In my post about Venice, I mentioned that we didn’t stay in the city but took the train from Padova. The Couch Surfing hosts in Venice are pretty maxed out with requests. Some will host you but in exchange for meeting their crazy demands, like entering into a video taped wrestling match. Seriously. Given this, we were very happy to have found a friendly host in nearby Padova who was eager to show us the city, share home cooked vegan meals, and introduce us to a variety of Italian beverages.
As in most small Italian towns, you won’t find many vegetarian restaurants in Padova. Luna Nuova (Via San Gregorio Barbarigo, 12, Padova, Italy, Tel: 049.8758907) is Padova’s one vegetarian restaurant. I’ve read it has limited vegan options so it’s probably a good idea to call in advance. Luna Nuova was closed during our visit, along with practically every other vegetarian restaurant in the country. During the month of August, many shops and restaurants close for holidays.
Walking around Padova, enjoying the architecture and history, we weren’t expecting to come across any vegan offerings. So imagine how sweet of a surprise it was to catch a glimpse of this Valsoia and Eraclea sign in the window of a small cafe. At last a sweet delight in 34 flavours with soyadrink. Yum!
After some careful evaluation, we agreed on the orange & cinnamon chocolate shake. I have to tell you, this is one awesome combination of flavours and would encourage you to try and recreate it at home. It cost about €3.50 Euros ($4.87 USD), which is quite steep when you compare it to the price of a coffee or spritz, but we were won over by the taste and came close to ordering a second.
I’m sad to report this was the only cafe in all of Italy that we saw advertising the Valsoia and Eraclea menu. We weren’t hunting them out, but didn’t come across any during the rest of our month-long stay in Italy. If you’re in Padova, you can enjoy a sweet soy beverage at Bar Rondez Vous.
Bar Rendez Vous
Via Degli Zabarella 61
35121 Padova, Italy
Our Couch Surfing host, Mike, had a variety of vegetarian and vegan cookbooks, but some limits in the kitchen. We were full of ideas but couldn’t cook anything that required using the burners on the stove. He explained to us that when Italians move apartments or homes, they take their kitchens with them. Literally. They take the counter tops, sinks, appliances and everything else. This meant he had a sparkling new kitchen, but no gas running to his stove top. When we were there, he’d been waiting a month and counting for the gas line to be hooked up. Things really do move quite slow in Italy.
With inspiration from Mike’s cookbooks, a fantastic selection of local produce, and an electric oven, we managed to bake some vegetable stuffed peppers.
We also made a fresh salad, with a citrus vinaigrette that involved pureeing a whole orange and some apricots.
Also on the evening’s menu was curried hummus and bell peppers.
We also kept a bowl of tarallini at hand. This Italian bread stick and pretzel hybrid quickly became a favourite snack. We found them in many flavours, including rosemary, garlic, onion and fennel.
Saying we ate a lot of pizza in Italy would be a huge understatement. One night, we decided to make our own using ingredients from a small supermarket. Our choice of crust generated some laughs from our host. We choose a kamut flour piadina because we wanted a healthy option but learned this kind of bread is usually prepared with lard (not in our case) and paired with cheese, meat and vegetables to make quick wraps sold on the street.
Our choice of ingredients, though some fresh vegetables are missing from the picture, may seem lazy but we could have gone for an even easier route and bought a Valsoia pizza with soy cheese. I can’t tell you what they’re like because we didn’t get around to trying one with so many fresh pizzas to enjoy.
Our next pizza experience, and our first at a pizzeria in Italy, was a special one. We ordered a vegetable pizza with no cheese and pizza marinara, which is the simple combination of tomato sauce, garlic, herbs and olive oil. Both pizzas were fantastic. The vegetable pizza was absolutely loaded with veggies. There were tomatoes, onion, garlic, olives, spinach, white asparagus, cabbage, eggplant, zucchini and roasted red peppers. Wowzers!
These awesome pizzas we ordered at Happy Box, a small pizzeria, just a few blocks from where we were staying.
Pizzeria Happy Box
via Morelli, 2/Bis
Tel: 049 8642911
Markets & Supermarkets
One thing that’s hard to miss, regardless of where in Italy you find yourself, are the beautiful markets selling fresh fruit and vegetables. Italy is a big country, with a diverse climate, which means they grow a lot of produce and don’t seem to import much, at least not during the summer.
In addition to all the fruit and vegetables, we saw a vendors selling prepared couscous salads and chopped veggies.
The supermarkets are also stocked with beautiful produce. These zucchini blossoms were spotted at a Pam supermarket. I don’t think I’ve ever seen fresh zucchini blossoms in any Canadian supermarkets. Only in Italy.
At the supermarket, you also find lots of Valsoia products, like these delicious chocolate and nut cones.
If you enjoy trying traditional beverages, be sure to try some orzo, a caffeine-free coffee alternative made from barley. I’m not a coffee drinker but really enjoyed this orzo blend made with cereal, chicory and figs.
If you’re looking for something a bit stronger, there’s always limoncello, made from lemons, and liquorizia, made from licorice plant. A word of warning: These drinks may be served in shot glasses but they aren’t shots. Sip slowly.