TREVISO & VICENZA
By Mario Batali
Most first time visitors to the Veneto head only to Venezia, and with good reason, it is truly magnificent, one of the handful of outstanding cities in Europe that can easily comprise a whole vacation of leisure, art, history, food and wine and is simply so much as to provide a never ending supply of greatness on so many levels as to supercede external travel. The surrounding provinces of the Veneto are, however, incredibly rich in style, food, wine and art as to merit a separate trip.
Heading northwest from Venezia on the A27 the first stop is Treviso, an incredible town of venetian style canals, northern fashion and an excellent blend of urban chic and undeniable rusticity that makes it a great base for touring the surrounding countryside. In mid December there is a festival of radicchio rosso where farmers from all around celebrate the harvest and compete for best in show with raw and cooked radicchio recipes. The town closes most of its stores on Wednesday afternoons so that is the time to visit Castelfranco Veneto for its own stuff, but for great food shopping try Via Palestro and Via Pescheria, where you will find everything from la Bottega del Baccala a baccala specialized deli with everything local to Lo Spiedo d’oro, a roast shop for chickens and seasonal game to take out to the park for a royal picnic.
My favorite restaurant in Treviso is its oldest, Ristorante Le Beccherie on Piazza Ancillotto, 11, (tel 0422 56601). Housed in what used to be an old inn often frequented by meat sellers, both beef and horse, who sold their goods on the old piazza. The restaurant specializes in classic “cucina trevigiana” with such antipasti as gratin of sea scallops with radicchio or the classic baccala mantecato, served with soft polenta and little savory zaletti. I was last here in late September, so I also had a taste of pasta e fagioli with bits of radicchio, and a plate of small acorn squash gnocchi di zucca, as ethereal as they were redolent of the squash blossoms and butter that sauced them. For the main course, the presence of a cart of “bollito misto” belies commitment and confidence so I had to try it. It was definitive with everything from testina (calves head) to zampone (stuffed pigs trotter), served with a small pot of the softest polenta and a glass of housemade Breganze that underlines the saying “if it grows together, it goes together. In the world of dessert, it is here that tiramisu was born, so I had no other choice… I was happy.
In a slightly more casual and yet every bit as delicious way there is a place called Toni del Spin Via Inferiore, 7 (tel 0422 543829) which defines the key of trattoria in a perfectly trevigiano way. Seven long communal tables in a warm and comfortable room with a level of service that exudes family, but also says expert, make for a casual feeling of homey style. The food is exclusively from Treviso and unapologetically so, I started with a bresaola of donkey with celery and lemon that was sweet and exquisitely light. Bigoli (whole wheat spaghetti) with a duck ragu were at once intensely flavored and beautifully chewy and then zuppa di orzo with cabbage and grain, just lightly thickened with polenta and served with goose liver crostini. Roasted goose followed with a peverada made of chopped egg, anchovies, livers and herbs that tasted like is was 1585 again and went brilliantly with an Amarone from neighboring Verona. Finish this meal with a roasted pear, a piece of asiago and a glass of recioto di soave and we all float together painlessly into the piazza, singing hymns we have never heard before.