Ballotta: Galileo’s trattoria


Ballotta: Galileo’s trattoria.

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here are places where food, no matter how delicious, manages to acquire additional, unexpected flavour: a special taste coming from its centenary history, from its land and from the people who have contributed in making it unique. A place like this is in Italy, in Veneto Region, at the foot of the Euganean Hills, not far from the cities of Padua and Venice. A ‘trattoria’ where typical specialities are served to all kind of customers since the XVII Century. It’s fascinating to find out that many famous people, like the scientist Galileo Galilei, were among them … Welcome to the Antica Trattoria Ballotta.

Quattrocento anni (e più) di cibo tipico.

Antica Trattoria Ballotta, the carriage (img-22)

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he Antica Trattoria Ballotta, one of the most traditional restaurants in the Veneto region, has become ‘ancient’ (‘antica’) not for the stroke of genius of an advertising expert but, as it should be, thanks to its many centuries of history. It’s located at the foot of the Euganean Hills, on volcanic soil, whose fertility was already well known to the ancient Romans. In the Middle Ages, the friars of Saint Augustine took care of the area, erecting some structures, including a shelter for pilgrims (*1) and a small convent. Not far from the convent was built an edifice that, during the ‘500, the religious sold to a private.

Antica Trattoria Ballotta, sign. He transformed it into a tavern (‘osteria’). Situated in a strategic position, this place soon became a reference point for travelers, starting to be used as a staging post. An almost necessary point of passage: even more so, when people noticed that its food was excellent.
This was how the tavern started to be famous: a celebrity further increased by the visit of well-known customers. Personalities like Galileo Galilei, who did not disdain to stop for a ‘delicious’ break during the journeys to visit his favourite butcher in Abano. Personalities like Giacomo Casanova, who proved to be not just an admirer of beautiful women, but also of the pleasures of the table.



The definitive consecration of what in time became a proper restaurant, occurred with its inclusion in the register of the Historic Places of Italy. On this occasion, since it was not possible to establish precisely the date of birth of the ‘osteria’, it was decided that it was undoubtedly prior to 1605, whereas the right one should most likely be in the middle of the ‘500 (this explains the title of the paragraph).

Notes:
*1: The ‘ospitale peregrinorum’ was built by the friars in honor of Saint Leonard.


Trattoria Ballotta, interior (img-21)

The guests of Ballotta.

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uring the centuries the Antica Trattoria Ballotta had many guests: among them, a large number of famous people: scientists, writers, politicians, intellectuals and so on. Personalities who, once seated at the table, had the opportunity to reclaim part of their human side by appreciating good food. Personalities whose visit left an indelible mark, translating into a fascinating atmosphere quite perceptible still today eating in the restaurant.
Here follows a brief excursus of some of the most famous customers of the trattoria: a list that, although incomplete, is very indicative.


Galileo Galilei (img-01)

Galileo Galilei

Astronomer, mathematician and philosopher, Galilei lived in Italy between the Sixteenth and the Seventeenth centuries. Among the many contributions he made to science, his commitment to the Copernican theory, according to which the Sun, rather than the Earth, is at the center of our solar system. (More)


Giacomo Casanova (img-02)

Giacomo Casanova

Casanova was for sure one of the most ‘interesting’ citizens of the Venetian Republic in the Eighteenth century. He had many interests: he was a poet, a diplomat, a philosopher and much more. His greatest passion was that for women: so great to gain the reputation of ‘prince of seducers’. (More)


Daniele Manin (img-03)

Daniele Manin

Man of great culture, Manin lived in the Nineteenth Century. Great opponent of the Austrian domination over Venice, he was imprisoned for his passionate patriotic activity. Freed by the revolting people, he was appointed President of the newly formed Republic of San Marco. (More)


Ugo Foscolo (img-04)

Ugo Foscolo

Ugo Foscolo, one of the most illustrious Italian writers, lived in the period between the 18th and the 19th centuries. Fine literate, he was an exponent of Neoclassicism and Pre-Romanticism. His life and works were deeply influenced by his strong patriotic attachment to his country. (More)


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (img-05)

J.W. von Goethe

J.W. von Goethe lived between the 18th and 19th centuries. He is considered one of the greatest German writers, author of novels, plays and poems like Faust.
He had a great passion not only for writing, but also for art, philosophy and science. (More)


Gabriele D'Annunzio (img-06)

Gabriele D’Annunzio

D’Annunzio was an histrionic intellectual, point of reference for the Italian culture between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. Great proponent of decadentism, he was not just a writer, but also a politician, a soldier, a poet and a journalist. (More)



Venetian culinary tradition at Ballotta: the ‘Torresano’.

