The Rialto Fish Market in Venice, Italy (2008)
Venice was the first city in Italy I ever visited. It was as beautiful as I had ever heard, more so even. Though there were things of beauty other than canals and architecture I found in Venice… like the seafood. My knowledge of Italian seafood dishes was pretty limited before traveling here and I knew even less about traditional Venetian dishes or the bounty of the sea they represent. Here, for the first time, I experienced pasta with an entire sauce of fresh squid or cuttlefish ink. The little snacks known as cicchetti served in the bàcari (cicchetti bars) like creamed dried cod (baccalà mantecato), fried sardines with pickled onions, raisins and pine nuts (sarde in saór), fresh anchovies – not salted or canned – marinated in vinegar (alici marinati) and octopus salad (insalata di polpo) were all revelations. Partly because these dishes were so different from the ones I knew and partly because the seafood from these waters was of incredible quality. Having visited Tsukiji in Japan, I thought my days of being blown away by fish markets were over, not so. The Rialto Fish Market in the photo above was an amazing place, filled with everything from branzino to scorpion fish, live eel to mantis shrimp – all pristine and key to the local cuisine. Known as the Mercato del Pesce al Minuto in Italian or simply La Pescarìa in Venetian, this is the place I would send anyone who wanted to see the heart of Venice.