THE ORIGINS, THE SEARCH, THE TRADITIONS, THE SECRETS OF A REFINED CUISINE IN VENICE

INTERVIEW WITH CHEF DAMIANO BASSANO AT L’ALCOVA, VENICE
Damiano, originally from Salento, began his career in Paris and Strasbourg, followed by Spain and the United States. Traditional Italian flavors combined with unique touches are the distinctive elements of its cuisine. He loves experimenting and creating new combinations. Since two years he has been the as Executive Chef of the renowned restaurant L’Alcova, in the splendid Hotel Ca’Sagredo taking care not only of the restaurant and breakfast menu, but also the rich buffets of special events, such as the one tonight, for the presentation of the book ‘Women’ written by Uruguay born Milton Fernandez.

 

On these occasions, will your menu be inspired to the theme and atmosphere of the event?
Certainly. Today, as a tribute to the latin author, I prepared finger food with roast beef and lime, mini tacos and small empanadas that remind me so much of the tiny Pugliese panzerotti.

 


Let’s talk about fish.
Where do you shop?
At the Rialto market. I rely on seasonality and suggestions from my supplier.
From there I decide the menu of the day and make fish dishes that maintain the typical Italian cuisine, always keeping an eye to our international clientele, often with different tastes from ours.
Today, an elderly Venetian told me that this market is becoming increasingly scarce and less stocked. It’s true?
Unfortunately, yes, slowly it is reducing in extension and presence of sellers, a bit like the real Venetians that today are only around 50,000. Even the fishermen confirm that the fish choices have changed and the variety has shrunk. Delicacies like the schie … have become a memory. Today the request is primarily oriented on mussels, clams, sea bream, sea bass, king prawns, tuna, sword.. in other words ‘universally known fish’, available everywhere but preferred by tourists who generally fear experiencing tastes that they do not know.
Sad, right?
Yes, because I think it would be nice to let the customer try the local typicality. I find it genuinely useless to propose in Venice some American scallops, easily available even in New York!
Fruits and vegetables?
Amazingly good. We are supplied by the island of Sant’Erasmo, whose sale and removal was so successful that the Consorzio di Sant’Erasmo opened a sales outlet right here in Venice. We hope for good … too much success sometimes spoiled.
A fish that you love to cook but which you gave up, given the doubtful reception of the international customer?
I have no doubt; the spatula, which I would love to cook especially after my Sicilian experiences. Even my supplier told me ‘Damiano, the spatula is not so difficult to procure, but there is no request, I am sorry … pick up another fish’.
It reminds me a bit of the phenomenon of globalization. There are no artisan shops because of the large chains promoted by consumerism. So mothers or grandmothers who cook in a trattoria, are not there anymore?
Well, I find them when I go back to my Salento. There is still some small osteria without a specific menu. Grandma cooks daily 2 or 3 dishes according to what she found at the market. And they are all spectacular!
Do you cook at home?
Almost never, I prefer to go out with friends, I rarely make a salad and if I am really  in the mood, I make my favorite dish: spaghetti tomatoes and basil. I love simplicity!
Never in your fridge …
Prepacked mayonnaise and mustard.
Always in your fridge …
Cherry tomatoes.

 

The top dishes of tonight’s menu?
Spaghetti, zucchini and wild mint creamed with bottarga, then fresh sea bass sauteed with salt, oil and thyme and served on a summer panzanella with red onion and fresh gherkin.
So there is a touch of Mediterranean heritage in your kitchen for the Serenissima?
Of course, here I revive perfumes and tastes that I always keep in my heart, naturally adapting them to an international clientele of a certain level.
About the Mediterranean thing… try my semifreddo with basil and my apricot mousse with rosemary ….

DINNER AT THE ALCOVA, THE RESTAURANT OF THE LUXURIOUS HOTEL CA’SAGREDO, VENICE
Prosecco on the table, (with which I adopted with throughout the all dinner) and small varied sandwiches, including a delicious black fennel bread.                                                                 
As a starter a pie of beets, figs, almonds and mini melon balls. I’m not a big lover of sweet and sour, but I found it pleasant.

 

Here is comes a more determined and tasty stewed moscardino with polenta, a typical Venetian dish. As pasta dishes, I tried the spaghetti with zucchini and mint, creamed with bottarga. Honestly I found the flavors a bit ‘disjointed, perhaps not very connected, I definitely preferred spaghetti with cuttlefish ink served with crispy cuttlefish, al dente, tasty, light and not too saturated of fishy flavor.                                                                              Then a chef recommendation: fresh sea bass served on squares of a slightly acetate panzanella bread garnished with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and red onions.

