What town in Italy is known for a bridge, a spring time vegetable and fragrant liquor that is part of its name but is not the reason for it? The answer – Bassano del Grappa, an hour’s drive southeast of Venice. Let me explain.
First the vegetable.
In April and May visitors from across Italy come to the Northern Italian river town of Bassano del Grappa to sample the delicate white asparagus. Grown entirely underground, it has been described by Lidia Bastianich as the “epitome of seasonal food”. Delicate and unique, sweet and slightly bitter, it has a cult following that draws food enthusiasts to feste and weekend festivals throughout the season.
Next the bridge.
The historical center of Bassano del Grappa is split in half by the Brenta River. A covered wooden bridge, designed in 1569 by the famous Italian architect Andrea Palladio was rebuilt at the end of WWII by Italy’s special mountain soldiers (degli Alpini) and renamed Ponte degli Alpini, the Bridge of the Alpini, in honor of their fallen comrades. The piviotal role of the bridge in the military history of the region is long standing. Our grandfather crossed this bridge, during WWI as a young interpreter with the Italian Army.
And finally the fragrant liquor.
Although many people think that Bassano del Grappa is named after what is considered to be Italy’s strongest spirit, the town gets its name from nearby Monte Grappa (grappa means crag in ancient pre-Latin). There is a world-famous grapperia in Bassano, Grapperia Nardini. Founded in 1779, it is considered to produce one of the most exquisite grappas in Italy.
In April and May visitors from across Italy come to the Northern Italian river town of Bassano del Grappa to sample the delicate white asparagus of the Veneto.
It is the IT seasonal vegetable of Italy this time of the year. Grown entirely underground, this goddess of the underworld is so precious and legendary that it has been granted PDO status by the Italian government. Described by Lidia Bastianich as the “epitome of seasonal food” it is so unique that when marketed the bundles of asparagus are tied with a willow string, banded and marked with the name and surname of the producer and the locality where it was produced.
Delicate and unique, sweet and slightly bitter, it has a cult following that draws food enthusiasts to feste and weekend festivals throughout the season. Local restaurateurs vie for the most imaginative use of Bassano’s “white gold” with newly created dishes showcased on their spring menus. Typically served ovi e sparasi, with soft-boiled eggs and a dipping sauce of extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper or asparagi alla parmigiana (blanched asparagus topped with melted butter and grated parmigiano) they are best served simply and simply taste deliziosi!
Tagliatelle all’uovo with White Asparagus
8.8 oz of tagliatelle all’uovo pasta
1 small bunch of white asparagus
2 T of unsalted butter
1 finely chopped hard-boiled egg
Coarse ground salt and black pepper
Boil the asparagus (previously washed and cleaned) into a pot full of salted water. Do not overcook. Drain. Cut their ends into many thin pieces, retain the tops to measure approximately 1 cup. Melt butter in a skillet, add the chopped asparagus and their tops. Add salt and pepper. Lightly saute. Cook the pasta retaining some of the boiled water if needed to loosen the sauce. Combine drained pasta with the asparagus sauce. Add finely chopped hard-boiled egg on top. Serve immediately.