The 'torresano' (img-17)

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orresano’ (or ‘toresan’), is the Venetian dialect for ‘pigeon’: it seems that the word comes from a particular kind of tower, the ‘dovecot tower’, where this bird was once bred primarily to be served on the tables of the richest nobility.
A very ancient type of food, there are no doubts about it: in the ‘500, the writer and patron Alvise Corner, in his composition ‘Discorso sulla vita sobria’ (‘Treatise about sober life’), refers to some delicious ‘Pippioni Torraiuoli’ (or ‘torrigiani’).

Dovecote tower, Palazzo Panicali (img-15) The true origin of the specialty and, above all, the use of its name (*2), were for long time at the center of a dispute between the towns (both Venetian) of Torreglia and Breganze: in the end, the dispute was settled by a court of justice, granting the right to both of them. Anyway, it’s important to point out that the methods of cooking differ quite a lot from each other: in Breganze the torresano is usually cooked on a spit, in Torreglia it’s stuffed first, then baked. Needless to say, over the years, chefs have invented many other recipes using the ‘torresano’, but if you want to taste the original, one of the best (and most appropriate) places is definitely the Antica Trattoria Ballotta, preparing it (both ‘versions’) since the beginning of the Seventeenth Century (and, most probably, even earlier).

Note:
*1: Also known as Luigi Cornaro.
*2: ‘Torresano’.

Venetian culinary tradition at Ballotta: the ‘Bollito’.

The paduan 'Gran Bollito'.

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ust hearing about ‘Gran Bolllito alla Padovana’ (‘Great Paduan boiled meat’), comes to the mind a sort of ‘triumph of meat’. It’s undoubtedly one of the most typical specialties served at the Antica Trattoria Ballotta: after all Torreglia, the town where this restaurant is located, is only a few kilometers from the city of Padua. It is said that the great scientist Galileo Galilei loved this dish quite a lot, so much to go personally (from time to time) to Abano (*1) to visit his trusted butcher. Well, as luck would have it, stopping by Ballotta to eat something became for him a delicious temptation.

Paduan breed rooster (img-16) At this point it’s necessary to explain what exactly is the ‘Great Bollito alla Padovana’: to prepare it, pieces of selected (*2) meat (beef, veal and pork) have to be boiled separately (*3). However, what makes this recipe really ‘Paduan’, the ‘secret ingredient’ that differentiates it from similar ones, is the addition of the meat of the famous ‘gallina padovana’ (‘Paduan hen’).
To conclude, the ‘Great Bollito’ is usually accompanied by various types of side dishes (especially mashed potatoes) and sauces such as ‘cren’ (horseradish sauce) and green sauce.

Notes:
*1: Famous spa town not far from Padua.
*2: Unlike the ‘lesso’, for which is generally used meat of inferior quality.
*3: Cloves, onion, celery and laurel leaves should be added to the water used to boil the beef.

Some other Venetian specialties …

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he ‘Torresano’ and the ‘Gran Bollito’ are clearly not the only typical dishes served at the Trattoria Ballotta, there are in fact many others that, for the sake of brevity of this article, can not be fully described. Anyway, it’s quite important to mention at least other three specialties: three ‘flag bearers’ of the Venitian gastronomic tradition in the world.


Bigoli with hare sauce (img-18)

Bigoli with hare sauce

‘Bigoli’ are a kind of long pasta prepared (according to the original recipe) with soft wheat, water and salt. Their typical roughness makes them particularly suitable to retain condiments such as, for example, hare sauce (very popular in the Euganean Hills area).


