No. 95 Real Venetian Coffee…

The exact quote is : ” But she makes Venice’s best coffee…”  The quote was taken from the Italian Police Drama  Commissario Brunetti Episode 11. Called “Death in a Strange Country.” All these movies, and books were written by Donna Leon.

In this sketch Commissarion Brunetti knows he has to get information from a woman connected to a murder he is trying to solve. When he gets to her home he has to deal with a very angry Sicilian woman who waves a rifle in his face. This is because in the past he has had to bring in and procecute her son and she didn’t take this too kindly. So ergo the rifle. Being Commissario Brunetti he gets his information and an invite into her home to drink her coffee. For the widow is known for being the best coffee maker in Venice.  The rifle although ancient still works. When she finds out who killed her son … vengence is sweet…To the man  who is shot with the rifle -he  has everything and thinks murder is an everyday occurence beneath him…though he has made a profit doing it…even his death by the rifle seems appropiate.  To the widow, even though her son wasn’t going to amount to anything except say a bumbling burglar…he was still her son. She says at one moment that her life is nothing without her son…we can all understand that . She also knew that the man who was very rich would somehow wiggle his way out without penance. So the rifle became her symbol of justice.

In a place like Venice where coffee is viewed as a necessary life enhancement. I believe most Venitians would go into shock when faced with an American cookbook advising them “How to make Ventian Coffee.”   Most of the recipes included large amounts of alcohol. Coffee seemed like it was but an ingrediant not the most important thing. The first recipe for example  : 1 oz. of Rye Whiskey, 3/4 oz. Amaro Montenegro, 1/4 oz. simple syrup, 1/4 oz. coffee liqueur , 1/2 oz cream, a pinch of cardamon and lastly 4 oz. brewed coffee. Combine and garnish with whip cream. The second version was listed as easy to make and would only take seven minutes to create. It made me wince…weep softly into my coffee. 1 shot of amoretto, 1 shot of Sambuca  A vanilla flavored coffee and Ready Whip. ( I’m still weeping…)  The third recipe sent me into convulsions of laughter …1 oz. of Brandy, 1 sugar cube, hot coffee  and whipped cream. I couldn’t imagine making any of these three Ventian Coffee versions. When Peter and Douglas and I went to Venice- I remember we went into a coffee bar and ordered espresso-all three of us were shocked at the price. We were but poor …really poor art students near the end of any money we had saved up for the trip.  I think the tears in my eyes made the barista waver and the price was slashed  to our utter relief. But this was real coffee…black as night..with 2 or 3 spoons of sugar stirred in – kind of coffee. I don’t remember any cream anywhere and there wasn’t a mixologist in the background adding  colored alcohol and pink umbrellas to our drinks.  I think  if  Commissario Brunetti was given the American  version of Ventian coffee- he  would of  promptly carried out to the street and poured down the drain…or manacled it and sent it  to prison.  End of story.

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