Venice has 'captured' the heart, mind and imagination of so many writers, poets, artists and historians. Venice is one of my favourite subjects in art, literature and history, and I am always eager to learn more and look more at this unique and special place. This Venice blog is my way of collecting the wealth of images, poems, prose and impressions of Venice.

Tuesday 11 February 2014

Veneto regional dinner at Vini Sydney

I seem to be on roll talking about food, so I figured, why not keep going?

My favourite Italian restaurant in Sydney is called Vini. 

It opened up several years ago near my former workplace – a handy spot for an escapist lunch, farewell lunch, coffee meeting or a quick drink on the way home from work.  It’s fiendishly difficult to nab a table at the tiny restaurant so it was also fantastic to hot-foot it straight from my desk to the restaurant to secure a spot for dinner. 

Now that I work further away from Vini, I tend to visit on Tuesday nights when it offers a four-course dinner exploring different regions of Italy, and importantly, two sittings which can be booked.  At some point during the evening, the chef will always step out of the kitchen to greet his diners and explain the menu.

Of course, my attention is always piqued when the ‘Veneto’ region comes around again, and a few weeks ago I dragged my husband and another willing accomplice along to the 8.30pm sitting. 

Here’s a photo of the menu for the evening:

Veneto regional dinner menu at Vini Sydney
When I first started attending the Venice/ Veneto regional dinners, all the things that you’d expect to find would make an appearance, depending on the season: cichetti, risotto, radicchio, polenta, tiramisu...

As the years have gone by, I’m finding the menu becomes increasingly intriguing and on this most recent visit, we had the opportunity to taste and learn about some dishes that I’d never seen on restaurant menus in the Veneto, nor in my Veneto cookbooks.

Once everyone was seated, the wine was poured (a glass of soave) and the antipasto began to be served.  Out came a plate of kingfish carpaccio, which was peppery, lemony and fresh with lots of feathery dill.

Veneto regional dinner - fish carpaccio at Vini Sydney

Next a board heaped with casalina (a white, soft, slightly sour cheese from Treviso) served with a delicious cotecchino and mix of lentils and peara – a sauce made from crumbled bread, bone marrow and pepper.

Veneto regional dinner - casalina and cotechino at Vini Sydney 

Finally, a bowl of panada was placed on the table.  It was served in a plain brown terracotta bowl, and basically looked like a smooth bread coloured sauce.  

The chef explained that the kitchen had baked fresh bread, allowed it get slightly stale, and then used the bread to prepare a sauce flavoured with cream, cinnamon, parsley and broth, which was topped with cheese and rosemary.  I could eat this every night.  I could have licked the bowl.  It was scrumptious.

Veneto regional dinner - panada at Vini Sydney

I was still feeling stunned by the panada when pristine white bowls of the squid ink risotto appeared.  Garnished with strips of tender octopus and chips of deep fried garlic, it was light and delicious.

Veneto regional dinner - risotto al nero at Vini Sydney

I could have easily stopped there, but we were only half-way through. 

Next up, were boards heaped with fall-apart tender pork cooked in milk, alongside roasted salty potatoes and beans, accompanied by a velvet smooth glass of valpolicella.  The blurriness of my photos below match the blurriness that I was beginning to feel from the wine and food!

Veneto regional dinner - maiale al latte at Vini Sydney
Veneto regional dinner - patate alla veneziana at Vini Sydney
And finally, fregolata for dessert – a crumbly biscuit-like sweet that was served with some tiny crunchy pears and sweet blueberries. 

Veneto regional dinner - fregolata at Vini Sydney
Stunning, delicious and surprising.  Thank you, Vini, for another fabulous experience.  I can hardly wait for the next Veneto regional dinner.

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