You won’t find it in any of the most expensive and exclusive ristorantes along Venice’s Grand Canal; not even at the world-famous Restaurant Terrazza Danieli. It’s only available once a year, and then only to those who are insiders. The dish, however, is both remarkable and remarkably simple: furnace-roasted eel combines eel, salt, and bay leaves. The cooking facilities necessary for getting it just right are only available to those with access to a glass furnace. It’s an uncommon delicacy, a Christmas tradition eaten once a year by the glassblowers at Vetreria Archimede Seguso.
As host of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, his eponymous food-based travel show on the Travel Channel, chef Andrew Zimmern travels to Venice in an episode that originally aired on February 1, 2011. In between indulging in regional delicacies such as cuttlefish in black ink, razor clams and risotto, and shrimp right out of the ocean, he travels to nearby Murano to meet Antonio Seguso, grandson of the late Archimede Seguso.
With Antonio as his guide, Zimmern gets a crash course in the history of glass, marveling at opulent chandeliers and merletto vases before trying his hand at glass blowing. While it’s safe to say he should stick to cooking, he and his crew capture a treasured tradition at the vetreria: the annual Christmas meal. Eschewing a regular oven, the workers at Archimede Seguso cook the eel every Christmas for a special lunch or dinner in the same furnaces they use to create glass art. The mouth-watering results prompted Zimmern to call it “the best eel I’ve ever eaten in my life” and “a tangible piece of culinary history.”