It was in Venice, with my wife Jools, when the true meaning of Italian food got me, and got me good. We were immersed in this amazing city, checking out cultural icons such as St Mark’s Square (with its extraordinarily expensive coffee), Harry’s Bar (for Bellinis), gondolas, art and of course, tourists.
Back in 2003 we were on a budget, so dinner in this overpriced city was looking like a salami panini, until we followed some Italians, dressed for dinner, down a side street. They disappeared inside this modest looking trattoria – no name above the door and no menu we could see and thankfully, none of those photographs of food outside.
To be honest, it felt a little intimidating and they may not have greeted us quite as enthusiastically as the locals but they gave us a table. The menu was passed our way and we went for a decent local red, recommended by our waiter – his brother-in-law’s vineyard of course – and I went for a linguini with langoustines and a fritto misto – a fish dish fried at the table.
Oh man, that pasta! Two grilled langoustines atop a pile of linguini mixed with sweet tomato sauce, so simple. The pasta was unlike anything else I’d experienced – dense in character, with bite, but not too filling and something I couldn’t quite pin down.
It remains the most pleasantly surprising plate of food I’ve had. How can something as simple as egg and flour turn out to be so ridiculously tasty?
The Italians have got it right when it comes to eating – it’s something to be lingered over, and shopping for fresh produce is part of the experience. That’s why I want to share my personal favourites with you – some I discovered while working on my most recent TV series and book, and others are firm old favourites.
Jamie’s top tips
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