 

The pairing with the panzanella didn’t really appealed to me, but I respect the intentions of Bassano, who’s Salento’s origins like to add to the menu a little of Mediterranean cuisine and the aroma of the local herbs, as in the grand finale:
a mousse
with basil and a spectacular rosemary semifreddo.
Fresh and refreshing, with an extra point to the rosemary!

 

Restaurant L’Alcova

Hotel Ca’Sagredo

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VENICE. THE HANDS OF THE SPLENDID CA’ SAGREDO

                                                                               Buongiorno Cesare, sorry I literally have 5 minutes, i got to run to Mestre to sign the extension of showing ‘Support’.

They accepted our proposal, therefore Lorenzo’s sculpture is going to stay, It’s a victory!”

 

 

I am in Venice and I am meeting the flamboyant Lorenza Lain, general Manager of Hotel Ca’Sagredo,
The sculpture she is referring to is the amazing (and controversial) ‘Support’  an artwork by Lorenzo Quinn, an Artist known to sculpture body parts, and especially hands. as these two giant hands rising from the waters of the Grand Canal ideally aiming to protect the façade of Ca’ Sagredo, one of Venice’s most beautiful and iconic buildings that risks sinking due to a changing climate. At the same time, however, they could destroy it and let the city sink at any moment, because “A hand could hold so much power, said Quin, the power to love, to hate, to create, to destroy. “Venice is a city of floating art that has inspired cultures for centuries, said Quinn, but in order to continue to be like this, it needs the support of our generation and the future ones, because it is threatened by climate change and the decay caused by time”.Inaugurated on May, the sculpture was supposed to remain there until November., but thanks to the combative pressure of Lorenza and her team, it is still standing and it will stay longer.
The sculpture created a controversy: are the hands symbolically saving Venice from the threats linked to climate change or may be interpreted as instruments capable of destroying the city ? I walked on the small streets of the city and asked few locals (wasn’t easy to find some real ones, they were mostly tourists…) I got different answers:
The younger guys see the art as a positive message:.”Sure  those hands are protecting our city” “Can’t you see? Venice is sinking, needs a support, I wish the hands would stay forever and I hope to see more of them to protect other buildings” Someone, more cynically  went like “Nah, to me is the symbol of the invasion of too many tourist getting their hands on Venice and trying to steal its beauty”  Finally an older lady told me ” C’mon the hands are innocent! those are baby’s hands!
I guess she is right, the hands are the ones of a boy, as the model was Lorenzo’s son Anthony who is eleven years old.
Ca’ Sagreto benefitted of a huge amount of pics, videos and selfies, stimulating the curiosity to visit and stay in the hotel . I did, I spend a great night in one of the room , facing the canal. I was happy right from my arrival, welcomed by an
enchanting lobby and a high-level reception where you can find all the information you need to be guided to discover the magic of Venice. My room was charming, with Venetian glass lamps, white marble bathroom, comfy bed, a private little terrace and a complimentary tempting selection of chocolates and truffles.

In the morning I took a tour of the venue, excited to discovered the magnificent palazzo, which is the only Museum-Hotel of the City. The venue is a meticulously renovated 15th-century palace, with its lavish pink façade, between Ca’ d’Oro and the Rialto Bridge on the spectacular Grand Canal. I took me time to discover the extraordinary artworks throughout the palazzo.It is a real gem, half hotel, half museum with important works of art by 17th and 18th-century artists Sebastiano Ricci, Niccolò Bambini, Pietro Longhi and a beautiful Giambattista Tiepolo‘s canvas dated circa 1740. From every room and Suite you can admire the beauty of the lagoon city, the passage of Venetian gondolas and the roofs of romantic Venice. All accommodations have the most modern comforts from A/C to Wi-Fi. The rooms and suites are ideal both for a romantic visit to Venice and for a family to discover the Arts and Cultures of Venice.

 

 

 

 

 

The breakfast was essential, but made with fresh and quality food, and served in the amazing Sala del Doge, where the ceiling holds a painting by Nicolò Bambini, depicting a glorious god Apollo from which the other characters try to find shelter.Unfortunately I had no time Ca’ Sagredo’s restaurant  L’Alcova with its splendid panoramic terrace on the Canal Grande, featuring Chef Damiano Bassano who has worked in Paris, Strasbourg, Spain, USA and Spain in the three-star Michelin-starred restaurant Ferran Adrià, in Catalonia.
Damiano’s kitchen is a laboratory of traditional Italian flavors combined with unique touches are the distinctive elements of its cuisine, such as “Marsala scented tuna medallions” and t”Carnaroli risotto with prawns, burrata and almonds
I will definitely go back to Ca’ Sagredo and try his dishes,
and please…keep those ‘hands’ on!                           Ca’ Sagredo
is one of the  Small Luxury Hotels on the World.