If there is something I'm really fond of, it's the aperitivo. It doesn't necessarily have to happen outside, on the contrary, home aperitifs are the ones I enjoy the most. I see it as a time to detach from your own world, do some easy chit chat in front of a glass of wine and unwind.
For today' s aperitif I decided to make two types of crostini with mushrooms. I just had to buy mushrooms, as they kept appearing at every stall and were just too tempting. They're still a little expensive, so I opted for the more affordable chiodini and finferli, and decided to save porcini for a more sumptuous occasion. As for the bread, I got a loaf of brown bread (filone integrale) at Panificio Crosera, among my favourite bakaries in Venice. Vito, instead, got the wine, a bottle of In Vino Veritas, a blend of malvasia, dorona and glera grapes produced on the island of San Michele by the association Laguna nel Bicchiere. In July I went to visit the vineyards and, in this post, I want to tell you more about this reality.
But first things first. Everything started in 1993, when Flavio Franceschet, professor at a local middle high school, found out about the vineyard cultivated by the friars in the convent of San Francesco della Vigna. From that moment on, a series of educational projects involving students and local inhabitants and aimed at the safeguarding of the territory started. Many green areas were recovered and converted into vineyards (San Michele, Zittelle, Sant' Erasmo, Vignole, La Tana, Malamocco) and in 2008, once retired, Flavio launched the event "Laguna nel Bicchiere" to promote the wines produced on such vineyards. The project caught people's attention even more, more members of the community wanted to be involved and the wines increased in popularity, also thanks to the participation of renowned figures of the restorateur and wine world like Mauro Lorenzon (Mascareta), Cesare Benelli (Al Covo), Alfio Lovisa (Opificio La Ganga farm) and Gian Antonio Posocco (Assiria vini naturali). The wines are natural, with no added sulphites, simple table wines that I appreciate for their ease of drink. I really think you ought to taste them too, as they are extremely unique and with that typical flavour and light saltiness of the lagoon, impossible to find anywhere else.
The association mostly relies on the work of volunteers, so in July I went to see the vineyard on San Michele and ask a couple of questions. As you probably know, San Michele is the local cemetery, so the atmosphere is very unique. Please, don't imagine anything creepy or eery, on the contrary, there is a positive sense of connection between past and future and a strong feel of love. The island is beautiful: the church is the first example of Renaissance architecture in Venice, the courtyards are bright and airy and the shade of the trees allows people to stop and take their time. When I went, I was greeted by an adopted Venetian (originally from Australia) called Coleen, a volunteer. She met me at the boat stop at a quarter past 7 am. It was incredibly hot, they needed to set up the nets against the birds, so they had to start early to avoid the heat of the warmer hours. Posocco was there to guide the works.
That specific day there were only two volunteers. They have a WhatsApp group through which they organise their meetings, which are often turned into occasions of sharing and followed by an easy-going picnic. I find it amazing that people decide to use their spare time to bring a positive contribution, although I have to say I hope some day there will be a major investor who will take on actual personnel. Being a farmer is a real job, quite difficult and challenging, and a farm/vineyard needs constant attention and care. Obviously, in this case if it wasn't for the volunteers we wouldn't even be speaking about this reality, so I am just grateful and thankful, I am referring to the general situation in which the city lies. Unfortunately what is happening on many islands is that the investors buy land with the excuse of growing crops, but then what they actually do is privatise the place and turn it into a luxury resort that does nothing and brings nothing to the community.
Anyway, I enjoyed my time there. They had to get going, so I just had a brief chat and quick look around: in addition to the grapes (of which I want to re-mention the native dorona), there were also plums and flowers. The covered area with the canteens was, as it should be, dark and humid, with lots of barrels, carboys and bottles. Random objects like straw hats, drawings, bags and more looked as testimonies of the presence of the workers, adding a feel of 'life' and 'humanity' to the place. After a while I left. I didn't have the time to stop and help and didn't want to disturb, so once left the vines, I had a walk in the cemetery and visited my grandparents. Overall, a lovely morning with wonderful people.
I hope that what I wrote is enough to convince you to try this wine while in Venice! The labels are four: Le Zittelle Fertili (blend of cabernet, merlot and lambrusco), La Tana Sconta (a friulano), Arcangeli Scalzi (moscato) and In Vino Veritas (malvasia, dorona and glera), each very unique and worth at least a sip. In order to taste them, you must participate in one of their events (join their Facebook group for updates) or becoming a member of the association and taking part in the works (for info on how to become a member, send an email through this from).
One of the reasons why Vito likes to be part of this community, is exactly this: not only do we get to drink authentically Venetian wine, we can also support a positive activity for the city. Anyway, to accompany the wine In Vino Veritas, I made two types of crostini: one with chiodini and a chickpea spread, and the other with finferli and mozzarella fior di latte. The chiodini have an earthier taste and combine perfectly with the chickpea spread (a sort of denser hummus, but with no tahini - I use these chickpeas here, the best, trust me), while the milder finferli and the mozzarella, well... mouthwatering!!!! A perfect Venetian style aperitif, let me know what you think and buon appetito!
2 TYPES OF VEGETARIAN CROSTINI WITH MUSHROOMS
Prep. Time: 10'
Cook Time: 10/12'
Yield: about 12 crostini
1 loaf of brown bread
200 gr chiodini mushrooms
200 gr finferli mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic
1 canned organic chickpeas
3 black olives
1 mozzarella fior di latte
rocket salad to garnish (optional)
extra virgin olive oil
1) Wash the mushrooms well, then cook with the same method in two separate pans: heat the pan, pour some oil, add a crushed clove of garlic, the mushrooms, a pinch of salt and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
2) In the meantime, drain the chickpeas and wash well. Put in a steel bowl with the chopped black olives and lots of olive oil, stir and mix with a hand-blender/food processor, until you get a nice soft spread. Keep aside.
3) Open the mozzarella and tear with your hands into small pieces.
4) When the mushrooms are ready, let cool and slice the bread (and toast if you like).
5) Spread the chickpea cream on half of the crostini and tops with the chiodini mushrooms, then place the mozzarella on the other half of your crostini and top with the finferli. Grind some pepper, sprinkle with a little bit of roughly chopped rocket salad and serve.