From Caorle to Chioggia, the Venetian coast is not only a very popular tourist destination for holidaymakers enjoying sunny beaches and the marvels of Venetian art, but also an area rich in raw materials that the sea offers on a daily basis.
The treasures of the Adriatic Sea, with fish being the most valuable of them, provide us with a vast variety of species that populate a complex lagoon that is shallow, features sandbanks, islands and artificial canals.
In addition to noble fish such as bass, bream and scallops, traditional Venetian menus absolutely must include oily fish, mullet, goby (typical of ‘risotto di gò’, as it is commonly called) and of course the renowned soft-shell crabs.
‘Moeche’, the soft-shell crabs of Venice, are simply local crabs called “Carcinus Mediterraneus” that, twice a year, shed their moults for a short period of time, leaving them bare and vulnerable.
Soft-shelled crabs fishing is a true challenge that requires the experience and skill of the ‘moecanti’ fishermen who seek the crabs in the right seasons, and can tell the “boni (good)” from the “matti (crazy)”.
A curious fact linked to this type of fishing refers to the Lion of Saint Mark holding the Bible in its claws, and which is locally referred to as the Lion in Moeca: this moniker would seem to come from the habit of male crabs (who moult a few months earlier) to sit on the females and protect them against external attacks. According to the less romantic version, on the other hand, if the prey is not soft enough during hunting, the crab holds it down, between its abdomen and its claws, and carries it until it is the right time to devour it.
Generation after generation, fishermen are dedicated to patiently waiting for what the sea is willing to provide. A long job, that requires patience and does not always repay them: nature and weather are elements that cannot be controlled or foreseen far in advance and the experience of these seamen, with their faces burned by the summer sun or cut by the freezing winter air, is not always enough.
This is why the market is an important place to buy the best fish possible: among the stands and morning shouting, Ruth and Andrea always find the ingredients to make their special, high quality dishes. The return of the fishing boats is the moment you will find out the day’s offering of fresh fish by the ‘mògnoli’ (local fishermen): trusting their selection is crucial, even for an expert cook such as Andrea, who recognises their value as cornerstones in selecting the day’s products.
The lively and fascinating atmosphere of Chioggia’s large market is often shared with guests, who partake in the purchase of “caparossoli”, “schie” and other freshly-fished varieties, together with Ruth and Andrea.
Once or twice a week, the scent of oven-baked, pan-cooked or grilled fish invades the kitchen, delicious starters and piping hot risottos alternate at the table, new and traditional recipes make up the menus that Andrea has fun suggesting and experimenting with.