The regional variations for the making of bacala, Italian dried salted codfish, extend even to its name which can also be spelled baccalà (in Portuguese bacalhau and in Spanish bacalao). Bacala came from the North in exchange for spices and found its way to the tables of Venice where it is cooked alla vicentina,  a popular dish of the Veneto.  Baccala’ alla vicentina is made with unsalted dried cod, butter, flour, olive oil, milk, onion, anchovies and grated Parmigiano served with soft polenta. Unsalted dried cod  is known as stockfish, stoccafisso in Italian.  It is used to make this dish although it seems that in Italian the word bacala means any dish made with dried cod in general.  My cousin Mirna made this dish for me on a recent visit to Portogruaro, a town in the Veneto region of Italy halfway between Venice and Trieste.  It was warm and creamy; Italian comfort food.  Baccala’ alla vicentina is native to this region where legend has it that in the late 1800’s a trattoria operated by a certain Mrs Giuseppina Terribile in Bianco, nicknamed “Siora Vitoria” first served the dish that shortly became the culinary attraction of the region . “Orders and exclamations of satisfaction met in every dining room, from courtyard to courtyard” and people traveled from near and far to taste the delicate, creamy bacala studded sauce simmering in the wood fired stoves of the Veneto. There is also a bacala manteca (salted cod whipped with garlic flavored oil and parsley until it is light and creamy)  used as a spread.  In the South of Italy bacala is often made in a spicy tomato sauce and during the Christmas season served as part of the traditional Christmas Eve dinner known as the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Bacala in rosso is also favored in the Amalfi region of Liguria where it is stewed or slowly cooked in the oven with tomatoes. The bacala battles rage on in Florence and Rome, even if they have no seacoast, with local variations.  The town of Sandrigo, north of Vicenza is considered to be the historical home of baccalà.  During the last weekend of September there is a festival celebrated in the name of  all things baccalà.

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