Barcelona. A 24 hour layover. I had a single goal: the Venetian pasta dish at Xemei. It’s nice neighborhood restaurant off the beaten tourist track that specializes in Venetian cuisine. Famously, the staff kicked Woody Allen out for being late for his reservation. Knowing they’d take no prisoners, we weren’t about to take our chances. I had been dreaming of the famous Venetian spaghetti for months now and I needed to have it. We booked a table for 11pm, because… Spain. The staff accepted.
Come 11pm and we are tired but exhilarated from a full day of sightseeing and our bellies still full from other culinary delights. But I have waited for this Venetian pasta dish and no amount of weariness would keep between the dish and me. A jovial trek to Xemei ensued. We take our seats and to our waitress’ surprise, I ask her to take our orders right off the bat. I came prepared. Fast-forward fifteen minutes, our waitress enters the kitchen and within seconds she exits, with the dish. The bright yellow egg pasta peeking from the dull yet glossy sauce that coated it ever so perfectly. It was just as I’d imagined it. One bite and there it was: the rare moment when expectations met reality. Perfection. The initial pungency arrested my taste buds like a savory bomb but that slowly then turned to a rounded sweetness.
That moment stayed with me and I was determined to remake the dish. I forced myself to recreate it. And so it did. The first time I tried my version, I knew it would forever be a family recipe.
It’s a classic dish. It’s simple and yet has so much finesse. It’s got a heavy hit of umami but the cheap sweetness of the onions really shines through and softens the heady saltiness of the anchovies, introducing almost floral notes. Meanwhile, the rich pasta and cream rounds out the dish.
I have made this dish for my family friends, and it is a crowd pleaser. So much so that even staunch haters of anchovies love it! But most of all it uniqueness sticks in their minds.