Sweet peas are prized in many parts of Italy, but many think the sweetest come from Peseggia, a town north of Venice. The peas grown there are so tender that even the princess in the “Princess and the Pea” fairy tale would have felt comfortable with them. In May and June, the town holds a sagra dei bisi, a festival of peas. During the festival, people dress in period costume, and there are all kinds of performances. Most important are the numerous booths serving the exquisitely sweet peas prepared in a variety of ways.
A classic preparation is risi e bisi, a soup of rice and peas. Served to the Venetian doge during one of the most important festivals of the year, the Sensa, risi e bisi embodies the festival as a marriage of land and sea. The peas are islands floating in the broth that symbolizes the Venetian lagoon.
At their peak, peas explode in your mouth with flavor. One of our favorite recipes comes from a restaurant in the Veneto named Il Pompiere. The chef-owner Marco makes an egg pasta dish that’s infused with the luscious pea flavor, but only when the peas from Peseggia are in season. Although it’s possible to make this dish with frozen peas, the sweet taste of fresh peas is so wonderful that it’s well worth the time needed to shell them.