It’s often said that one can only truly know someone’s soul after experiencing the gastronomic culture they have grown up in. Food, wine and celebration are at the centre of who we are and of how we perceive the world. Wherever we might be, we transport them with us as the true meaning of ‘home’.
A Venetian in London
We spoke to Alvise Dalmas, owner of Salotto 31 in London, about what it means to be a true Venetian away from La Serenissima. His restaurant has been a beacon of Venetian culture in the heart of the City since 2015. No one better than him knows how much of a Venetian’s identity is lived through food and wine, namely about the many hours spent drinking ombra (the Venetian dialect word for glass of wine), eating cicchetti and chatting with friends on a crowded alley. As the most planted and most loved variety in the Triveneto, Pinot Grigio is the default pour when an ombra is served.
‘It’s all about being with people, about proximity, about rubbing shoulders and elbows. That’s probably the hardest thing to replicate in London,’ says Alvise. ‘You stand on the street, glass of wine in one hand, cicchetti on the other, chatting with friends, before heading to the next place. It’s the true Venetian experience.’
Cicchetti can be found at bacari (the Venetian word for wine bar, bacaro, is very likely an etymological tribute to the ancient Roman god of wine, Bacchus), lining the counters with a kaleidoscopic selection of delicious beauty. They evoke the basque pintxos, but can be noticeably more elaborate and diverse.
Alvise highlights the sophisticated simplicity of cicchetti, some of which can be true miniature masterpieces. ‘It all starts with the base, usually crusty bread, but then the variety is infinite. You even have small versions or what are very traditional recipes, like bacalao a la vicentina’
This same sophisticated simplicity is embodied by cicchettis’ best companion: Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC. These are wines to be enjoyed and enjoyable, a vehicle of exchange and conversation; wines that are approachable and fresh without losing the character and structure to make them ideal food partners.
Cicchetti come in many shapes and sizes, from crostini (small open sandwiches), to polpette (fried meatballs) and miniature skewers. The common denominator is the freshness of ingredients and the masterful combination of different complementing flavours and textures. Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC follows the same straightforward approach, making the most of the juicy fruitiness of the Pinot Grigio variety and of the character of the Venetians terroirs, some delivering more focused minerality, others more plush fruit. Again, the key is the technical dexterity to make a wine that serves as the ideal backdrop for life’s simple, daily moments of pleasure.
Cicchettis are perfect in their unpretentiousness, effortlessly sophisticated, enjoyable and fun; they can be eaten at any moment of the day with the right company. And they require a wine with very same attributes; a wine born from the same culture of casual hedonism and authentic exchange – Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC.
Non esistono i cicchetti senza ombra che li accompagni!