Monday, December 08, 2014

Venice: A Tour of the Rialto Market with the Cooking Contessa – Enrica Rocca

Venice: A Tour of the Rialto Market with the Cooking Contessa – Enrica Rocca. Enrica Rocca takes us on a tour of her favorite and most trusted suppliers at the Rialto fish and vegetable markets and shares a recipe with us in her cooking school.
Above. The Rialto Mercato is situated in the heart of Venice on the Grand Canal, next to the Rialto Bridge.

Rialto Mercato.  Elegantly clad, Enrica Rocca arrives by vaporetto at the Rialto Mercato with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Soya and a Hermes orange trolley ready to be filled with the freshest products that the market has to offer. Nicknamed the Cooking Contessa by The Financial TimesDavid Baker, he wrote, “Enrica Rocca runs a cooking school beyond the ordinary. She’s an Italian cook of note and a flamboyant and passionate chef and restaurateur. She has Italian cooking in her blood and a contagious zest for life and food. Her dishes use two or three ingredients at most, well chosen, cooked with simplicity and brought to the table with gusto. Measurements are made by eye, timing done by instinct.” And, Gourmet Magazine judged her as one of the 10 best cooking schools in the world.

 photograph and copyright by manfredi bellati


Rialto Mercato - Erberia.  Fruit, vegetables and fish all arrive by boat at the Rialto Mercato. Enrica takes her cooking class clients to the market to pick out ingredients “Because I think that cooking starts from the choice of ingredients, so if you start with a good ingredient, you don’t really need to know how to cook, because good ingredients, do not need any transformation basically, that is my philosophy behind it.” She explains.

Rialto Mercato – Santin.  Enrica’s first stop is to the Santin for fruit and vegetables “Santin also has a stall at the market but, I go to  the warehouse as I am often in a hurry and I don’t have to queue there. There is hardly anybody, and it’s fun, I can go to the fridge, see everything and pick the freshest ingredients and put them in my trolley directly."
Rialto Mercato – Santin:  Zucca Stagionata “The zucca stagionata is an aged pumpkin. When the squash gets to maturation, they leave it on the vine for two weeks so that it looses humidity; this concentrates the flavor so that when you roast it, just with some olive oil, salt and rosemary it’s incredible. You can also make a soup with it.”

Rialto Mercato – Santin: Castraure and Botoli artichoke. “The castraure is the first floral shoot that the artichoke plant produces and is incredibility delicate, the name comes from the word to castrate. When the plant flowers, they cut off the top, to strengthen it, so then it produces 18 to 20 artichokes, called Botoli. You can cook the castraure in many different ways; my favorite is to just make a salad. They are crispy, not hairy, not too bitter and absolutely fantastic with just a bit of olive oil and lemon juice and a few shavings of Parmesan cheese. Whilst, the botoli are already a bit harder, so you can cook them, pan fry them in oil olive, garlic and parsley, there are many ways of cooking them.”

Rialto Mercato – Santin: Radicchio di Treviso. “The radicchio is a typical winter vegetable, it grows in the area of Treviso, you can eat it in a salad or grilled and seasoned with just some olive oil, salt and pepper and it’s delicious. You can also make a very nice risotto with it."

Rialto Mercato – Caffe del Doge.  Though Enrica likes to have her morning cappuccino before she gets to the Rialto Mercato, “Sometimes I stop with clients to have a coffee, it’s very nice at the Caffe del Doge. They do coffee tasting, but this is outside my cooking class tour of the market.  The coffee tasting is for people who just want to do a tour of the market and meet some of my suppliers and enjoy the atmosphere.” Besides her cooking classes Enrica, also organizes market tours, bacari and ciccetti events, “First I take my clients to go taste cicchetti, then we come back home and put all the ingredients out and then, I teach them how to put them together. It’s particularly fun and nice for corporate clients. In fact we organize all types of events in Venice." 

 Rialto Mercato - Pescheria - Rialto Fish Market

photograph and copyright by manfredi bellati

Rialto Mercato – Ittica Sandy. “I always go to the Ittica Sandy fishmongers in the fish market, they are very serious and always have a good selection.”


Rialto Mercato – Ittica Sandy: Cappelunghe. “The razor clams in England and America are much bigger, here they are really small and quite delicate, whereas the bigger ones are quite chewy. You should just saute them as you would do with mussels, you can put them on pasta, or in Venice it is typical to just grill them with a bit of olive oil.”

Rialto Mercato – Ittica Sandy: Lucerna. “Gurnard Is a very boney fish with a particular shape, which is why not many people use it. It used to be a very cheap fish until the big chefs discovered it, and now it is nearly as expensive as sea bass.  I would butterfly it and bake it or poach it.  In Venice there is a tradition of poaching fish. You need a fish kettle.  Make a fish stock, a fumetto with water, white wine, celery, carrot, bay leaf, onions, cloves, pepper corns and half a lemon and when it boils, you put your fish in and poach it for a few minutes, and then put the lid back on and let it cool in its water.  It will steam away, until it cools and it will be delicious to eat it with mayonnaise or with a bit of olive oil."


Rialto Mercato – Lino Fritto.Lino Fritto is right in the middle of Rialto fish market, it’s a very pretty modern little place, and they make these glasses filled with different things.  This morning we tried Cream of Buffalo Mozzarella, Anchovy and Tomato and a Cream of Potato with Shrimp.  It is almost a modern take-away ciccetto place. These are more filling than ciccetti and they are quite sophisticated and use all the ingredients from the market. It’s really nice to go for a quick lunch, and a glass of Prosecco, and you are done."