Venetian pasta and beans (img-19)

Venetian ‘pasta and beans’

Venetian ‘pasta and beans’ is both a simple and delicious specialty. Its recipe differs from other similar ones for the (optional) use of ingredients such as pork (smoked), celery and especially potatoes: these give to the dish its typical creaminess.


'Poenta e osei' (img-20)

‘Poenta e osei’.

‘Osei’, the Venetian dialect for ‘birds’, are the main ingredient of this recipe. Small-sized ones (larks, thrushes, etc.) are generally used. They are cooked on a spit or in a pan, often accompanied by pieces of lard and sage leaves, and served with some ‘polenta’.



Galileo Galilei: scientific genius …

Galileo Galilei (img-13)

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alileo was, without a doubt, one of the most famous customers of Trattoria Ballotta. Since it’s quite possible that not everyone remembers exactly why he was so famous, it’s therefore appropriate to say something about his life and achievements. Messer Galileo Galilei, born in Pisa in 1564, is widely considered one of the fathers of modern science. Astronomer, physicist and mathematician, he loved so much these disciplines to consider them fundamental for the understanding of the universe, even from a philosophical point of view.

Heliocentric universe (img-09) His great desire for a kind of knowledge mirroring reality as much as possible, led him to adopt the ‘experimental method’: a method based on empirical analysis, carried out using precision instruments. It was exactly the desire for state-of-the-art equipment to encourage him to perfect the telescope in order to better observe the cosmos: that’s how he became a strong supporter of the heliocentric (or ‘Copernican’) theory. According to this theory the Earth, and not the Sun, is at the center of our solar system.

Part of Galileo’s studies were conducted in Padua: he lived in this city for eighteen years, from 1592 to 1610, taking advantage of the religious tolerance allowed by the influence of the nearby Republic of Venice. A precious tolerance, considering the violent methods used at that time by the Church of Rome to defend its own doctrine.



It seems that the years spent in Padua were particularly happy and fruitful for the scientist, as proved by his own words:

“Consumai li diciotto anni migliori di tutta la mia età”

“I spent there the best eighteen years of my entire life”

(*1)

The protection from the church vanished the day he decided to move: after some time he was in fact accused of heresy for having opposed the Aristotelian precepts (asserting the centrality of the Sun). Taken to trial by the Holy Office, he escaped the stake (*2) publicly renouncing his ideas. He was therefore forced to confine himself to Arcetri, where he died in 1642 after having contributed indelibly to the evolution of human knowledge.

Notes:
*1: Excerpt from a letter sent to Fortunio Liceti in the month of June, 1640.
*2: The stake was used by the ‘holy’ Roman Church to punish many: among them, the Dominican monk Giordano Bruno.


Padua, astronomical observatory.

… and great gourmand!

Still Life with Cheeses, Almonds and Pretzels (img-10)

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trange as it may seem, Galieo Galilei, genius, scientist and fierce opposer of the cultural status quo imposed by the arrogant ecclesiastical hierarchies, had also a ‘human’ side of his character: a part of his personality expressing itself in simple manifestations, such as the love for good food. Many evidences show that he ate very well, especially when at home, spending quite a lot of money for his delicacies.

'The Autumn', Arcimboldo (img-11) It’s therefore not surprising that, during the period in which he lived in Padua, many were the scholars (belonging to the richest class and the nobility) who chose to live with him to enjoy not only his teachings, but also the refined cuisine. The habit to host students was in truth widespread among the academics of the time: this way they could make up their salary thanks to the rent and expensive gifts. During the years, famous people like Carlo Gonzaga and numerous scions of the best Italian and foreign families stayed at Galileo’s house.

The great attachment of the great scientist to the pleasures of the table is proven by many documents handed down to the present day. Some of them are particularly indicative, such as a payment note sent by a butcher (*1), showing precisely the type and quantities of meat purchased. This short text is really interesting, because thanks to it it’s possible to explore the private sphere of a historical figure of great importance.

Here follows a brief excerpt from the document:

Click here to view it.

