located in the northern Lagoon around Lio Mazor. We use them to make una crostatina – a small fruit cake garnished with these plums and succulent mirtilli = blueberries harvested in the Belluno mountains. This cake is then topped with lemon-lavender frosting, and eaten at breakfast while still warm.
Anguria: Water melon growing around Rovigo and south of Chioggia. It is delivered daily to the markets in Venice and is probably the best fruit you can eat for breakfast in August.
Pesche noci: Soft, succulent, sweet. Another favorite local peach variety we love and with which we make una crostata, a bigger cake like the one you can see below, garnished with mint leaves from the garden and our favorite blueberries from Belluno.
There are more plum varities from adjacent regions in Italy which I love, like the soft green Regina Claudia plums from Ferrara (Emilia-Romagna). And there are the common blue plums, which go into our vanilla-blue plum cake garnished with pistachios.
Next comes the favorite fruit we harvest in the gardens here in Venice. And in August, it’s uva fragola / uva nera, also used to make the sweet Fragolino wine. Lina makes wonderful grape tartlets which deserve a separate blog post :-)
Fichi verdi: Green figs, but also blue ones, are available here in Venice from mid-June. But the early days of August seem to be the peak season of home-grown figs. We use them to make fig jam (confettura di fichi) mostly, or they are eaten fresh with yogurt and amarena cherries for breakfast.
Pears and summer apples. Yes, these usher in what we call the fifth season here in Venice, the glorious warm days of August and September. These first pears are harvested in the Treviso region, called pere moscatello. They are still small and not as soft as I would love them, which is why they go into cakes as well, but this time, baked in the oven and garnished with cornflower or elicrisio (helichrysum) syrup, and marigold petals.
Our summer apples are called mele bianconi because they are quite big, soft and look white-green.
Pomodori, zucche, zucchine, finferli, melanzane: That’s my favorite basket of summer vegetables. I wrote about the tomatoes we eat here in Venice in this post on the blog. But we also love zucchine, when they are still soft and small. And especially, the round ones :-) called zucchine tonde. These round zucchini are filled with an egg-cheese-parmesan-tarragon cream and baked in the oven. But even better, in my opinion, are the fior di zucca or fior di zucchina, the zucchini blossoms, and the blossoms of the first squash of the season. I fill them with my ricotta-herb cream and bake them in a light batter flavored with birra bianca (white beer). These baked zucchini blossoms taste super crispy and are a favorite starter dish in our home during July and August.
And of course, it’s mushroom time here! Starting with cepes, and the finferli (chanterelles), which we use to make Lina’s creamy summer mushroom soup, or a pasta sauce. In that case, the cepes go into a plain tomato sauce enriched with a couple of summer herbs, such as tarragaon and Prezzemolo grande d’Italia – the Italian parsley variant with super sized leaves.
Where can you as visitor taste the bounty of the Rialto market? Enter any of the small bar-caffés and chiceti wine bars and osterie all around here. Al Mercà, Al Timon and All’Arco are amongst my favorites. Most are family owned, they source their produce daily here at the market, and in my opinion, eating with them is the best way for you as visitor to taste summer flavors from Venice.