Story and photo by Manos Angelakis
Fegato alla Veneziana
There are two things that Harry’s Bar in Venice is famous for. It is famous as the birthplace of the Bellini, a cocktail made with Prosecco and fresh white peach nectar and as the birthplace of Fegato alla Veneziana, a liver and onions dish. Another well known drink at Harry’s is their Dry Martini, very dry indeed, 10 parts gin to 1 part vermouth!
Ernest Hemingway made the place famous but he was not the only famous patron of this restaurant -- yes, it is a restaurant, minuscule indeed, but everyone who is anyone in the arts and letters and has visited La Serenissima has been there. Other notable customers have included conductor Arturo Toscanini, Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Truman Capote, Orson Welles, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Aristotle Onassis, Maria Callas, Peggy Guggenheim, and Woody Allen, to name but a few It has been in the Cipriani family since its inception, in the very early 1930s and has been an integral part of the Cipriani S.A. company, famous for hotels and restaurants.
If you decide to visit it, be warned, the pricing of the food and drinks is not for the faint of heart. But you are paying for the long history and making sure the restaurant will be around for years to come.
Giuseppe Cipriani, the original owner of Harry’s Bar, created the definitive recipe for Fegato alla Veneziana, a classic dish of liver and onions that is still served at Harry’s.
2 lb. calf’s liver, trimmed with the thin membrane peeled off
6 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
6 small yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
3 tbs. butter
½ bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, stems trimmed and leaves chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper (coarse sea salt and Malabar black pepper preferred).
Cut liver in four long pieces with the grain; then with a very sharp knife slice each piece crosswise as thin as possible.
Heat 4 tbs. of the olive oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook stirring frequently for approximately 20 minutes, until they are soft and brown, but make sure the onions do NOT burn. Remove onions with slotted spoon and set aside.
Increase heat to medium-high and add remaining oil. When oil is sizzling hot, add liver and cook (avoid overcrowding the skillet) until liver is brown and crispy at the edges, 4-5 minutes. Season liberally with salt, pepper and vinegar and then add reserved onions and accumulated juices. Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring and turning liver and onions constantly while shaking the skillet. Transfer to heated serving platter.
Add butter to skillet and deglaze as butter melts. Remove skillet from heat and stir in parsley. Spoon butter and parsley over the liver and onions and serve with grilled polenta.
I tried to use a wok over gas heat and it worked OK. But, of you are using electric heat, a heavy cast iron skillet would be the best implement to cook the Fegato.
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