Top positive review
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The next best thing to being at Harry's Bar.
on 7 September 2001
As a cook and literary buff, I always thought of Harry's Bar in Venice as a monument that has provided me with great inspiration.
Tucked away on a corner not far from St Mark's Square, it is quite small with low ceilings but with an incredible view of the Grand Canal from its first floor. The decor is very relaxing with small comfortable chairs and tables in pleasant shades of apricot and cream. Upon opening the doors, you immediately drink in the atmosphere that is intimate, worldly, historically rich and alive.
I remember the first time I visited Harry's bar twenty-five years ago. I went to this legendary bar, made famous by Ernest Hemingway, after having promised myself that I would only have a drink. I knew the prices would be outrageous for someone on a student budget since Harry's Bar had enjoyed an international reputation since 1931. But the moment that last sip of wine was out of my glass, I had to ask for a table. I do not remember what I had for lunch that day at Harry's Bar. I do remember though, how impressed I was by the quality of the house wine, the simple presentation of the food that tasted wonderful and the professional and friendly service with which the Harry's Bar staff made sure that this was going to be a memorable experience for me. So, Harry's Bar became part of my growing up and thus gained a significant importance in my life.
Ernest Hemingway used to have his own table in one corner of Harry's Bar. At the end of World War II, Hemingway dedicated to the bar a page of his famous novel "Across the River and into the Trees." The list of famous people who frequented Harry's Bar is long and impressive. Arturo Toscanini, Guglielmo Marconi, Charlie Chaplin, Truman Capote, Orson Welles, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Princess Aspasia of Greece, Aristotle Onassis, Barbara Hutton, Peggy Guggenheim and Woody Allen, just to mention a few.
Harry's Bar opened in 1931 when Giuseppe Cipriani, an enterprising bartender at the Hotel Europa in Venice, was rewarded for his earlier generosity to a rich, young American from Boston named Harry Pickering. Pickering had been a customer at the Hotel Europa for some time, then suddenly stopped frequenting the hotel bar. One day, the elder Cipriani asked Pickering why he no longer patronized the bar. Pickering was broke, he explained to the bartender -- his family cut him off when it was discovered he had not curtailed his recklessness and fondness for drinking. So, Cipriani loaned his patron $5,000 U.S. so that Mr. Pickering could pay his hotel and bar bill as well as his cost of transportation home and ... have one last martini. Two years later, Pickering walked back into the Hotel Europa, ordered a drink at the bar, thanked Cipriani for the loan and handed him enough money to repay the loan and enable Cipriani to open his own bar.
In 1991, Giuseppe's son, Arrigo Cipriani, assembled a book of recipes: "The Harry's Bar Cookbook" (Bantam Books). The book contains more than 200 original recipes, more than 125 lavish full color photographs, wonderful anecdotes and insight into the nuances of classic Italian cuisine and their philosophy of entertaining.
During the 1930s and 1940s, founder Giuseppe Cipriani created many of the dishes still served today. Giuseppe invented the Bellini and the Montgomery cocktails. The Bellini, contains white peach pulp, juice and Prosecco (an Italian sparkling wine). Giuseppe is said to have invented it in 1948, and named the drink for the Renaissance painter Giovanni Bellini whose works were exhibited in Venice that year. The Montgomery, as Hemingway called it, is a very dry martini with a proportion of gin to vermouth of fifteen to one - the same proportion that the famed British General Bernard Montgomery was said to have endured when he lead his soldiers to fight against the enemy during World War II.
Other classics include: hot sandwiches; shrimp sandwiches (favorites of Orson Welles and Truman Capote); egg pasta with ham au gratin; risotto; and Carpaccio which is the most popular dish served at Harry's Bar. Consisting of paper-thin sheets of raw filet mignon, seasoned with a light white sauce, the Carpaccio, according to the bar's legend, was inspired by one of Cipriani's regular customers, the Countess Amalia Nani Mocenigo, whose doctor prohibited her from eating cooked meat. The dish was named after the celebrated Renaissance Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio, famous for his use of bright red-and-white colors.
The "Harry's Bar Cookbook" is a beautiful book to own and a great inspiration for the creation of meals tantalizing to the palate. The recipes are innovative, well written and they work! This cookbook is the second best thing to having lunch at Harry's Bar, but with the stories in the book and your dreamy imagination, it's almost like being there!
The beauty of the recipes lies in their simplicity, their adaptability to a range of dining styles from elegant to informal and their memorable flavor. I hope you enjoy this cookbook as much as we do in our home.