Rice was introduced to Venice from the East, and soon became the emblem of wealth, abundance and fertility. Rice dishes have long signified hope on the tables of the poor in Veneto – rice and fegatelli (pork livers) has been served at rural weddings for centuries – as well as on the tables of the upper classes. The typical dish of the Dogi served in celebration of Saint Mark, Patron Saint of the Republic, was risi e bisi (rice and peas), a recipe that still remains very famous.
Cultivation began in the 16th century, buoyed by considerable tax incentives applied by the Serenissima Republic of Venice. It was first grown on the Verona plain at the beginning of the 17th century, and has had a considerable influence on the landscape and local traditions. Major irrigation systems were built so that long channels could carry pure water drawn from springs to the fields, a precious commodity for the growers.
Rice growing in the Verona area has always focused on top quality varieties and growing practices have been refined over the years, with traditional methods being improved by modernisation. The Vialone Nano variety was a welcome arrival to the area and its outstanding quality prompted the Protection Consortium to apply for the European indication. Rice is a special product for the people of the Veneto Region, as it was introduced by the Eastern communities who had settled in Venice and enjoyed flourishing trades there. It soon became a traditional food, to the extent that regional cooking methods are unique. Here, rice is to be served “all’onda” (like a wave), cooked in just a little liquid, so the grain takes on the flavour of the other ingredients but remains “al dente”. It has to remain soft – like a wave – after it has been “bound” with butter and in some cases a sprinkle of grated Grana cheese. The secret to these recipes lies in the traditional, gentle but astute process that gives the grain of the Vialone Nano Veronese its hint of a darker tone, preserving its distinctive flavour and making it so hard to overcook. The coarse rice is dried, grains are whitened by a mechanical process and finally the best rice is selected by removing impurities and even the slightest defects. The result is a white grain with no stripes and with a discernible central “pearl”.
The designated region of cultivation is very extensive, and features architectural and cultural places of interest that lie along the route of the Strada del prodotto tipico (Typical-product Road). There are many fifteenth century Venetian style homes still found on the plain of Verona.