This month’s ‘Food and Wine Interview’ is with Alessandra Rovati author of the food blog ‘Dinner In Venice’ recently selected as one of the Top Italian food blogs and websites to follow in 2013.
Alessandra says: “I am an Italian food writer and lecturer. I was born and raised in Venice, and now live in New York City with my husband and children. I post recipes and offer a unique cultural view of Italian and Italian-Jewish culinary history on my website, DinnerinVenice.com. Please join me over the stovetop, or just curl up on the couch while I pour you a virtual caffe’, or a glass of sparkling Prosecco. Are you ready?”
The Questions and Answers:
1. Can you remember the first dish you learned how to cook?
The first more complex dish I learned how to cook was potato gnocchi. As a child, I was a voracious eater, and mostly interested in what we called “primi piatti asciutti”, dry first courses – that excludes soups, which are…. wet. Pasta, risotto, ravioli, and all kind of dumplings. When my mom taught me how to make gnocchi – I must have been 9 or 10 – I became obsessed. At the time, we had this lovely housekeeper who came from the country, Letizia. She couldn’t say no to me. Every time I was alone with her while my mom was at work, i would practice in the kitchen. My mom could always tell what I had been up to, because she says she saw traces of flour as soon as she walked through the front door.
2. What three things are always in your fridge?
I always have fresh rosemary, parsley, and sage. I know I should grow them myself, but I have the opposite of a green thumb. I have the killer-thumb. So I just buy them and store them in the fridge in cups of water, like flowers.
3. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received?
Become friends with your fishmonger, greengrocer and butcher. Seriously. Buy them holiday gifts. Call me corrupt.
4. What inspired you to create your food blog? Did you have a clear idea from the start?
I started it on the spur of the moment almost exactly 2 years ago… I thought it would be a fun way to combine some of my interests: writing, cooking, and the history of food. I had to cook for my kids anyway! I played with a couple of blogging platforms, and posted some Italian Passover recipes. I tied the blog to a Facebook fan page, and the rest is history: after 3 months I already had 1000 facebook fans.
5. What do you know and think about other food bloggers?
I love looking at other food blogs, and I try not to be jealous! here are some of my favorites: Aprons & Sneakers, Jul’s kitchen, Labna, La Cucina di QB, Memorie di Angelina, Sunday at the Giacomettis, Silvia’s Cucina, Viva la Focaccia. OPS! They are all Italian! Oh well, I am also crazy about B Comme Bon.
6. Let’s talk favourite things, recipe and why?
I love historic recipes… not only because every recipe tells a story, but also because many of them have been written in many books but never photographed until the arrival of bloggers. My blog has a whole section about Cucina Ebraica (Jewish italian Cuisine), and many of these dishes were included in books before, but always without photographs.
I love, love bay leaves. They give so much depth of flavor to many types of meat and fish. You can add one or two whole leaves to your soups, stews, braises and they impart a wonderful, mild, herbal and slightly floral flavor. And you can even scatter them around your pantry and closet to repel critters…
8. Comfort food?
Although I grew up in Venice, my mother came from Pistoia, near Florence. That’s why my comfort food par excellence is Tuscan food in general, bread soups like the famous ribollita in particular. And the traditional Passover pastries from Venice, which I can’t make in New York because I can’t find the right ingredients.
I love browsing through the pages (digitalized) of Italian and French cooking books from the Middle Ages and from the Renaissance… however, if I have to cook, I always end up asking my mom’s friends for their recipes. They are the best, and I usually obtain a free live demo
10. Last meal on earth?
I have no doubts, definitely a giant cheese platter.
Thank you Alessandra a for your time and answers.
Check out all the Top Italian food blogs and websites to follow in 2013 and more Food and Wine Interviews.
(Photos: courtesy of DinnerinVenice.com for the 2 food pictures, and Steve Lars Photography for Alessandra Rovati’s portrait)