Six o’clock and the city was clearing out. The cruise ships, tour groups, and all other visitors for the day were departing, and the city was beginning to relax, as if the ancient streets, buildings, and waterways of Venice were letting out a deep, slow exhale.
It was our second night of three in Venice, on our belated honeymoon throughout France, Switzerland, and Northern Italy, and we were beginning to settle in. With its labyrinth of canals, narrow alleys, bridges, and piazzas, it is like no other city on the planet, and when the sun dips down beneath the horizon, Venice looks as though it must have a hundred years ago, if not more. A stunning, heart-stopping beauty.
In each city, town, and tiny village we visited, I had been on a hunt for local food and wine. Here, in Venice, my hunt had brought us to an old restaurant in a former boathouse for Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia, pasta in cuttlefish ink sauce. No time was wasted ordering, and while we sat anxiously waiting for our pasta, we sipped cool, crisp Prosecco, the sparkling wine known all over the world, but here in the Veneto region, it’s the local juice.
The food arrived and we dove straight in. Deep, briny flavors from the pasta paired perfectly with the lively, citrus-perfumed, acidic wine, balancing oceanic flavors, with bright, fresh lemon-peel aromas - and the mouth-blackening squid ink added a bit of fun to the meal, as my wife and I took turns showing each other our stained teeth and tongues. It was an unforgettable meal and a cherished memory.
Now, back in New York, I wanted to recreate this special dinner. I sourced cuttlefish ink and fresh squid, and bought the finest bucatini I could, to create a toothsome pasta dish. All I needed now was the wine, which led me to Casa Belfi.
In a region flooded with mass produced, ultra-commercialized wines, Casa Belfi stands out in its quality and strict biodynamic practices. The estate is located in Valdobbiadene, the historic Prosecco producing town only 50 km from Venice. Winemaker Maurizio Donati encourages biodiversity in the vineyard, and all fermentation is done by indigenous yeast. Stainless steel is mainly used, but some experimentation with amphorae is done for certain cuvees as well.
I chose the Casa Belfi Colfondo Prosecco for my wine pairing, where the second fermentation takes place in the bottle without disgorgement. In the glass, the bright, golden wine with its slow moving, yet persistent bubbles, brims with bready yeast, lemon curd, and fresh, floral pear aromas, and a fine mousse and lively acidity play on the palate. The vibrant citrus notes perfectly compliment the seafood scented cuttlefish ink sauce and wipe the palate clean with each sip. If I had closed my eyes, I could’ve imagined that I was back in Venice.
With the Covid pandemic still among us, travel is very limited, but these special meals and wines can help us voyage through our memories until the day we can travel again, back to Venice, or wherever your heart may be.