Amazing seafood and fun times in Trieste…

Before leaving for Italy, Tracie P expressed a desire to visit Trieste and so we headed there yesterday for dinner with Giampaolo Venica and wife Chiara and brother and sister prosciutto-makers Andrea and Monica d’Osvaldo to eat at the classic Ristorante al Bagatto.

The food was fantastic, the wine wonderful (Zidarich Vitovska 06 and 08, the 08 the stunner), the laughter and conversation super fun…

Now, THAT’s a fritto misto!

But when an Italian mother calls her son (in this case, Andrea), everything gets put on hold!

Anniversary dinner at Al Covo in Venice: fantastica… ma FANTASTICA!

For our anniversary dinner, Tracie P said she wanted to eat seafood and so after much consultation and discussion with friends and colleagues, we decided on Al Covo.

We started with the mixed seafood appetizer: baby squid, shrimp and prawns, clams, and snails. Delicious…

I managed to snag the last portion of handmade noodles dressed with granceola (spider crab) and its corallo or “coral”: pink roe, a delicacy that you find only at this time of year when the crabs mate. Unbelievable…

Tracie P had the cod with prunes and potatoes.

The potatoes had been cooked in the tocio or jus of the fish and their starch had imparted a wonderfully delicate and creamy texture to the sauce. This was simply one of the best fish dishes I’ve ever tasted… Stunning confluence of flavors and textures…

We drank an 07 Malvasia by Zidarich and after our meal we munched on cheese and sipped an 06 Recioto di Soave by Fasoli. I can’t think of a better meal to have here…

Owner Cesare offered us a Capovilla distillate (such beautiful, delicate aroma) and with bellies full and warmed by the excellent brandy, we made our way back to our hotel across a deserted and chilly Piazza San Marco, the Basilica of St. Mark and her mosaics watching over us like a fairy godmother, and we tumbled into each other’s arms and into bed…

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.