How to Host a Venetian-Style Picnic
Chefs Michael Lombardi and Kevin O’Donnell opened SRV, or Serene Republic of Venice, earlier this year as an homage to the Italian city. The upscale eatery, located in Boston’s historic South End, is the city’s first Venetian-style bacaro and wine bar. It’s also the first Boston restaurant to mill its own flour in-house, sourcing grains from a nearby Massachusetts farm. The restaurant offers popular “cicchetti” or small bites, as well as hearty pastas, protein and fish.
We asked Chefs Lombardi and O’Donnell how to create the perfect Venetian-style picnic, and they gave us a mouth-watering selection of summertime dishes, perfect for serving alfresco.
Serve a meat and cheese board
Gather a selection of cured meats and cheeses from the Veneto and other Northern Italian territories. We recommend Speck from Alto Adige or Sopressa Veneta. Cheeses like montasio, asiago or smoked ricotta pair well. Don’t forget a selection of bread for crostini.
Pair with a dip
Make your own dip to eat with the crostini. We like Baccala Mantecato.
This is a multi-step process
1. Buy 1 lb of fresh cod.
2. Season the cod with 2 ounces of salt mixed with 1 ounce of sugar and leave for 12 hours.
3. Soak the cod in abundant water for 4 hours changing the water after the first 2 hours.
4. Poach the cod in milk until cooked through and then strain from the milk but reserve the cooking liquid.
5. Sweat 2 ounces of garlic in olive oil and then add 10 ounces of the milk from cooking the cod plus 2 ounces of toasted bread. Cook the bread in the milk until the bread is fully saturated and then process in a food processor until smooth.
6. Add the cooked cod to a kitchen aid mixer with a paddle attachment and break up the cod into the smallest pieces possible. Add in the bread, garlic, and milk mixture slowly until fully incorporated. Stream in 1/2 cup of good olive oil and set aside to cool.
These are crustless tea sandwiches that are very popular in Venice and perfect for a picnic. You can make them with anything from cured meat and cheese to roasted vegetables. We recommend tramezzini with smoked salmon, pickled mustard seeds, shallots, mascarpone and parsley.
Smoked Salmon Tramezzini
1. Shred 1 cup of smoked salmon and mix it with 1 cup of mascarpone cheese.
2. Add the zest of 2 lemons and the juice of 1.
3. Add 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley, mustard seeds, and minced shallots.
4. Season with salt and spread the mix onto white bread.
5. Cut the crust off and then cut the sandwiches into triangles.
Whip up a fresh summer salad
We’d pair the tramezzini with a bitter chicory salad. Add lemon vinaigrette, gorgonzola dolce and toasted walnuts.
1. Buy a selection of bitter chicories like treviso radicchio, castelfranco radicchio, belgian endive, and frisee.
2. Clean all of the greens and fold them together in a bowl.
3. To make the vinaigrette, mix 1 cup of fresh lemon juice and 1 cup of good olive oil.
4. Toast walnuts in a 350 degree oven and add to the greens.
5. Dress the salad gently and season with salt and black pepper.
6. Add in pieces of gorgonzola dolce and serve.
Swap with or add a seafood salad
For a heartier salad option, we love this seafood salad with calamari, baby octopus, steamed mussels, aleppo chili, parsley, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil.
1. Sweat 6 cloves of garlic with no color in a pot and add 3 sprigs of thyme.
2. Add 1/2 bottle of white wine and 1 lb of mussels.
3. Steam until the mussels open and then remove from the heat. Let cool and pick the meat from their shell. Reserve the cooking liquid.
4. Clean 1 lb of calamari and season it with salt and pepper. Cook it on a grill or quickly sauteed in olive oil. You do not want the calamari to become chewy so make the cooking hot and fast.
5. Add 1 lb of baby octopus to a pot of red cooking wine with a head of garlic cut in half and 4 or 5 sprigs of thyme, 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns and 2 bay leaves. Cook on a simmer until tender and cool.
6. Mix the three cooked types of seafood. Feel free to add in clams or any other cooked fish that you desire.
Seafood salad dressing
1. Mix 1 cup of lemon juice with 1 cup of olive oil and 1 cup of the strained cooking liquid from the mussels.
2. Add 2 tablespoons of aleppo chili, 4 tablespoons of chopped parsley, and grate one clove of raw garlic into the marinade.
3. Toss the dressing over the seafood and serve chilled.
Don’t forget a bubbly cocktail
Ted Hawkins, SRV’s General Manager, oversees the beverage program and says, “Nothing is better for a Venetian picnic than an Aperol Spritz!” He advises serving in a clear plastic cup.
2 oz Prosecco
1 1/4 oz Aperol (Campari will do)
Splash of Soda water
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