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Posted 4/28/2018

BELLINI

 

Venice in high season. Tourist groups thronged the piazzas (those flags), while day trippers from mestre and beyond, hunkered down in the waterfront food emporia that promise food just like ‘back home’ (plastic-wrapped menus with lurid illustrations).

 

After several days in an airless bnb with views of an air-conditioning duct, we were ready for an overnight stay at the legendary Cipriani hotel, just a 10-minute ride on their swanky private launch from St Marks Square - but a world away from the scourge of mass tourism.

 

Waiting for the hotel’s boat to collect us my friend, deeply embarrassed, pretended not to know me; earlier, I had made the cardinal error of buying an “original” Louis Vuitton weekend bag from a smooth-talking sidewalk salesman. The other guests on our motor launch pretended not to notice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long known as a hidey-hole for celebrities, the Cipriani in all its dusky-pink glory is nothing if not discreet. We saw no one we recognised, but the afternoon of our arrival I watched from my suite as a pencil-thin woman, still impossibly glamorous in a hooded dressing gown and dark glasses, approached the pool. With her back to the hotel she disrobed and slipped into the water.

 

But we weren’t there for celebrity spotting. On the terrace overlooking the pool, we were served two perfect Bellinis, the classic Venetian cocktail created by Harry’s Bar founder Giuseppe Cipriani in 1948. Under the watchful gaze of our host, Guiseppe’s son, restaurateur and food writer Arrigo Cipriani, we took our first sip of that quintessentially Italian mix of fresh peach puree and Prosecco. For once words failed us.

 

We had several versions of the Bellini while in Venice, including at Harry’s Bar itself, but it was at the Cipriani that we found the truly authentic one.

 

Recipes abound with suggestions on how to mulch the peaches, including using a food processor. I think not. Also, stir to mix? Definitely not. I like the layers, so that when you tilt the glass, you sip the nectar through the bubbly. Bliss.

 

Once, a potential paramour presented me with sweet white peaches, a bottle of cold Prosecco and two chilled glasses. He poured the fizz and then with long-stemmed fingers, peeled and squeezed the peaches into the glasses; the peach juice settled to the bottom. I succumbed. How could I not?

 

Back in Venice, my friend and I headed for Harry’s Bar. For research purposes, we ordered achingly expensive Bellini’s. What a disappointment; they were a poor relation of Arrigo’s.

 

Earlier, as we were about to leave the Cipriani, I realised that I had lost my Mont Blanc pen. A search party was dispatched, and we were just about to board the launch back to St Mark’s when the head gardener arrived, pen in hand. I had dropped it in hotel’s own vineyard.

 

Unlike the Louis Vuitton, the Mont Blanc was authentic. My reputation was redeemed.