With an Italian cooking class high on our bucket list during our trip to Italy, we were on the search for a perfect location and chef to host us during our stay - and that we did find during our trip to Venice!
We had plans to visit the little town of Lido, which is around a 30 minute ferry ride from Venice island, and one of the only spots near Venice where you are able to swim in the beach along the shore - so when we discovered that Marika’s cooking classes through Acquolina were located here on Lido, it was a perfect opportunity to make an entire day of the adventure!
Marika offers a range of different cooking classes, including half day and full day courses, as well as a wine tasting course paired with food. The full day courses are held on market days, where you will go to the market with Marika and decide upon your menu for the day and select only the freshest vegetables, meats, fish and fruits.
We arrived at Marika’s Kitchen in Lido just before the start time of 10.30am, only a short walk from the ferry - located in the gorgeous grounds of a bed and breakfast villa by the name of Villa Ines. We were greeted in the garden entrance by the friendly staff at the property, and invited to take a seat and offered a coffee (the best espresso we have had in Italy to date!) while we waited for the class to begin. In a gorgeous setting of green tree’s and pink flowers, we couldn’t help but already get our camera out to take a few snaps!
It wasn’t long before Marika arrived to introduce herself and welcome us to her cooking class. She explained that there was one other couple who would also be participating in the class with us today, and that our menu would consist of vegetables, fish, pasta, and dessert, paired with wine - checking with us that we had no special dietary requirements. Mish advised Marika that she’s a vegetarian, and Marika assured us that this is no problem and that it would be very simple to amend the menu for Mish to ensure that she’s still eating similar meals, but without the meat or fish - just perfect!
Our meal was to consist of around 6 courses including three different types of home-made pasta and sauces, stuffed calamari, stuffed peppers, octopus salad, and a panacotta dessert.
Along with the other two participants, (a lovely American couple who were on their honeymoon!) Marika brought us to the upstairs quarters where the cooking class will take place. We arrived to a very spacious kitchen and dining area, here Marika had already set-up our cooking benches with all the utensils and food that we would need - the marble bench covered with fresh fish, herbs, vegetables, cooking equipment, and ingredients for a dessert too! Although we didn’t join Marika at the market in the morning, we learnt so much from her about how to select only the best produce when shopping at a marketplace - Marika explained the things to look out for when selecting fruit and vegetables (the smaller the more concentrated the flavour!), and indicators as to whether your fish is truly fresh or not.
We were each given a cute little apron, a run-down of what exactly the menu would entail, and we began to cook up a storm! With the entree primarily being seafood and vegetable dishes, we began by cleaning and preparing the fish. Marika showed us the correct techniques in cleaning all of the different types of fish that she had sourced, such as calamari, scampi, mussels, razor clams, baby clams, and octopus - the group started to prepare the fish, while Mish was given the task of preparing the peppers for entree, and preparation of all vegetables that would be included in the meals and stuffing of the fish.
One of our favourite parts of the class was making the fresh pasta - here we learnt all of the ingredients and ratio’s that are required to make the perfect fettuccine, the correct technique when kneading the dough, and how to then turn this dough into noodle strips! Marika was a wonderful teacher and chef, always explaining and showing us how to do a particular task, and then giving us all the opportunity to try it for ourselves - providing extra assistance when we needed. Marika’s kitchen was filled with only the best quality cookware and appliances, kitchen aid’s, and utensils, but had a wonderful traditional Italian homely feel about it. Rather than feeling like we were in a kitchen at a commercial restaurant - the experience was a enjoyable one - as if we were having an authentic Itallian cooking lesson with Mish’s nonna!
The best thing about our cooking class with Marika was that all of the recipe’s and meals that we made together, we would be able to easily do again once we are back home in our own kitchen! We were provided with print out instructions and recipe’s for each of the dishes that we made, and we loved that all of the ingredients that we used were simple but delicious - combining different herbs and spices with foods to really make the most of the flavours in each component of our meal.
With tummies rumbling from the smells of the delicious foods wafting around the kitchen, we couldn’t wait to dig into the feast that we had created! Marika had pre-set the dining table with a gorgeous table cloth, serving ware, and wine glasses for all. We were all so very impressed with the delicious flavours in each of the courses, and how simple they were to create! Authentic Italian meals that can be so easily recreated - with techniques and secret ingredients that we will remember to add to our cooking for always! With each course we enjoyed some wine, which was a wonderful reward after working hard in the kitchen.. we had SO much fun and we would highly recommend an Italian cooking class with Marika for anyone who will be in Venice!
Cooking since she was a young girl, and with many years of professional experience as a chef in both New York & Europe, you truly are learning from the best of the best with Marika. There were lots of laughs in the kitchen and it was such a great day whipping up traditional food that we proudly devoured straight out the kitchen! Whether you are a cook yourself, or just interested in the Italian cuisine, this class is suitable for all ages and experiences. For more information, visit the website link here to organise your own wonderful day in Lido, Venezia with Marika: https://www.acquolina.com/eng/content/cooking-school/