For someone who loves to cook, our month this summer in Europe was hard in ways. As much as I enjoyed our floodlit piazza dinners and our rustic thrown together picnics, visiting the flavorful markets in Italy was sometimes hard on me. I’d scan the rows of colorful produce and breath in the scent of fresh herbs, longing for a kitchen to play in. While some of my favorite meals were those of fresh bread, unpasteurized cheese, and local olives and fruit, I often wondered what I could accomplish if only I had an oven, or even just one lonely burner.
We cooked once or twice at our hostel in Switzerland, but as the nearest grocery store was at the bottom of the mountain, our selection on what to cook was limited. We made a funny meal one night of pasta, canned tomatoes, and some strong and stinky mountain cheese that we picked up from the cow next door. We ate it along with a bottle of wine at an elevation of 5000 feet. I’m not sure if it was the elevation, the wine, or the combination of both, but we ate every bite of that pasta, and found ourselves longing for more.
Venice was our first stop in Italy, and even though I had every other place that we stayed in Europe booked before we left the states, for whatever reason I never found the time to book a place to stay in Venice. I think that we were hoping to couch surf, but unfortunately no one had the space. Although just winging it is usually something that stresses me out, in this case, it worked out beautifully. My mom, being the saint that she is, got to work and found us a wonderful apartment right off of the Grand Canal. As it was on the opposite side of the mainland, we landed ourselves with a great price, and an even better view.
Here are a few things that really excited me about this apartment: For one, It had air conditioning! This was something that we had yet to experience while in Europe, and Venice was HOT. Secondly, the bathroom was huge! Not only was the shower giant, but there was enough room for a washer. We could finally wash our clothes somewhere besides a sink! And last but definitely not least, it had a fully equipped kitchen overlooking the water. We ate breakfast at our sweet little table each morning watching the boats pass by and mapping out our day. I couldn’t complain.
Our first night in Venice we dined out. We wandered far away from the other tourists and got lost in Venice’s winding and colorful streets. We stumbled into a quite little hole in the wall restaurant where we were served by our bored and unenthusiastic waiter. The food was mediocre, but it was our first meal in Venice, so we didn’t really care. We were in Italy!
For our second night there I had big plans for dinner. We finally had a kitchen and I planned to take full advantage of it. My goal was to visit the local market and pick up some local ingredients, but because our morning got off to somewhat of a rough start, our day was put a bit behind schedule. By the time we finished at Doge’s Palace and the Correr Museum, half of the day was gone and the market was over. Hot, tired, and cranky, we stopped in at a local grocer and picked up a few simple but tasty items for dinner. We packed our bags with a of bottle of Peach Bellini and a local red wine, and hopped a vaporetto for a scenic ride back to our little home.
For dinner I prepared veal ravioli with sauteed mushrooms and a local tomato sauce. I chopped fresh green basil and buffalo mozzarella to mix with baby arugula and Mediterranean olives. We ate next to an open window and sipped our Veneto wine. We enjoyed our Bellinis for dessert and delighted in a good night of rest. We had an early morning train to the Italian Riviera the following day and still had many flavors and sights left to explore. Our adventures in Italy had only just begun.