Story and photos by Barbara Angelakis
You should add the picturesque medieval town of Treviso to your touring list of the Veneto Region of Italy because it is an ancient walled city of canals, waterwheels, sculptures, bridges and winding streets filled with picturesque photo ops at every turn: or, because the abundant churches and museums are adorned with works from some of the greatest artists of the renaissance: or, because the immediate surrounding areas have blossomed into a shoppers paradise with top-name Italian designer retail factory surplus outlets one after the other: or, because the area is the ne plus ultra terroir for growing “Glera” the Prosecco grape and is the DOC and DOCG for Prosecco, that delicious sparkling wine that is replacing champagne in the hearts of millions of people around the world: or, because Treviso is the birthplace of the delectable dessert tiramisú or, because the area is a foodie’s dream with one wonderful dining experience after another.
Treviso is one of a number of small towns and villages in north-east Italy that is known as the industrial heart of Italy, producing machinery, food, wine, furniture, textiles, leather goods and assorted other products. It’s about ½ hour by train from Venice and should be on everyone’s bucket list - along with the neighboring towns of Castelfranco and Asolo - that love good wine, good food, fine shopping and a charming laid back quality of life. I, and a small group of journalists, were visiting Treviso at the invitation of Treviso Glocal, a local consortium affiliated with the Chamber of Commerce that offers support to the Treviso area’s world-class producers, most of which are family operations. We visited a small sampling of the manufacturers of some of the most coveted products produced in Europe... perhaps in the world.
Happily, “Pasticceria Fraccaro” was one of them. In 1932 Elena and Giovanni Fraccaro opened the Fraccaro Spumadoro bakery in Castelfranco, a delightful medieval walled city. Today the famous bakery is still prospering in the hands of the Fraccaro family, producing cakes and sweets and the most wonderful Panettoni in flavors to suit any taste, in addition to the traditional Christmas version with dried fruits. My favorite was the Prosecco infused Panettone... truly a taste treat. www.fraccarospumadoro.it
Chicory or radicchio is one of the most popular vegetables farmed in Treviso and is a very different animal (sic) from the radicchio I am familiar with. In Treviso it is served both raw in salads and cooked in any number of ways and appeared at every meal in one form or other. We visited Tenuta Al Parco, one of the premier radicchio farms, and met with owner Lucio Torresan who gave us the lowdown on producing the distinctive Treviso radicchio; one of the rare vegetables that enjoys IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) status - a European Union regulation which guarantees both the varietal and the district where it is grown.www.tenutalparco.com
Another family owned and operated company “Latteria Montello” is one of the largest fresh cheese producers in Italy. In 1947 Giovanni Lazzarin - affectionately known as "Nanni" - began producing Nonno Nanni fresh cheeses, mainly Stracchino and Robiola. The company is still managed by 2nd and 3rd generation Lazzarin family members. We were shown the production line and treated to tastes of the different products produced, but not before we donned protective clothing so as not to contaminate the rigorously controlled production area. www.nonnonanni.it
We visited Stonefly, a sports footwear designer and manufacturer, to see the pride and quality that go into the products produced in Treviso www.stonefly.it And, we checked out Toffoli winery, a DOCG producer of Prosecco in the highly regarded Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore district www.proseccotoffoli.it We paid a visit to the Offices of the official Consorzio Tutela del Vino Prosecco DOCG where we were greeted by Giulia Pussini and treated to samples of the wine produced by different DOCG wineries. www.prosecco.it We also met with Luca Giavi at the Consorzio Di Tutela Della Denominazione di Origine Controllata Prosecco and learned the story of Prosecco DOC and why sparkling wine produced outside the area cannot be considered a true Prosecco. www.consorzioprosecco.it
So once again I was on a fact-finding trip and found myself instead overwhelmed by the variety and flavors of the area’s cuisine with one wonderful feast after another. These were not Michelin stared restaurants or Palaces of Gastronomy but local restaurants serving the freshest available seasonal foods, cooked in traditional ways and appealingly presented.
We began our food odyssey at all’ Antico Portico, a modest local eatery at the corner of Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore, one of the many charming squares in Treviso. Luckily I was traveling with foodies and we quickly bonded, sharing dishes with each other so as not to miss tasting any of the delectable morsels placed before us. We ordered a selection of Antipasti, Primi Piatti and Secondi Piatti that represented the food culture of Treviso; zucchini flowers filled with mozzarella and hot creamed cheese (robiola?) with truffles; prawns with polenta (corn meal porridge); fried ricotta with marinated red chicory (radicchio); a beautiful mixed fresh from the garden salad; and pumpkin gnocchi topped with melted butter and poppy seeds. Second plates were made in-house tagliolini with shaved truffles; Ravioli stuffed with basil, fresh tomatoes and cheese; baccalà (salt cod) with polenta. We each had our favorites but suffice it to say the quality and ingenuity of the dishes was a revelation and a forerunner of meals to come. www.anticoportico.it
After a short rest at our centrally located delightful six room boutique hotel Maison Matilda -- considered one of the best in the city center Treviso has to offer -- we continued our exploration of Treviso. www.maisonmatilda.com
Maison Matilda was a few steps away from the Piazza Duomo and the Cathedral/Duomo of St. Peter with its altar painting of the 16th C. Annunciation by Titian. After visiting the Duomo we walked under the ancient archways that still retain remnants of the painted frescos that once graced the columns and vaulted ceilings of the public walkways, to the Piazza de Signori at the center of Treviso. And just behind, in Piazza Ancilotto, is a small restaurant and sweet shop called Le Beccherie that has been in that location since 1939. In 1970 Ada Campeol, the owner and head cook, developed tiramisú to give her a “pick me up” (pick me up is the actual translation of the Italian word tiramisú). The home of tiramisú has just undergone a complete revamp and it is no longer owned by the Campeol family but their famous dessert lives on, and in fact an updated version has been created. The new version is called “scomposto” and while it was beautiful to behold and delicious to taste, the original still won our hearts.
