Enrica Rocca’s Cooking School
- Sunday, 11 January 2015 12:47 | Composed by Laura Goyer
I have been in Venice for 10 times at that time I meet Enrica Rocca; long past the point where I can stomach a second meal from a restaurant with unappetizing photos of pasta plastered in the window. I’m desperate for something authentic and, as I walk with her throughout the Rialto markets, I feel I’ve found it. An native Venetian, Enrica is on a first name basis with many (or even all) of the sellers and shopkeepers in town. The fishmongers in the Pescaria phone out to her in greeting, rapping her over to show off the morning catch. In the Erbaria, the produce sellers are equally eager to sell her their finest — baby artichokes from nearby Sant’ Erasmo, bergamot from the province of Reggio di Calabria, and long curled minds of Treviso from the Veneto area. She adds glowing green bunches of parsley, winter squash, cauliflower, and chubby porcini for her shopping list before a beaming moustached-man tucks her purchases into her shopping cart.
Pristine local ingredients are essential to Enrica’s cooking. She doesn’t use recipes, doesn’t have a set of measuring cups or spoons, also rarely makes dessert. She is based rather on spontaneity and creativity in the kitchen, also encourages her guests to do the same; to let their perceptions be their manual. “Stick your finger into the pot and flavor it” she recommends. How else will you know if the saffron-scented cauliflower wants more salt?
The cooking class occurs within Enrica’s family palazzo on a side street in the Dorsoduro sestiere; a calle so silent that when I throw a bowl of shrimp shells from the window, I will listen to the gentle splash they create in the black canal two stories below.
Each of us decide for ourselves just how much we want to participate. I pair up with Kristen a friendly woman from the Midwest who is on shore leave from one of the monumental cruise ships docked in the Venice Cruise Terminal. Collectively we clean a mountain of slick squid (maybe not a task for the squeamish), yanking their heads off to remove their own innards, then putting our fingers inside to pull the challenging quill that acts as a backbone. While we work, Kristen’s husband stations himself next to the fridge door, making sure that no wine glass extends vacant. The class is as free-flowing as the Prosecco — similar to a stylish, upscale dinner party with an international guest list (like the beautiful wife of a famous Italian jewellery designer) compared to an instructor-led classroom.
The food we cook ends up to be the best meal I eat during my entire stay in Venice. We begin with all the antipasti — baby scallops sprinkled with bergamot peel, bread crumbs, ginger and thyme, a satisfyingly crunchy salad made from prized St. Erasmo castraure artichokes, then bitter-sweet Treviso garnished with honey and balsamic vinegar. Next, the primo, or first course, where I mimicked the calamari I cleaned earlier, now filled with candy winter squash and sautéed until golden brown, then followed closely by tender monkfish lips served on a bed of perfectly seasoned glossy cauliflower purée. I’m astonished by the sheer volume of food and wonder just how I find space for the main course, the secondi, La Pasta alla Busara, a combined mix of pasta with scampi, baby tomatoes, garlic, and chilli. We complete our banquet with all Grey Mullet Mare e Monti (meaning where the sea meets the mountains), a whole mullet roasted beneath buttery porcini, and I’m relieved that Enrica doesn’t ‘do’ dessert.
It is after 11:00 pm once I return into the Accademia vaporetto stop. The water bus operates less often during the night time and, judging from the ripples on the bicycle’s surface, I have just missed it. As I settle in to await the subsequent one, I re-visit the afternoon’s tastes and textures in my head, wanting to commit each person to memory. I know I have experienced the true Venice, a facet of town I’d have never found in my, and I love the way Enrica Rocca’s private cooking school earned its reputation among the best on the planet.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
A live-in aspiring culinarian and Julia Child enthusiast, Laura Goyer is obsessed with cooking classes, leather bag, and Duolingo. She’s the founder and editor of The Culinary Travel Guide, and a proud member of the World Gourmet Society and the Professional Travel Bloggers Association. When she is not working, she is producing new flavor memories, searching for unforgettable land and seascapes, and brushing up on her Spanish.
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