13 Venetian restaurant owners have signed a lease for a plot of land in Sant’Erasmo to cultivate vegetables, spices and seasonings: all raw materials which will be used in their dishes. This is how Osti in Orto was born. It is an ambitious project, brought to Venetians by Venetians, that adds value to the city and makes us proud by telling us that Venice is still alive and well!
This place is remembered as the old farm of Sant’Erasmo where citizens went to buy milk and groceries. That is what Mario and Davide recount to us. Along with other co-workers, they take care of the production process. Once, there was also a breeding farm for pigs and horses. The terrain was particularly suitable to farm orchards: in addition to the peaches used to make the famous Bellini, pear, plum, prune and jujube trees also flourished there.
An Eden of agriculture which, as many other beautiful lacunar cultivations, slowed down its production after the high waters of 1966, a catastrophic event that destroyed hundreds of harvests. After a period of stagnation, its owners took over the situation and started farming vegetables again, reaching a productivity that allowed them to supply the market of Rialto.
When the Osti in Orto project started, the terrains had remained uncultivated for many years.
Cesare Benelli, owner of al Covo, launched the project at the end of 2020, and has been keeping it alive since then, along with other restaurant owners.
The first online meetings were last December; the construction works started in May 2021 and the very first delivery was in June–by boat of course! From Sant’Erasmo to the city centre to supply the kitchens of 13 local restaurants, among the best in Venice.
Four hectares completely destined to the production of organic food, as cauliflowers, Savoy cabbages, courgettes, radicchio and chicory. And, of course, the extremely famous artichokes of Sant’Erasmo, which are now also a Slow Food presidium, that find in the clayish terrain the ideal nutrients to flourish.
Although there are some difficulties: water levels, unstable weather, frequent raining followed by periods of drought which render the old artesian wells of the island useful once again. Nevertheless, the will to reach goals and the tenacity put into protecting the native variety of products is indeed stronger.
As of today, the project aims at reaching economic sustainability. That of Osti in Orto is an example of circular production. There is a community, a group of restaurant owners which has salvaged a piece of land and supports those who work there, and then there is the land, at the disposal of citizens, which gives back excellent raw materials to the activities.
We believe it to be right and deserved, in addition to the fact that it makes us proud, to give a voice to the projects of those citizens who in many ways enrich Venice and its laguna. A challenge, for the partners themselves, which gets together farmers and restaurant owners while always respecting the territory: in the end, it becomes a gift for our palate.
The restaurants involved in the project, where you can taste the results (the vegetables!) of this incredible work, are the following: Al Covo, Antiche Carampane, Trattoria Anzolo Raffaele, Rioba, Riviera, Testiere, Trattoria Vittoria da Aldo, Marciano e Marcianino, Vini da Gigio, Covino, Trattoria da Ignazio, Da Guido (in Jesolo).