Almost every travel guide will rightly advise you that for dining in Venice, don’t skip the fish. It’s good advice, and perhaps you’re coastal and are already familiar with the myriad of shapes and sizes seafood comes in: crustaceans, mollusks, and regular fish that range from pinky- to thigh-size.
But if you’re a landlubber or are simply more familiar with freshwater fish, I thought I’d run a series of short posts focusing on the fish and seafood waiting for you both on the menus in Venice and in the Rialto Market should you care to visit them before you consume them.
The first don’t-miss fish is a crustacean that has an official name of Pannocchia, but that is referred to in Venice as the canocia (in Rome and Tuscany, cicala di mare). The English nickname is Mantis Shrimp, referring to both its front appendages and the sweetness of its meat.
These canoce are from the high Adriatic, and so are generally smaller in size that those you might find fished from larger seas. In fact, all fish from this area are scaled to the Adriatic’s size. And according to some pescivendolo (fishmongers) are sweeter as a result. I’m staying out of that argument, however.
At the market, all the canoce‘s undersea defenses are easily identifiable: the fake eyes on the tail, the front legs poised to strike, and a shell that’s pointy from stem to stearn.
Canoce are often served as part of an antipasto (but can take part in many a seafood dish, including risotto). Although they’ll be unarmed by the time they reach your plate, you’ll still need some technique to extract the meat from the remaining shell. For best results, hold the tail with your knife, and strip the meat from the bottom shell with your fork (or vice versa). It should separate easily, but if not, don’t hesitate to ask your server for a demonstration. (In the photo, the canoce is on the lower right.)
So, if they’re indeed in season, don’t let your unfamiliarity with the canoce‘s looks or name stop you from ordering these tasty morsels…you’ve come too far for that!