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GOLDEN DAY TWENTY-FIVE: THE RIALTO MARKET AND MARCELLA HAZAN

April 1, 2010

A wonderful way to start a Venetian day is to visit the Rialto Market, following in the traditional footsteps of this magical city. The pescheria (fish market, closed Sun & Mon), tucked behind the bridge, has been a happening spot here for over 1000 years. Surrounding it are vegetable and fruit stalls. Some of the produce is local, from the nearby island of Sant’Erasmo, and some has been brought in on ships from afar. The whole scene under that stunning Venetian light: glistening fresh fish, and (depending on the season)  cabbage from Treviso, persimmons, or white asparagus–blends to make this one of Italy’s most tantalizing markets. Get there early, between 8 or 9, and you’ll be elbowing in with Venice restaurant chefs. If you’re going in April, you’ll see soft shell crab–moleche–lucky you! It’ll be added to the menus for this month, and also if you’re there in November.

Marcella Hazan, the Queen of Italian Cuisine, lived in Venice with her co-writer/husband Victor for many years during the 1980s and 90s, when they  also ran an excellent cooking school.  A typical school day would begin with Marcella leading a trip to the Rialto market.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Marcella Hazan’s cookbooks, listen up! Marcella came before Mario, Lidia, Giada, etc.  Beginning with her first book, published in 1973– The Classic Italian Cookbook–Marcella introduced Americans to authentic Italian cooking with not only wonderful recipes, but great writing that reveals the beautiful philosophy of Italian cooking.

She was generous with giving advice to me while I was writing 100 Places, so I could include  her favorite  restaurants in Venice. One of them that’s close to the Rialto, which makes a perfect stop for lunch is Fiaschetteria Toscana (Salizada S. Giovanni Grisostomo, Cannaregio, 041 528 5281).

So unless you’re renting an apartment, and will be cooking up fish from your Rialto market shopping trip, I’d come here or Muro (Campo Bella Vienna, closed Sunday), a bargain spot hidden behind the fish stalls.

Whatever you do, avoid the Rialto mid-day, when the shlocky souvenir stands on the bridge get mobbed.

This is a place best seen when it’s just waking up…

And while you’re dreaming of Venice, check out Marcella and Victor’s Google Talk

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