Not everybody knows that in the first Venetian recipe books from 1300 there were only recipes based on meat; there was so much abundance of fish in the lagoon that it was considered as “food for the poors”. Hence they used to serve beef, poultry, game and sheep on the tables of the Venetian aristocrats; they also appreciated offals such as liver, sweetbreads, tongue and tripe. The cattle were transported on boats still alive and left to pasture on the island of Giudecca, and they were slaughtered if and when necessary.
Banquets were made to impress diners; birds were served “dressed" - the whole animal was cooked protecting legs and head, and then dressed again in its feathers, whilst the beak was filled with alcohol to spit fire. It is said that at the banquet offered by Marino Grimani in 1542, live birds were flying out of pastries creating a pleasant surprise amongst diners.
We have decided to dedicate an evening to meat and game, in order to reconnect with the history of Venetian cuisine, and to celebrate one of our beloved suppliers - the famous butcher from Bologna, Aldo Zivieri. Aldo has honored us with his presence and was the spokesman for the great work that the Zivieri family has been carrying out for over 60 years.
In particular, we focused on sustainable hunting and Zivieri's "game plan". Since the migration of men to the cities we have stopped cultivating the Apennines and Emilia Romagna has become the third biggest district in Europe for the presence of game. The last census found 25,000 wild boars, 18,000 roes and 1,500 deers; there should respectively be 7,000, 4,500 and 500. The Italian law is regulating these numbers with a selective hunting in order to maintain balance, prevent epidemics amongst livestock, and to protect farmers. Game has infested also areas of Veneto and Tuscany, and Chianti grape harvest this year was 40% lower than in previous years.
Another alarming fact is that 99.5% of the game that is being sold in Italy is imported from Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Latvia, Estonia, Great Britain. This feeds two things: the black market and incinerators.
Zivieri was the first in Italy to have a slaughter house for game and to sell great quality game meat not only to restaurants, but also to consumers.
Intensive breeding has taken away the taste, pleasure and nutritional quality of the meat, but above all has taken away dignity to the animals. Zivieri’s "game plan” is an ethical concept; animals are respected, they live free in their habitat, they feed themselves naturally, and hunting is done to protect the animals from the problems related to overabundance. As for the nutritional properties, their meat is very lean, tasty and of course organic.
Zivieri butchers the game meat in the same way he does with beef meat: it needs to age to soften the tissues and the bones need to be removed because they give to the meat that typical strong smell of wild game. Therefore it can be cooked like beef, without marinating it for long times, and can be eaten raw, slightly grilled or roasted, depending on the cut.
We gave evidence of this via a 7-course menu that Matteo has created for the occasion.
This is food for thoughts and suggests that game will be the meat of the future (I need to specify - within legal limits), although our Venetian ancestors already knew it a few centuries ago...
Chicken wings and liver, anchovies and cabbage
Calf tongue, green sauce, celery and Martin Sec pear
Mallard, pasta and pomegranate
Deer fillet, salsify and olive oil infused with pine
Wild boar shank, potato and black cabbage
Chestnut cake and persimmon sorbet
Aldo Zivieri and the team