Above: The food at Trattoria Nalin (in Mira, Venice terra firma) was as traditional as it was spectacular. One of the best meals of our trip.
As any Italian gastronaut will tell you, one of the most rewarding experiences of culinary adventure is stumbling into a great food destination by chance.
And such was the case on our last day in Italy, when Tracie P and I decided spontaneously to hop off the autostrada in the town of Mira (mainland Venice) to eat at one of the many osterie and trattorie that dot the canals like tiny fried shrimp on creamy polenta (see below).
We landed at the Trattoria Nalin, an establishment that dates back to the era of the Great War.
Mainland Venice (Venezia terra firma, towns like Mira and Dolo) were once home to the summer villas, may of them still standing, of the Venetian patrician class. Today, these sleepy villages are a less frenetically touristic yet entirely authentic alternative to lagoonal Venice (as you’ll see below).
On the day we visited Nalin, we were the only Americans there and the dining room was populated otherwise by Venetian businessmen and one older Venetian couple. The lingua franca was veneto (not Italian).
The food at Nalin was nothing short of spectacular (see below). But it was the wine list, and its concentration in Friuli in particular, that will bring us back to this amazing restaurant: verticals of Radikon, Kante, Castellada, Damijan, Keber, Miani, Borgo del Tiglio, Venica, Zidarich, and so on and so on. I was floored by the mimetic desire.
A bona fide dream come true: the best of Friulian winemaking and superbly executed traditional Venetian seafood. There was also an impressive vertical of Gaia e Rey, with prices that would make any New York collector swoon.
Here’s what we ate…
Fried tiny shrimp, schie in Venetian, always served with creamy polenta. The original “shrimp and grits”!
Note how the bac[c]alà mantecato is chunky and not creamy. Po[l]enta e bac[c]alà… perché non m’ami più… Who knows the song? See below…
Traditional Venetian bolliti, boiled seafood. What a thrilling restaurant this was for us!
Spaghetti alle vongole, a dish we only eat in Venice and Naples. As a song writer once observed, a man feel proud to give his woman what she’s longing for… (Who knows the song?)
Linguine with scampi (langoustine) “meatballs.” This dish alone was worth the airfare to Italy.
Grilled seafood is Nalin’s specialty. We paired with 2008 Sauvignon Blanc in 500ml by Kante. Such an elegant expression of the grape variety (we also tasted 2007 on this trip).
Note the radicchio verdolino in the foreground, a type of field chicory that can only be found during this time of year. We had some up in the mountains as well.
Trattoria Nalin (Mira, Venice terra firma). Recommendation: get there as fast as you can! :)
Se il mare fosse de tocio
e i monti de polenta
oh mamma che tociade,
polenta e baccalà.
Perché non m’ami più?
If the sea were made of gravy
and the mountains of polenta
oh mama, what sops!
polenta and baccalà.
Why don’t you love me anymore?
— from “La Mula de Parenzo,” traditional folksong of the Veneto and Friuli