I love a good Caprese Salad. You know – gorgeous bocconcini, ripe tomatoes, and fresh basil, a little balsamic vinegar; it’s sensuous. If you’ve had a good one, you can appreciate what I’m saying. The best Caprese salad I’ve ever had was in late-June 2006, in a sweltering Venice, after the most arduous search I think I’ve ever participated in. I tell you, it was more challenging than doing an expert-level scavenger hunt…blindfolded. Here’s what happened.
Venice was bloody hot by the time we go there. I’m talking 40 degrees Celsius, humidity, sweaty bodies, dehydration, and some very hot pigeons. Now, being from the summer-time-stinker that is Toronto, I know a thing or two about coping with heat. I also have a pool. I know even more about cooling off. Venice doesn’t have any pools, and I was not desperate enough to jump into those canals. Eugh.
So Venice was a steaming, sinking, ball of gorgeous, and despite the heat, I totally loved it. We had drinks along the grand canal under the Ponte Rialto, bought some gorgeous Murano glass jewelry, gorged on fantastic pasta, and drank about four litres of bottled water a day (sorry, environment). Walking everywhere (obviously), I expect we covered quite a bit of ground on our first day, and came across an out-of-the-way, and thus less-touristy, corner square with a beautiful patio covered in a pale pink awning and satiated-looking customers. Curiosity piqued, we checked out the menu, only to find the most lusciously described Caprese salad. Since we’d already had lunch, we decided to return the next day for an apparently beautiful culinary experience. Fantastic. We made a visual note – the square has a tall, square tower that’s leaning slightly to the left. We’ll retrace our steps and find this place tomorrow. Awesome.
Not awesome. Venice is probably the dumbest city in which not to have a map, because it is ridiculously easy to get lost and turned upside-down in. Also, you logically assume that all bridges that lead over canals will continue to lanes that will continue to bigger stradas. Never assume. Some bridges lead to dead ends, and I think we found all of them. After exploring a museum in the morning, we went out in search of that Caprese salad and the leaning tower of Venice. We could see it, and we were on the same side of the canal, so we figured it would probably take us about ten minutes to get there. Great. Except that it didn’t.
We must’ve doubled-back on ourselves about twenty times, coming across mostly dead ends, but never finding any paths that kept us going in the right direction. We never lost that tower, though, which stood over us, leaning towards us, taunting us. We considered abandoning the Caprese salad and its rude tower, but, alas, when you’ve been searching so long for something, giving up can be so deflating; we were determined to find this damn pink-awning-Caprese-salad-leaning-tower utopian square.
I think it took us about an hour. I’m not exaggerating, because it honestly felt like about four. We were hot, dehydrated, absolutely exhausted, and completely famished. I, of course, was grumpy, too*. The pink-awning provided the shade we craved so dearly, and finally, finally, we got our Caprese salads. It was the best. Caprese. salad. ever.
I don’t even have a picture of this bloody salad, that’s how hungry I was! I do, however, have a picture of that mocking leaning tower, which I just had to capture to remind me of just what we did for a Caprese salad.
Thinking back, I wonder, was it really the best Caprese salad I’ve ever eaten? Or was I so distracted by the battle to get to the salad, that my triumph overpowered my tastebuds? I doubt I’ll ever really know. Not because I’m not going back to Venice, but because there’s no way I’m trying to find that restaurant ever again. Most challenges are worth it, but I don’t really want to be faced with the possible truth that this one really wasn’t!