Baccalà mantecato is “an obligatory taste of Venice,” says Food52 -- “you cannot talk about Venetian food without talking about the cicheto, that wonderful ritual bite to eat with a sparkling, candy-colored glass of spritz or an ombra, a little, rounded glass of local wine … and you cannot talk about the cicheto without mentioning baccalà mantecato … dried Atlantic cod, soaked, poached and whipped until mousse-like, spread on a slice of baguette or, more traditionally, grilled polenta.”
It comes from a remote Norwegian archipelago. The arrival of baccala in Venice happened largely by accident, as Luca Marchiori at Great Italian Chefs explains: “In 1432 a Venetian merchant, Pietro Querini, found himself shipwrecked off the Lofoten islands in Norway. While he was waiting for someone to send a Venetian galley to pick him up, he gorged himself on the local dried fish and brought a large quantity of it as emergency rations for the return journey, in case of similar misfortunes. Arriving back in Venice without incident, Querini sold the baccala on the Rialto and it became an overnight sensation. Ships have been going back and forth to Norway picking up supplies for hungry Venetians ever since.”
The best places to sample good baccala? Try gourmet cicheteria such as All’Arco, Estro, Cantinone Già Schiavi, Osteria al Squero, and El Sbarlefo. And if you fancy making it at home you’ll find a recipe at Food52.
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