“Venetian coffee is said to surpass all others”
Farewell meat. Hello coffee. Only a few days left before Fat Tuesday. I plan on celebrating with a coffee drink named after the Carnevale City of Venice. To make a Venetian Coffee, put a sugar cube* in a mug. Add 1 ounce of brandy, then fill with hot black coffee and top with whipped cream. Traditionally served in a footed glass coffee mug, Venetians often drink their coffee with a baicoli, a special Venetian biscotti.
Costumed partygoers can be found drinking coffee or sipping their hot chocolate while nibbling on traditional Carnevale pastries: galani, crunchy slivers of biscuit and fritelle, soft oval-shaped doughnuts, plain, studded with raisins or stuffed with chocolate or zabaione custard cream.
*You can replace the cube of sugar with a 1/2 ounce of dark cream di cacao if you like.
Do you have your mask?
Today is Martedi Grasso (Fat Tuesday) and the perfect opportunity for you to assume another persona hidden behind the masks of Carnevale. Which would you choose?
The crafty hunchback Pulcinella with baggy white trousers and long nose that resembles a beak. Pantalone in his red tights and Turkish slippers, an indulgent vain-glorious old man with bushy eyebrows that peer at pretty women. Il Dottore, a pompous scholar from Bologna, a doctor of medicine or law or anything else he claims to know about, which is most things. Or Capitano Scaramouche a dashing,boasting, swashbuckling military officer, dressed in a cape, feathered hat and high boots telling extraordinary tales about how he single handedly beat a whole army of infidels.
I would be Colombina ( “little dove” in Italian) the lady servant. Somewhat lustier and more buxom than I, she is described as having a keen and active wit with a “functional intellect”, ever ready to help lovers. Not quite I but after all it is Carnevale.
An Aperol spritz makes a light and refreshing Carnevale Cocktail. Mix 2 parts of Aperol with 3 parts of chilled Prosecco. Add a splash of chilled seltzer or mineral water and garnish with a lemon twist or slice of orange.
Similar to Campari, Northern Italy’s iconic apertivo, Aperol is slightly sweeter and has a lower alcohol content. Serve this drink in a champagne flute, hide behind your mask and indulge in the masquerade of Carnevale in Venice.
Venice is in the throes of Carnevale with masquerades, fireworks, festivals and food but the historical Venetian Carnevale had moments that played out like a scene from Scorsese’s Gangs of New York. Leonardo Dicaprio’s role would be as a battagliere, part of a mob of men representing different factions of the city (sailors and shipbuilders vs. fisherman) in a prearranged mock battle or battagliola. Described as “too small to be a war too cruel to be a game”, these staged fights involved men with helmets and shields hitting each other with wooden sticks called canne. When fought on one of the many ponti or bridges over the canals of Venice these ritual encounters were called battagliole sui ponti or “little battles on the bridges”. Frenzied Renaissance crowds were known to throw roof tiles off the nearby balconies in support of their gang.