Rice and corn for risotto and polenta, at Tenuta di Bagnoli, an estate outside Padova
A friend gave me some rice and polenta from the Dominio di Bagnoli in Veneto and I was so impressed that I made an appointment to visit the farm. Traces of the Borletti family's huge estate (over 3,000 acres) date from the year 954, when Duke Almerigo donated the feudal Dominio (dominion) to a Benedictine monastery. It was purchased in 1657 by Count Ludovico Widman, who hired a big-name architect to build a grand palace with a small theater, since the Baron was wild about theatrical productions.
Carlo Goldoni, illustrious Venetian playwright, visited the Dominio twice, acted in his own plays in the theater and even dedicated a comedy, The Coffee Shop, to the Count. In 1742 Widman commissioned a series of statues for the garden depicting characters from Goldoni's plays.
The estate was eventually purchased by the Borletti family, who today grow first-rate Carnaroli, Arborio and Vialone Nano rice, yellow Marano and white Perla corn for polenta, and make wine, grappa and wine vinegar from the local Friularo grape. The rice is perfect for risotto, holds up well to cooking and remains firm under tooth. The cornmeal, from two heirloom varieties rarely planted since they yield far less than modern hybrids, is full-flavored, corny. The vinegar is wonderful, the grappa potent, and I'm warming up to the wine, although it hasn't become a favorite.
Contact Lorenzo Borletti if you'd like to visit, purchase some of the estate's fine products and check out the formal gardens with the Goldoni statues.
Tenuta di Bagnoli, tel. 39-049-5380008, fax 39-049-5380021.
January 17, 1996