Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Taste of Venice — Locanda Cipriani, Torcello

We enjoyed 5 fabulous days in Venice last May as part of my parent's 50th Wedding Anniversary celebration that featured a Silversea cruise from Venice to Civitavecchia, so arriving in Venice five days before the cruise departed we were able to explore the city at length. One of the highlights of our stay in Venice was when we took the 'N' vaporetto to the island of Torcello, located at the northern end of the Venetian lagoon, where I had made lunch reservations at Locanda Cipriani, long a favourite with English royalty and Hollywood stars. The vaporetto departed from Fondamenta Nove near St Mark's Square and took 45 minutes, stopping along the way at the Lido and continuing to the island of Burano. 

It was a gorgeous sunny summer day as we spent an hour or so exploring Burano, the island known for it's lace, and the small adjacent agricultural island of Mazzorbo, before catching the small motor launch to Torcello, a short 5 minute journey from Burano. Torcello is a serene and charming island — a welcome respite from the hustle bustle of central Venice. 

From the wharf, we walked along the inland canal, and past the Ponte del Diavolo (Devil's Bridge), arriving at Locanda Cipriani at noon. We were greeted at the door and escorted through the restaurant to the beautiful outdoor terrace overlooking a rose garden with wisteria and grape-lined trellises, and the 11th century church of Santa Fosca. Being the first people to arrive for lunch, we were given the primo table along the edge of the rose garden! We started with a campari and soda and perused the menu. 

My husband Guy ordered the Tagliolini verde gratinati al prosciutto, rich with prosciutto, cream, cheese and butter. With the area's outstanding reputation for seafood, I had gamberetti, the tiny lagoon shrimp, over white polenta, followed by the restaurant's signature dish of John Dory 'alla Carlina'. But it was Guy's tagliolini that I recall as being unforgettable. Here is the treasured recipe. It is very rich, so a small portion goes a long way.

Tagliolini Verde Gratinati al Prosciutto
Serves 2


3 tbl butter
1/2 cup (60 gr) prosciutto, thick cut, cut into julienne strips
3/4 lb (330 gr) dried tagliolini pasta
1/2 cup (54 gr) parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/2 cup Bechamel sauce
salt and papper to taste

Preheat broiler. Put water to boil for pasta. Melt 1 tbl of the butter in a copper pan, or skillet, over medium-high heat. Add the prosciutto and cook it for a minute, stirring constantly. Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente. Drain it well in a colander, and put it in a copper pan or skillet. Toss it with the prosciutto, add another tbl of the butter, sprinkle with half the parmesan, and toss well. Spread the pasta evenly in a casserole dish. Spoon the bechamel sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan cheese. Cut the remaining butter in to bits and scatter over the top. Broil as close as possible to the heat source (or 475°) until golden and bubbly, about 3-5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Bechamel Sauce
2 tbl butter
2 tbl flour
1 cup whole milk

Put pan on medium heat and place butter in, add flour, mix well. Using a wooden spoon, stir for 2-3 minutes so you cook away the flour taste before adding the milk. Whisk constantly to avoid lumps. Use more milk for looser sauce.