Here is my basic Venetian cookbook that I often refer to when describing historical recipes from Venice (I used to devour it when I was a child): A Tavola con i Dogi by Pino Agostini. It was first published in 1991 and has an insightful introduction written by Alvise Zorzi. The books really makes readers understand and aware that historical Venetian cuisine is so much more than mainstream Italian cooking.

This particular way of cooking alla veneziana developed during eleven centuries, and was based on using herbs and spices delivered home to Venice by the merchants.  Yet not all of these spices arriving in Venice were sold to other countries in Europe. Many secrets were kept here in Venice for a special reason and today, we would consider them fusion recipes, that is, local ideas combined with exotic flavors and touches.

I did love the book for it also offers wonderful pictures of Venetian palace interiors and table settings. Pino Agostini not only writes about the food available and cooking style during the times of the Serenissima Republic of Venice but also refers later recipes, such as the ones developed by Locanda Cipriani on the island of Torcello.

You will find the traditional risotto dishes alongside with the carpaccio invented by Giuseppe Cipriani, and Venice antipasti such as sarde in saòr as well as traditional sauces like the salsa verde and salsa peverada. Also, desserts like tiramesu and biscuits like baicoli are described in colorful pictures. Even though it was published more than 26 years ago, it’s still a gem with vivid pictures that take you into the dining rooms of Venetian palaces and share secrets of ancient Venetian cooking.

Venice combined ideas and recipes from East and West, from as far as China and India, to Egypt and Constantinople, the Black sea and the Levant region in general, but also from the West, as Venice merchants sailed to Sicily, Spain, England and Northern Germany as well. For example, the stockfish dish recipe baccalà was imported from these voyages to the North, together with the ingredients.

A few restaurants in Venice took up ancient and medieval recipes, for example the Bistrot de Venise, or Il Ridotto. We think that this book, A Tavola con i Dogi, was the first in a series of initiatives to explore the Venetian heritage of cooking and spread its secrets to Venetians and their visitors.

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