Dinner that night was at another local gem, Abitue San Parisio just off Piazza San Vito. Since we were still full from our abundant lunch, not to mention our foray into tiramisú at Le Beccherie, we ordered small plates instead of a full meal. Forgetting of course that in Italy nothing to do with food is ever small and our attempt at moderation turned out to be more than a meal in itself. My first plate was beef tartare made with prime Piemontese beef and was absolutely divine; sides of onion, anchovy, chopped pickles, mustard and paprika accompanied the beef for mixing. Predictably I overate and consumed the generous portion only to be confronted with an unusual dish of prawns wrapped in pasta kataifi (similar to shredded wheat) served over a thick bright-green bean soup and a grilled octopus salad that was like nothing I had eaten before. Huge chunks of tender fresh grilled octopus over ripe juicy tomatoes and greens fresh from the garden, a home-made dressing drizzled over all and I was in heaven... and there went my desire to eat modestly at dinner. www.abitue-treviso.com
Osteria al Forno di Agnese in the village of Civita di Bagnoregio, is a no-nonsense Mom and Pop restaurant owned and operated by the Piol family. The kitchen is overseen by Chef Denis Possamai, whose tried-and-true recipes delight the eye and the palate. We began lunch with a lovely appetizer of poached pear on robiola cheese, and a chestnut and red cabbage pumpkin loaf with pumpkin cream, which was tasty, but a bit heavy for lunch. Risotto with mushroom and pumpkin came next and although Risotto is not my favorite dish, it was one of the best I ever had; creamy and flavorful. Osteria al Forno is known for their hearty food, so for the entrée pork with liver sauce shared the plate with guinea fowl drenched in truffle cream and chestnuts over polenta. www.alforno.it
The dinner that night at Locanda da Lino was an extravaganza. Da Lino is located in the Trevigiana hills in the town of Solighetto, and is part restaurant, part museum, part hotel, with 10 rooms that have hosted celebrities and now carry their names. Founded in 1961 by renowned chef Lino Toffolin who, with the help of his family, took an old farmhouse and turned it into a rambling eclectic fantasyland of artwork, antiques, elegant décor, indoor garden and outdoor vine covered pergola, lavish flower arrangements and to top it offâ¦ literally... a collection of copper pots hanging from the rafters that would make any archaeological museum green with envy. But that was just the eye candy.
We were fortunate to be there on Thursday night for their weekly seafood menu of bounty fresh from the Adriatic. We sat down, had a glass of Toffoli Prosecco (produced by Lino’s son Marco whose winery we had visited earlier in the day) and dishes began to appear. The most delectable cubes of white fish marinated in olive oil, sardines topped by olives and tomatoes, grilled crawfish fanned out on a plate, fried fillets of fish, mussels and clams in brodo, scallops baked in the shell, fried soft-shell crabs, home-made pasta with octopus, octopus salad, baby octopus in red wine sauce... the dishes were endless, creative and delicious. I thought to end the meal with a simple gelato... think again, I have no idea what the dessert contained only that it could make angels envious. www.locandadalino.it
Our outing the next day included a stop in the must-see historic town of Asolo known as the “town with a hundred horizons” due to its hilltop location with its 360 degree views.
Asolo is one of the most beautiful and well preserved hamlets of medieval Italy with a long tradition of hospitality, and was beloved by artists, poets, writers, and Heads of State: notably, American writer Ernest Hemingway, British poet Robert Browning (1812-1889), Italian actress Eleonora Duse, Venetian-born queen of Cyprus Caterina Cornaro (1454-1510) who chose to spend her years of exile from Cyprus in Asolo.
We stopped at Albergo Al Sole a 5-star SLH hotel for lunch in their famous restaurant La Terrazza. The restaurant was closed but they accommodated our small group for lunch in a recently restored frescoed grotto attached to the building. The menu consisted of quail breast salad with lima beans and pomegranate fruit; porcini mushroom risotto with Casatella cheese; fillet of beef topped by a sauce made from local red wine and served with radicchio and rosemary potatoes; and ended with an apple and pumpkin strudel served over homemade vanilla ice-cream. www.albergoalsoleasolo.com
Sadly for me - but thankfully for my stomach - our foray into the cuisine of the Veneto was coming to an end. Our farewell dinner was at Odeon alla Colonna just at the edge of the Stile River in Treviso that meanders through the town creating one picturesque vista after another. Here I had the most unusual antipasti of black-pepper robiola (soft cheese) ice-cream with caramelized pears and decorated with pistachio nuts... unusual but absolutely divine. Next came homemade tagliatelle pasta with pumpkin sauce and chiodine mushrooms. Our final meal in Treviso ended with their version of tiramisú made and served in a jar. www.odeonlacolonna.it
For more information visit:
Italian National Tourist Board North America
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