First, my apologies for the confusing Venice posts. I rarely post about things experienced a year before, and my past week has been a totally crazy one, with planets misaligned and a full moon bringing out the worst howls I can muster (our dog howls along in sympathy with me, really), so we are discombobulated to say the least. Even the order of posts is out of whack, as after posting what should have been the departure or “farewell to Venice” post about canals in the wee hours of the morning, I reviewed my posts and realized I hadn’t done a post on the market! How can I visit a major city and not hit a food market? So here are some trailing entries. A double diet coke on the rocks, several deep breaths, and all will return to equilibrium… :)
The Mercato del pesce al minuto is the retail fish market near the Rialto bridge. Rather than my laboring to write some history about the market, you should read this EXCELLENT article by Coleman Andrews for Saveur about the fish market and 4 other segments on Venice. This article was one of the reasons I so wanted to return to Venice, and to catch the market when it opened in the early morning. When we arrived and strolled by the market late one afternoon, it was closed, so we got to explore the actual structure of the market, bereft of tables, goods and vendors. This particular building isn’t that old, say 100 or so years, but of course there is a several century old tradition of selling fish on the banks of the main waterway in Venice.
The market building has stone columns, a wooden roof and bright red tarps on its perimeter. The stone floors are obviously washed down at the end of each market day and when we got this first glimpse, you might have mistaken the space for a town meeting place or other use… I vowed to return the next morning at the crack of dawn to catch the market as it opened…
Up before 6am, I made my way through the narrow alleyways to emerge right near the back of the market at say 6:15 am. Let’s just say Venetians seem to value their sleeping hours, as this market didn’t get going till closer to 7am… Speedboats came up to the docks and started disgorging everything from clams for linquine a la vongole to squid, octopus, scampi, etc.
Here a vendor follows a wheeled cart carrying a pretty large fresh tuna and some clams.
There was a whole swordfish or marlin as well.
Another vendor started cutting up whole salmon into steaks after scaling, cleaning and partially de-boning it.
Iridescent trout next to small octopus and other shellfish.
Razor clams, now THOSE are long slender fingers compared to our own local “tudlo dato“…
Pretty fierce looking crabs, the meat of which is sublime in a simple pasta dish with crabmeat.
Boxed scampi on ice.
Squid or calamari and more scampi.
Octopi beside fresh mediterranean sardines (don’t they look like out own tamban?)…
The sliced salmon, ready for the fish pan… This wasn’t a HUGE market, and Venice’s resident population isn’t very large, but the selection and quality of seafood on offer was impressive. Perhaps the tourists at the top hotels and restaurants account for much of the volume that comes through this market, but whatever the reason, it’s definitely worth a visit if you are in town.