It’s not Carnival in Venice without fritole, delicious crunchy fritters found in pastry shops this time of the year as you stroll calli and campielli.
Fritole are such a traditional staple of the Venice Carnival that, in the 17th century, ‘fritoleri,’ those who made fritole formed a corporation with the goal to assign each member an area where the fritolero could offer exclusively his product; in addition, the statute said the activity could only be passed on from father to son (or daughter), in order to preserve the tradition. In the past, fritoleri kneaded eggs, sugar, flour, pine nuts and raisins on a wooden table in the streets so people could see they were preparing a genuine product; they were then fried in oil, butter or pork fat.
Fritoleri came to be highly regarded and are even cited in works of Venetian literature, such as the famous comedy “Il Campiello” by Carlo Goldoni, where the protagonist, Orsola, is a fritolera.
When the Venice Republic fell, the corporation dissolved, but the fritoleri remained active in the streets of Venice until the end of the 19th century, before disappearing altogether.
The traditional recipe for fritole is the Venetian recipe, which is prepared adding raisins and pine nuts to a mixture of sugar, flour, milk and eggs, which is fried to obtain balls no larger than 4 centimeters diameter, and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Over time, variations have emerged in other areas of Veneto that involve the use of different ingredients ranging from flowers to fruits and vegetables, to rice and polenta.
Today, the recipe for fritole has been included in Italy’s list of Traditional Foods (Prodotti Agroalimentari Tradizionali) by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.
Have you tried fritole?