Having just joined the Relais Dessert International Association, Andrea Zanin, member of the Ampi sincethe beginning, owns three pastry shops: two in Mestre and one in Venice. A multiple activity increased by work for other parties, in particular several banquets and parties that liven up the Lagoon. Add to this other clients, the highlight of them being the Orient Express, with its legendary trains and its likewise luxurious hotels.
With Andrea we visit the shops: an enjoyable experience which allows us to carry out an interview (part of which is published here) first on a ferry through Canal Grande and then while walking on the Venetian “calli”.

Andrea, is catering one of the jobs you most enjoy?
Yes, I like taking care of every aspect of the set up. I usually work with large catering businesses such as Trattoria Doforni, Dovalessa, Antico Pignolo or the Venice Casino. On average we serve plated desserts for 200-500 people, taking care of the decorations on location. Sometimes we also produce some important works.

What are the most valued sweets in these occasions?
Traditional recipes are the most requested, since the guests often come from far away and therefore appreciate local flavours. Obviously the works are light, never heavy. I particularly go for typical biscuits and Venetian focaccia, besides millefeuill cake with fresh raspberries and cream. There’s also an increase in requests for desserts in the glass, like revisited Tiramisu.

What is the element you most enjoy working with?
It’s sugar, also because, with experience, I find it quick to obtain nice decorations, while keeping the cost factor under control.

What are the most requested products, both in shops and at the banquets?
Mono-portions enjoy a growing success, and also mignons, which I produce in small cubes, in order to rationalize the production and minimize the waste. Besides, every leaven product in general and croissants, which I produce French-style, are made with brewer’s yeast.

What is your production made of?
On average, the counter never lacks at least 16 kinds of fresh cakes, 15-20 mignons, mono-portions and entremets; 8-10 types of jams, pralines and biscuits. As desserts, the Black Forest cake, the Tre Bon with three layers of chocolate… Savoury stuff includes Venetian sandwiches swollen with filling, leavened the French way and mini-pizzas made of half puff pastry and half leaven pastry. The presence of matching wines is also important.

Yours is a careful and rigorous way of innovating, with no noise or provocation, with the aim of a commercial gain constant through time, isn’t it?
I believe in traditional recipes revisited to satisfy modern tastes. For instance my butter cream is lightened with Italian meringue and alcohol, while my strawberry cake doesn’t include strange mixtures, but it is well appreciated, day after day. It is the union of the ingredients, the structure and the consistence that require attention and balance.

How much do you invest in technological innovation in your laboratory?
I believe in a well thought out investment because, with the machinery being often expensive, one needs to know how to fully exploit it. So an analysis of the costs is necessary before buying, along with estimating amortization time frames.

You are also famous for leaven products, aren’t you?
Yes, I have a fondness for dough. My father was very good with the yeast, but he didn’t pass on the technical bases to me, because he worked a lot by estimation. So I learned from zero: it’s very challenging, but I’m determined and, after ten years, the results confirm that the products are good. Another passion of mine is setting up savoury and sweet buffets, also taking care of settings with stones, exposed carved marble tiles or other peculiar elements.

How much time do you allow for research?
With just one shop I used to have much more time, but even now I try to concentrate on tests and analysis. My leaven dough philosophy is the result of trial and error, and Iginio Massari’s school.

What are the specifications of your leaven dough preparation technique?
My yeast isn’t sour, because I tend to maintain a very low pH. This way I identified the right balance, because keeping the sourness under control the softness increases. The dough is made with water at 40°-45°C in order to counteract the wintry cold environment; in the summer, the temperature of the water is lowered to 20°C.

Photo by Giancarlo Bononi.