Adi 11 di Xmbre 1604.
11th of December 1604.
Il beccaio d’Abano deve havere per libre 52 di sovranello L. 20.16
The butcher from Abano must be paid for 52lbs. of sovranello L. 20.16
Et più, per libre 27 di vitello L. 13.10
For 27lbs. of calf L. 13.10
A di 24 Xmbre, libre 52 manzo L. 18. 4
11th of December, 52lbs. of beef L. 18. 4
Et più, lib. 14 sovranello L. 5.12
For 14lbs. of sovranello L. 5.12
A di 29 di Gennaio, libr. 39 di manzo L. 13.13
29th of January, for 39lbs. of beef L. 13.13
Il beccaro d’Abano deve havere, per carne hauto sino a
questo di 28 di Xmbre L. 15.10
The butcher from Abano must have for the meat sent so far,
day 28th of December L. 15.10

According to the content of the full version of this note and to other clues, it’s quite clear that ‘lesso’ (boiled meat), was a type of food often present on the table of Galileo, at least during his stay in Padua. It is probably no coincidence, considering that it’s one of the most typical dishes from this city (further described in another paragraph of this article).

Notes:
*1: It’s important to point out the fact that there are many other documents like this, about supplies of fish, wine and cheese.

Torreglia, the town of Ballotta.

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he Trattoria Ballotta gets a good portion of its indisputable charm from the fascinating place where it’s located: the lush slopes of the Euganean Hills, part of the municipality of Torreglia.
The origins of this town are very old: archaeological discoveries have proved that there are settlements in the area since the Neolithic. The Romans were the first to appreciate the fertility of this territory, a characteristic mainly due to its volcanic origins. During the Middle Ages, the ecclesiastical authorities carried out, among other things, reclamation works, thus contributing to the development of agriculture.



In the Fifteenth Century this zone was annexed to the Republic of Venice: an influence witnessed by the presence of sumptuous villas that still today embellish the landscape. Among these, it’s important to mention the magnificent Villa dei Vescovi, in the district of Luvignano.
Starting from the Nineteenth Century, Torreglia began to depend on tourism, driven by the beauty of its places and the proximity to renowned spas. A dense entrepreneurial fabric started to develop after the second post-war period.


Torreglia, panorama.

Galileo and wine (img-14)

GOETHE EATS AT ‘BALLOTTA’

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n September 1786, the famous German writer J.W. von Goethe ate at the Trattoria Ballotta, enjoying particularly some dishes: the ’baccalà mantecato’ (creamed cod), the Montagnana ham and the stuffed quail. Everything was accompanied by more than one glass of Friularo wine.
It seems that on this occasion he said:

“Die ganzen menù hat mir sehr geschmeckt und verliebt wie eine Dame”

“I really enjoyed the menù and fell in love with it like with a woman”

THE NAME OF BALLOTTA

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uite many have been the owners of the Trattoria Ballotta during its four hundred years (and more) of life. It’s interesting to find out that the name of the restaurant, ‘Ballotta’, is actually the nickname given to Toni Carta, one of these owners, for the ‘generous’ dimensions of his body.

Preparazione.

HOW TO MAKE THE ‘SARDE IN SAOR’

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ere follows a video showing how to prepare the ‘Sarde in Saor’, a traditional Venetian recipe, one of the typical dishes served at ‘Ballotta’.

THE MUSIC OF PERTILE FOR BALLOTTA

Aureliano Pertile was born in 1885 in Montagnana, a Venetian town not distant from the Trattoria Ballotta. He was a tenor of international fame, one of the favorites of the great conductor Arturo Toscanini and for a long time he was a star of the Metropolitan in New York. Some of his songs are certainly the ideal choice to accompany this article:




THE CHURCH OF SAN SABINO

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an Sabino is a small church that, according to some documents, dates back to 1077. It’s located on a hill overlooking the town of Torreglia and the Antica Trattoria Ballotta. From its terrace it’s possible to enjoy a beautiful panorama including the city of Padua.

GALILEO’S HOUSE IN PADUA

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s Galileo admitted in one of his own letters (“I spent there the best eighteen years of my entire life”), the period in which he lived in Padova was for him one of the happiest and most productive. During great part of this period, he stayed in a nice building in the historic center, not far from the famous Basilica of St. Anthony, located in a street that currently bears his name.

