25 January 2008

Frittelle, Galani & Castagnole

“…How may I direct your call?”

(No, it’s not the name of a Venetian law firm.)

So far all I know about being in Venice for Carnevale is how incredibly addictive these three seasonal goodies can be from the very first nibble. All deep-fried and all dripping sugar, they appeared in every café and pasticceria the first morning after Epiphany.

Frittelle are very like French beignets – the same springy, eggy fritters, but scented with lemon and studded with raisins, candied orange peel bits, and pine nuts. The “Veneziana” version has just a sandy sprinkle of glittering table sugar; there are also crema- and zabaglione-stuffed versions. And I have seen a mini version called rossato. Me, I’m a purist. “Veneziana” or nothing.

Galani are thin, crisp, hand-size slabs of bubbled, golden-fried pastry blanketed generously with 10-X confectioner’s sugar. (There is a flatter, oven-baked version, too. It’s actually shown in this photo. Forget about it! Go for the grease.) Be careful! When you bite into them, these things shatter into pieces that skitter away. And it’s impossible to eat one without getting a snowy sugar dusting on your face, your sweater or coat, even your shoes. I learned this the hard way. Apparently Venetians only eat theirs at home. Now I do too.

Castagnole would remind Americans of Dunkin’ Donuts’ classic vanilla, cake-style doughnut holes. Nothing wrong with that! Being called castagnole, I thought for sure they were made with chestnut flour (farina di castagna) but I was wrong. Just plain, sugar-dusted nuggets roughly the size, color, and shape of a chestnut. I notice that the proper serving seems to be three to four castagnole; I prefer six.

It took me less than a week to find Venice’s very best example of each of these yummy diet-busters. I’m just glad they’re not all in the same place!

(Carnevale begins today!)