Padua! Our first sip of Prosecco like a first kiss

Except for a tight connection in Paris, our trip has been seamless so far: we arrived this morning in Padua (Padova), checked into our hotel, and made a beeline for the legendary Bar dei Osei, a tiny hole-in-the-wall sandwich place in the Palazzo della Ragione.

I can’t even begin to express the thrill of tasting this first sip of Prosecco with Tracie P in Padua, where I spent so many years of my life studying and playing music! It was just a clean, bright commercial Prosecco but man was it sweet on her lips… like a first kiss…

Tramezzino tonno e uovo sodo (tuna and hard-boiled egg) and tramezzino con la verdura cruda (raw vegetables), the latter a specialty of the Bar dei Osei. Isn’t it wonderful how some things never change? Took me back literally 20+ years!

Glorious radicchio! Radicchio trevigiano, radicchio di Castelfranco, radicchietto

The signore were out and about doing their Saturday morning food shopping at the many vendors underneath the Salone, as the Palazzo della Ragione is known. You can always tell where the best stuff is to be found: just look for the lines!

She hasn’t had a chance yet, but Tracie P is excited about her first taste of sfilacci di cavallo cured, shredded horse meat.

O how I love the Veneto… We also made it to see Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel, which I hadn’t seen since the restoration was completed. Even more stunning than when I first saw it all those years ago…

Zidarich Vitovska and horse meat dinner

Tonight I’ll be in Friuli (more on that later) but the weekend between the two working legs of this trip was spent in Padua, as a guest in the lovely home of my wonderful friends Sita and Steve, whom I’ve known since I was a junior at the Università di Padova (remember them [click and scroll down]?).

Sita knows how much I love and miss the horse meat of my beloved Veneto (more on that later) from my days as a grad student in Italy and so she prepared a wonderful dinner of horse meat for us on Friday night.

Steve knows how much I love the tannic white wines of Carso and so he grabbed a bottle of 2007 Zidarich Vitovska from his Eurocave. As it turns out, Sita’s uncle was the architect who designed the Zidarich winery!

The first course was horse meat salamino, ripe olives cured in olive oil, and taralli.

Next came my FAVORITE: sfilacci di cavallo, cured and shredded horse meat, dressed with olive oil and lemon and served with griddle-fried polenta. The horse meat bresaola and raw figs were equally delicious.

As the Vitovska came to room temperature and gently aerated in the glass, its tannic structure began to reveal itself. The floral notes on the nose and the mineral character of this wine blew my mind, so unbelievably good.

Sita really outdid herself with this spezzateino di puledro, pony and horse meat sausage stew, served over polenta (of course).

Horse meat became popular in Italy and France in the 1960s as an affordable source of protein for young families. Today, the Veneto is the only place I know of where it’s common to find horse meat butchers.

By the end of the meal, the Vitovska had opened up gloriously, the white fruit (apple and pear) singing to the rhythm of the wine’s acidity and tannin.

An acoustic guitar was produced and dutifully tuned and a chorus of John Lennon’s “Imagine” and some ubriaco brushed with Prosecco must made for the ideal coda to a meal of happy memories shared with good friends.