The Venetian foodie guide for March

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March in Venice can look sunny, balmy and bright like above, or greyish-blue when moist clouds chase the waters back into the Lagoon, bringing abundant rainfall like it happens so often on the Mediterranean coasts.

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Expect the first REAL warm sun rays enveloping Venice in the first days of March, and in the last few years, the astronomical start of spring was bright and sparkling. Should you arrive in town, expect a beautiful day like you can see in our picture below (this is Stazione Ferroviaria Santa Lucia, the train station).

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Don’t forget to look out for the Venetian mimosa .. they blossom behind the walls as trees, but you also find them in the fiorerie (flower stores) as young plants and twigs. After all, La Festa della Donna celebrated on 8 March is just round the corner and in Italy, women are given bunches of mimosa on that day :-) As you can see below, they thrive in the moist climate of the Lagoon and late February / early March definitely belongs to them ..

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March is also the month of Venetian carciofiartichokes. The first variety harvested in the Lagoon (in particular, on the island Sant’ Erasmo) is called castraúre and available at the markets from mid-March. That may not be the case this year as the particularly cold winter damaged many cultivations of herbs and vegetables in the Veneto.

Just imagine the surprise we got in January – for the first time in 30 years,  the vegetables arriving at the Rialto Market were rather frozen !! They looked and tasted somewhat weird and that’s why Venetian vendors ordered vegetables from the South called L‘ orto dell’Europa – the Italian region along the river Sele (Salerno – Battipaglia, 100 km south of Naples). Click here if you want to find out more about this special region whose vegetables and salads you can taste in Venice these days. Most of the citrus fruit sold at the Rialto Market now were also cultivated south of Naples or in Sicily.

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So these days are different and you can see greenery in Venice that usually doesn’t arrive here in these huge quantities, to make up for the shortage of local vegetables. For example, you can now get the Neapolitan broccoli variety called friarielli which are eaten fried in olive oil with lemon juice and garlic cloves.

My friend Michelle who is currently in Venice took a picture of them in her blog post (click her to view it). You could taste a plate of friarielli at the restaurant Rosso Pomodoro – the Neapolitan Culinary Ambassador in town. It is located in Calle Larga just behind Piazza San Marco, and I suggest you arrive rather early or after 9:30 pm because it’s usually full. Both Venetians and guests do love Neapolitan food and of course, pizza !!

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March is the season of first tender greenery like elsewhere in Europe. Soon, it will be time to taste dishes containing aglio orsino (wild garlic) and of course, fresh piselli (peas) and spinaci (spinach). True, Venetians love green leaves, from March-May you will find a lot of these in town.

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After this harsh winter, Venetians love their greenery fresh and use the first leaves of bietola (red beet) to garnish risotti (below you can see risotto al prosecco di Treviso, by the way).

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The next pictures shows spinach leaves and cress we use to garnish a plate of ravioli. If you would like to taste spring greens in Venice, you could taste them at the wonderfully green buffet at Osteria Antico Calice (near the Rialto Bridge, just off the Merceria and Piazza San Marco).

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