In venetian ciacolare means to chat; in Venice, a city of narrow streets without cars where people are constantly meeting, ciacolare is everyone’s favorite activity. The daylong exchange of soft, consonant-dropping Venetian patter on the footbridges, by the newsstand, at the café, in the shops is the shuttle that weaves the city’s singular social fabric. Unless you are a stranger, you do not just buy a pound of butter, a loaf of bread, a dozen slices of prosciutto: You have a conversation.
The morning I stopped in at Gianni’s pork store, I had just been to the butcher. After a 10-minute survey of major topics, partly shared with the other customers, Gianni asked me what I’d be cooking for lunch. “Liver alla veneziana,” I replied. “If I give you the pancetta, Mrs. Hazan, and my recipe, will you try it my way?” “Pancetta?” My curiosity was roused. “Sure,” I said. Later, with the pancetta—which in Venice is smoked, like bacon—and Gianni’s instructions, we were at table with a version of fegato alla veneziana that we all liked even more than the familiar one.
The basic ingredients, calf’s liver and smothered onions, are those of the traditional recipe, but in this one the onions are cooked first with bacon and later with white wine. The final touch of parsley is also new to the dish. With this, as with any sautéed liver, it is vital to cook the liver briefly at very high heat so that it doesn’t acquire that flaccid consistency and vapid, steamed taste characteristic of slow-cooked liver.
© 1986 Marcella Hazan estate. All rights reserved.