  Rialto Mercato – Lino Fritto  A selection of their culinary novelties interpreted with modern Italian spirit.

Rialto Mercato – All’Arco. All’Arco. A lot of people call All'Arco my Rialto office, because I spend a lot of time there. This is my favorite bacaro in Venice, the most professional. Their ciccetti are fantastic, the best. Father and son Francesco and Matteo run the place, they are wonderful people and they really put all their heart in the choice of the ingredients, we often meet in the vegetable warehouse, and he also goes to the fish market.  They always have five or six staple ciccetti, like baccala made three different ways; they have fantastic Spanish anchovies, which cost a fortune. I have usually have a Spritz or a glass of Prosecco, depending on my mood. “

Rialto Mercato – All’Arco – Matteo prepares cicchetti

Rialto Mercato – All’Arco – A Spritz (Prosecco with Campari, soda water and a slice of orange) and two cicchetti – A toasted bread cicchetto with Pancetta, Radicchio and Cheese and a tramezzino (sandwich) with Eggs and Trout from Friuli.

Rialto Mercato – All’Arco – Baccala (salted cod) Three ways, alla Vicentina, alla Mantecato and alla Veneziana (with garlic).

Millevini Enoteca. On the other side of the Grand Canal Enrica stops to chat with Lorenzo Menegus of the wine merchants, Millevini Enoteca.  “Lorenzo is a fantastic guy he is a professional sommelier and is very passionate about wine. The name millevini means one thousand wines, there is a huge selection and he knows them all.   He has a very close relationship with the producers and visits them often.  I learnt everything I know today about Italian wines from him. On Mondays we work together, we do classes and teach people how to pare wines to food.” 

Rialto Mercato - seagulls enjoy the scraps

Enrica’s Book - Venice on a Plate. Back home in Enrica’s loft, where she teaches cooking, we are about to prepare scallops, using a beautiful Murano glass dish to present them, “Because, that is the theme of my book, in which all the Venetian recipes are presented on a Murano glass dish or bowl. The idea for the book was to take two major cultures of Venice and to put them together. They go beautifully together, because people used to use Murano glass, in olden times, on a daily basis, not worrying if  they were going to brake or not brake, it was normal.   Sometimes I would feel a bit sorry for these objects just on display, because when you put something inside them, they come to life.
Above. Venice on a Plate – But What a Plate! by Enrica Rocca with photographs by Jean-Pierre Gabriel, published by Marsilio.

The Family Palazzo and Cooking School.My kitchen loft is in what used to be the laundry of the family palazzo on the Guidecca Canal, the building dates back to the 18th century. It is entirely surrounded by gardens, the biggest in central Venice. It’s a magnificent property. I found my happiness in the ex-laundry because it was the only section of the property where I could have an open space, I don’t like traditional apartment spaces. This was perfect.  I love entertaining and I love it and designed it entirely and I love contemporary art as well, it’s me.”

  Capesante o Canestrelli Gratinati
(Baked Scallops or Canestrelli)

Much smaller than a scallop, the canestrello is often tastier—but then in the world of food small is always tastier.  Any recipe that you may find for scallops can usually also be adapted for canestrelli, although it must be said that, considering their delicate flavor, simple is better. If you are using canestrelli instead of scallops, just use half of the quantities and top each canestrello with a teaspoon of the breadcrumb mixture instead of a tablespoon.

INGREDIENTS - Classic Venetian version
1 kg sea scallops (or 500gr canestrelli)
250gr breadcrumbs
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper, to taste

INGREDIENTS - Enrica’s Version
¼ slice of orange zest
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
¼ tsp grated ginger

Preparation Time - 45 minutes - serves 6


OPEN - the scallops with a shucking knife (an ordinary butter knife will do if you haven’t got one) following the flat side and clean them by pulling off the outer ring of the muscle and then rinsing them under water (you could also ask your fishmonger to do this for you).
PLACE - the hollow half shells with the muscle on an oven proof tray

Classic Venetian version:

Preheat - oven to 200 degrees Celsius
MIX - the breadcrumbs, garlic, and parsley with a fork, drizzle with oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste
TOP - each half shelled scallop with a tablespoon of the breadcrumb mixture.
BAKE - in preheated oven for 5-6 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are crunchy and golden
Enrica’s version:

Preheat - oven to 200 degrees Celsius
CUT - a slice of orange in 4 and place a quarter on each shell
ADD - the fresh thyme and grated ginger
SPRINKLE - with a little oil
BAKE - in preheated oven for 5-6 minutes, or until a golden ring forms around the scallops

Capesante Gratinati – served on an orange filigree opaque Murano glass plate from the 1980s

Enrica Rocca Prosecco. “The Prosecco is produced for me, I did it with the idea of helping small producers, who produce exceptional things that people don’t know about.  So, I decided to use my brand to be their ambassador and bring their products to the public. The Prosecco is the first in a range of Enrica Rocca merchandize.

Enrica Rocca Cooking School.My school is based in Venice and I also teach in London, and there is a franchise Enrica Rocca Cooking School in South Africa, handled by Emma who is Italian, from Genova, she is a brilliant person and has an amazing personality, loves cooking and loves people and is  doing very well.  I run the two schools of Venice and London on demand."

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