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Venetian Galani

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The Carnival in Venice, an event unique in the world, renewing its magic year after year. During the period of its celebrations, all the pastry chefs of the Doge’s city prepare delicious sweets: among them the Venetian Galani. Let’s find out the history of these sweet specialty, where to savor their original taste and many interesting curiosities.

The origins.

The origins of Venetian Galani.

The ‘Galani’ are, together with ‘Frittelle’ (in dialect,‘fritole’), the Venetian carnival desserts having the oldest tradition. A tradition rooted in a distant past: some historians argue that their ancestor could be the ‘frictilia’, prepared in ancient Rome during the ‘Saturnalia’ festivities. An important evidence supports this hypothesis: the fact that similar preparations, true heirs of the ‘frictilia’, can be found nowadays, under different names, in almost all the regions of Italy and even in many countries of Europe, once dominions of the Empire.
Most probably, the original recipe evolved differently in different places: in Venice this dessert is characterized by a texture particularly thin and a shape that reminds that of the ribbon, the ‘galan’, once worn around the neck by local girls.

It’s somewhat surprising that moving just a few kilometers from the Lagoon, pushing into the Veneto region, the same dessert is slightly different: the ‘crostolo’ is thicker, has notched edges, and is frequently cut in the middle.

*1: The region of Italy where Venice is located.

Venezia: the city of Galani.

Galani are among the most traditional sweet specialties from Venice. The ‘Doge’s city’ has a very ancient history. Nowadays the provincial capital of the Veneto Region, located in the north/east of Italy.

WebFoodCulture: the most traditional restaurants.

Where to eat Galani in Venice?

Here follows a short list of some of the most traditional pastry shops in Venice making the original Galani.

  • Pasticceria Rizzardini
    Address: Sestiere San Polo 1415 Campiello dei Meloni – 30125 Venezia
    Tel. +39 041 522 3835
  • Pasticceria Rosa Salva
    Address: San Marco 950 – 30124 Venezia
    Tel. +39 041 521 0544
Roman ‘frictilia’.

Roman ‘frictilia’, the ancestors of Galani.

The ‘frictilia’ are often considered the true ancestors of Galani. Just like the ‘Globulos’, this was a dessert that could not be missed during the festivity known as ‘Saturnalia’, an event in which, at the time of ancient Rome, the sowing and the god Saturn were celebrated.

Although not all sources agree, the ‘frictilia’ consisted of strips (*1), prepared using a simple dough made with flour (probably spelt), fried in pork fat and seasoned with honey.

*1: Some sources speculate that perhaps they were round in shape.

The ingredients.

The ingredients of Venetian Galani.

Here follow the complete list of the ingredients generally used to make the most classic Venetian Galani:

  • Flour type 00;
  • Powdered sugar;
  • Granulated sugar;
  • Butter;
  • Eggs;
  • Grappa;
  • White wine;
  • Salt;
  • Yeast;
  • Grated lemon peel;
Calories and nutritional values.

Galani: calories and nutritional values.

One hundred grams of Galani contain just over 500 calories. From a nutritional point of view they contain primarily carbohydrates, then fats, sugars and to a lesser extent fibre. There is also a fair amount ofproteins.

Many different types.

Many types of Venetian Galani.

As already mentioned in another paragraph of this article, the ‘Galani’ can be rightly considered the grandchildren of a kind of pastry very popular at the time of the Roman Empire: the ‘frictilia’. This empire, at the height of its glory, stretched its borders far beyond the current Italian and European territories. It’s therefore no coincidence that preparations similar to the Galani, most probably also derived from the ‘frictilia’, can be found in places very distant from Venice.

Their names obviously change from place to place. Here follows some examples, related to the Italian regions:

  • ‘Crostoli’: mainly in Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Trentino Alto Adige;
  • ‘Sfrappole’: in Emilia;
  • ‘Frappe’: mainly in Lazio, but also in some areas of Emilia;
  • ‘Cioffe’: mainly in Abruzzo;
  • ‘Bugie’: mainly in Liguria and Piedmont;
  • ‘Cenci’: mainly in Toscana;
  • ‘Chiacchiere’: Campania;

Some other examples, outside Italy:

  • Raderkuchen’: Germany;
  • ‘Minciunele’: Romania;
  • ‘Chrusciki’: Poland;
  • ‘Oreillettes’: France;
  • ‘Khvorost’: Russia;
When are they sold in Venice?

When are Galani sold in Venice?

In Venice the commercialization of Galani should start, at least theoretically, from the day after the Epiphany and end with Shrovetide. This is a non-mandatory rule, that is often disregarded.

‘Malvasia’ wine.

‘Malvasia’ wine to accompany Galani.

Traditionally, the ideal drink to accompany Galani is ‘Malvasia’, sweet and alcoholic wine with good acidity.

It would be more correct to say ‘Malvasias’, since it’s produced in many places, using many grape varieties. A few examples: Malvasia di Candia, Istrian Malvasia (both white berried), Malvasia di Brindisi and Malvasia d’Asti (both black berried).

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