Venetian Republic: Recipes from the Veneto, Adriatic Croatia, and the Greek Islands, written by Nino Zoccalo, features a collection of 80 historical and modern recipes paired with beautiful photography and fascinating storytelling. Highlights include Venetian Prosecco and Snapper Risotto, Corfu Mavrodaphne Zabaglione with Rosewater Walnut Cookies, Fish and Shellfish Carpaccio, Bigoli Pasta with Lake Garda Duck Sauce, Pandora Tiramisu with Homemade Mascarpone, and so much more. I will also be sharing his recipe for Riganada following the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Interlink Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Nino Zoccali grew up in rural Western Australia and moved to Sydney in 1998. He completed a double major degree in Economics and Italian, then pursued a culinary arts career and opened his first restaurant at the age of 25. With his wife, Krissoula, he owns and operates The Restaurant Pendolino and La Rosa The Strand in Sydney’s Strand Arcade. Nino is also the author of the cookbook, Pasta Artigiana.
Venetian Republic is divided based on region, then further by course (Antipasti; Pasta, Rice, and Pies; Mains; and Dolci): Venice: From Refuge to Republic, The Veneto: The Land-based Marketplace of an Aquatic Empire, Venetian Croatia: A Maritime Superhighway, and Greek Islands of the Republic: Gateway to the East.
Nino first became fascinated with Venice following his initial visit at the age of 21. For those unfamiliar with the area, he has included a short history behind the city from its emergence in AD 421 to its rising dominance over trade routes on the Adriatic Sea. A regional introduction marks the beginning of each chapter with an insight into the food culture and history that has shaped the cuisine. There is even an illustrated map of the Venetian Republic during the fifteenth center with notable cities highlighted.
Nino took the location photography while the food photography was provided by Alan Benson. Nearly every recipe is accompanied by a full-page photo of either the finished dish or the scenery. Measurements are listed in US Customary. Titles are written in English. Each recipe includes a headnote with background information, notable ingredients, personal stories, prep and cooking time, serving size, and helpful tips.
This book is a great pick for those interested in the food of the Mediterranean region encompassing Veneto, Croatia, and the Greek Islands. Many of the dishes are especially perfect for date night and entertaining with more intricate courses and stunning desserts. Having a market with Mediterranean ingredients nearby will be helpful for locating items such as black and white truffles, Dubrovnik rose liqueur, fresh seafood, specialty cheese and wine, baby fava beans, Messolonghi bottarga, sea urchin roe, squid ink, salt cod, pandoro, dried borlotti beans, pheasant, lardo, duck legs, bigoli pasta, and quail eggs.
I particularly enjoyed the collection of recipes for the assortment of Venetian Crostini and sandwiches and the Ionian Island Bruschette. For this review, I focused on the Riganada (Ριγανάδα). Nino’s version of this Ionian Island Bruschetta is topped with quartered cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion, and feta with a sprinkling of oregano and black pepper. I see it becoming a favorite, easy way of using leftover cherry tomatoes from my garden this summer.
Nino places the toppings over a sourdough baguette base for the Riganada, but twice-cooked barley or wheat flour rusks are often used. It is the perfect way of using up stale bread. If you can locate Greek rusks, sprinkle the tops with a little water before assembling to allow them to soften slightly while still having a crunchy base.
Other offerings in the Ionian Island Bruschette section include Ithacan Sea Urchin & Monastery Bread Bruschette and Harry’s Veal and Feta Bruschette.
I also made Mario and Rosalia’s Wild Hop and Field Herb Risotto, Valpolicella Spiced Pears with Sweet Cream, Gogges Pasta with Brown Butter and Myzithra Salted Ricotta, and Corfiot Pastitsada with Bucatini.
Risotto fans will find quite a few recipes within Venetian Republic. I tried Mario and Rosalia’s Wild Hop and Field Herb Risotto in The Veneto chapter. This creamy risotto is packed with greens and Parmigiano Reggiano. I had neither wild hops nor Carletti leaves, so I went with the recommended substitutions of asparagus and baby spinach.
The Valpolicella Spiced Pears with Sweet Cream also comes from The Veneto chapter. Pears are simmered in an aromatic mixture of Valpolicella (or a good-quality medium-bodied red wine), brown sugar, cinnamon, orange, and other spices, then paired with a sweet mascarpone cream and sprinkling of chopped pistachios.
I first came across the combination of brown butter and myzithra a few years ago (Spaghetti with Browned Butter and Mizithra) and was immediately drawn to using it with fresh Gogges pasta from the Greek Islands of the Republic chapter. To make the Peloponnese Gogges pasta, a semolina-based dough is shaped in a similar manner to seashells, boiled until al dente, then tossed with toasted walnuts, the brown butter, and grated Myzithra. It is a wonderfully filling and hearty meal created with just a handful of ingredients.
Bucatini is a favorite pasta of mine, so I was excited to discover the Corfiot Pastitsada with Bucatini- also in the Greek Islands of the Republic chapter. Pastitsada is traditionally made with cockerel (young rooster) and Nino created this adaptation using browned and simmered whole chicken legs over a bed of bucatini pasta coated in a flavorful tomato sauce.
Excerpt from Venetian Republic
- 1/2 small monastery sourdough baguette or any quality artisanal sourdough baguette
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 5 1/2 ounce (160 g) sheep's milk feta sliced
- 14 ounces (400 g) ripe cherry tomatoes quartered
- 1/4 red onion sliced
- 2 tablespoons dried Greek oregano
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Slice the bread into twelve 1/3 inch (8 mm) thick pieces. Lightly toast the bread on both sides and place on a serving platter. Drizzle with a little olive oil and then top each piece with feta, cherry tomatoes, and red onion. Season with sea salt and pepper.
- Drizzle with a little more olive oil, sprinkle generously with oregano, and drizzle more oil over the top to finish.