Do Bianchi: The origin of the name.
My pseudonym Do Bianchi (Venetian for “two glasses of white wine”) came about when I was writing anonymously for The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana back when I first started working in NYC in the late 1990s. The editor and I wrote 90% of the content and so we each assumed a few noms de plume (my other pen name was Giovanni Malpaghini, borrowed from Petrarch’s calligrapher).
Do Bianchi was inspired by the pseudonym of one of my favorite authors, Samuel Clemens. In the early part of his life, when he lived and worked as a journalist in San Francisco, saloon-goers could often be overheard calling out “mark twain!” In other words: “mark me down for two glasses of whisky.” In the latter part of his life, evidently embarrassed by the origin, he invented a series of less savory explanations.
Trying to come up with my own pseudonym, I remembered the line you often here in Venetian osterie: “do bianchi!” (doh BEE’AHN-kee), “give me two ombre (or small glasses) of white wine!”
The Venetian term ombra means a small pour of wine to be consumed standing at the counter of a bar. The word’s origin is attributed to a wine carriage that appeared in the shadow (ombra in Italian and Venetian, umbra in Latin) of the campanile or bell tower of Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square in Venice, see image above).
As the shadow moved, the wine seller would follow (in order to keep his wines and his patrons cool). One would say: ci vediamo all’ombra (xe vedemo al’ombra) or “I’ll meet you at the shadow.” By metonym, the term came to mean a glass of wine.