THE UNIVERSITY OF GALILEO

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alileo, during the period between 1592 and 1610, taught at the University of Padua, one of the oldest in the world, founded in 1222. Since 1492, this University has its seat at the Palazzo del Bo: a very interesting building that should be remembered, among other things, for its famous anatomical theater.

GALILEO AND THE OBSERVATORY

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here is a suggestive building in the city of Padua, not far from its historic center: the ‘Specola’ Astronomical Observatory. Many believe that Galileo used it for his research, but it’s not true. In fact, although the original structure (a defense tower known as ‘Torlonga’) dates back to the Ninth Century, its summit, devoted to the study of the stars, was added quite later, in Mid-Eighteenth Century, well after the scientist’s death.

BALLOTTA: INFORMATION

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t’s not difficult to visit the Antica Trattoria Ballotta: the main point of reference is the city of Padua (not far from Venice). From Padua, head towards the Euganean Hills and reach the town of Torreglia, it’s short and pleasant route.

ANTICA TRATTORIA BALLOTTA

Address: Via Romana 57
35038 Torreglia (PD)

Website: www.ballotta.it

Mail: info@ballotta.it

Tel.: +39 049 5212970

fax: +39 049 9933350




The images bearing the logo ‘webfoodculture’ are copyrighted.

The following images are public domain:

Click here for the list.

img-01 (*) – Galileo Galilei, J. Sustermans, 1640 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-Art} {PD-US}
img-02 (*) – Giacomo Casanova, F.G. Casanova, 1750-1755 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-Art} {PD-US}
img-03 (*) – Daniele Manin, H. Voland, 1852 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-US}
img-04 (*) – Ugo Foscolo, F.X.Pascal Fabre, 1813 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-Art} {PD-US}
img-05 (*) – J.W.von Goethe, J.K. Stieler, 1828 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-Art} {PD-US}
img-06 (*) – Gabriele D’Annunzio, United States Library of Congress (Wikipedia Link) {PD-US}
img-07 (*) – Goethe in the Roman Campagna, 1787, J.H.W. Tischbein (Wikipedia Link) {PD-Art} {PD-US}
img-08 (*) – Aureliano Pertile, 1910, author unknown (Wikipedia Link) {PD-US}
img-09 (*) – Heliocentric universe, Harmonia Macrocosmica, 1660, A.Cellarius (Wikipedia Link) {PD-Art} {PD-US}
img-10 (*) – ‘Still Life with Cheeses, Almonds and Pretzels’, by C.Peeters, 1615 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-Art} {PD-US}
img-11 (*) – ‘The Autumn’, by G.Arcimboldo, 1572 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-Art} {PD-US}
img-12 (*) – ‘Galileo Galilei showing the Doge …’, Bertini, 1858 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-Art} {PD-US}
img-13 (*) – Portrait of Galileo Galilei, Tintoretto, 1602ca., Nat.Maritime Museum (Wikipedia Link) {PD-Art} {PD-US}
img-14 (*) – Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition, C.Banti, 1857 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-Art} {PD-US}

These images are made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0):

img-15 – Dovecote tower, Palazzo Panicali, image owner: Chrysochloa (Wikipedia Link)
img-16 – Paduan breed rooster, image owner Andrea Mangoni (Wikipedia Link)

The following images are published courtesy of the owner of Trattoria Ballotta:

img-17 – The ‘torresano’.
img-18 – Bigoli with hare sauce.
img-19 – Venetian pasta and beans.
img-20 – ‘Poenta e osei’.
img-21 – Trattoria Ballotta, interior.
img-22 – Antica Trattoria Ballotta, the carriage.

Header images:

Image 01 – Antica Trattoria Ballotta, interior (courtesy of Trattoria Ballotta).
Image 02 (*) – Portrait of Galileo Galilei, Justus Sustermans, 1640 (Wikipedia Link) {PD-Art} {PD-US}

(*) The copyright of this image has expired.
(**) Image released in public domain by its author.