The little magic that occurs when a chef’s expert hand meets the raw material of fresh food can’t easily be understood by mere mortals. Perhaps that’s why we are condemned to sit in elegant rooms like the one at the Luna Hotel Baglioni’s Canova restaurant and wait with grand expectation for the creations of genius, crafted by an artist like Chef Cosimo Giampaolo.
One cool Venetian winter’s morning, in order to gain more back story for ItalianTalks readers, we accompanied Cosimo to the venerable Rialto Market on the Grand Canal, beginning our odyssey at the Luna Hotel Baglioni, just off Piazza San Marco. From the first moment, Cosimo reminded us of a thoroughbred at the starting gate, anxious to set forth into the market.
In the short walk through passagios and little bridges crossing narrow canals, Cosimo’s pace accelerated, undaunted by the bracing chill. The normally-demure chef strode into his element with an admirable fervor, moving among produce stalls, bantering with vendors about the merits radicchio di Treviso, pointing out the seasonal best from the nearby farms on the isle of San Erasmo, commenting on the exotic fruits and their potential for today’s dessert creations. Then he wandered into the boisterous fish stalls, where ice-filled al fresco counters showcased the Adriatic and Mediterranean’s best.
The intrepid chef moved from stall to stall with definite purpose, comparing the catch of the day, shaping the menu as he went along: artichokes with sea bass, shrimps for tagliatelle pasta, contemplating the canocce – the legendary grey crustacean from the Venice Lagoon. Cosimo paused only long enough to advise an international visitor on the best way to prepare sgombro (mackerel), a fish unjustly derided as poor man’s food, and whose benefits the chef champions.
Then it was back to the Luna, where the chef descended into the mysterious depths of his own kitchen to practice his wizardry. We waited at our table in the Luna’s bar area, as gondolas drifted by the hotel’s private jetty, sipped our prosecco, and remembered the chaos of the market. Then, in a flash of theatre as only Venetians can provide, lunch appeared on the table, and we set into it, amazed at what could be conjured – a blend of artistry, magic and the best of the daily market combined by the mind, eye and hand of a true master.
Gianmatteo Zampieri, Luna Hotel Baglioni Hotel Manager, accompanied us to the market. Wandering among the vendors he couldn’t resist creating his own menu from what was displayed. Here’s his uniquely Italian perspective on the meal he’d like to prepare for Cosimo:
Canocce- Cicale di mare – bollite – olio extra vergine di olive e prezzemolo
(lagoon grey crustaceans in extra virgin olive oil)
Cappesante al forno
(Scallops in shell, “fruit” included)
Gli spaghetti caparozzoli in bianco
(spaghetti and capers without tomato!)
Orata al Sale
Patate e Broccoli bolliti
(Sea Bream and boiled vegetables)
Esse de Buran e Baicoli con Recioto di Gambellara
(Typical S-shaped cookies with a local dessert wine)
Stanley Moss is a brand guru, philosopher, global gypsy, writer, and artist whose new novel, The Hacker, was recently published in India. He’s CEO of a Stockholm-based think-tank on international branding, a faculty member at Verona’s Academia di Belle Arti Cignaroli, and Travel Editor for a New Zealand fashion magazine. Based in Vicenza, he thrives on food, conversation and multiple cups of Italian coffee. Stanley writes for Lucire and also has his own blog.
Photos by Paula Sweet
Concierge tip: If your mouth is already watering at the prospect of an authentic Venetian feast, then why not combine dinner at Chef Cosimo’s Canova restaurant with a meal at the equally-renowned Do Forni restaurant as part of an unforgettable gourmet experience in Venice.