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ciaohound in venice

j
Jim Dixon Nov 25, 1998 02:37 PM

During our recent stay in
Tuscany, we took a side trip by
train to Venice. It was our first
visit, and it is a sort of fantasy
land. Aside from the canals, what
really sets it apart form other
Italian cities is the quiet...no
moped buzz, no cars at all. And
while its reputation for an
inexpensive destination is well-
deserved, we found that you can eat
like a chowhound without spending
a fortune. Here are our favorite
spots...

Alle Testiere (Calle del Mondo
Novo 5801, tel/fax 522 7220)
The chef of Portland’s best Italian
restaurant was in Venice in
October to study with Marcella
Hazan. Hazan tipped her to this
little spot, and she passed it on to
us. We started with appetizers of
tiny clams steamed with ginger
and grilled scallops (capesante)
basted with brandy, then split a
plate of tiny gnocchi with baby
calamari and sauce of seppie, the
mild sweet ink of cuttlefish.
Judith had swordfish cooked with
olives and capers and flavored
with hand-gathered fennel flowers
called pollinea di finnochio, and I
had what the Venetians call
anguela, a sand smelt cooked with
radicchio rosso di treviso, a
different variety of the bitter red
lettuce than we get in the US. With
a bottle of the house red, mineral
water, and a caffe, this lunch cost
about 130,000 lire (appx $80),
our most expensive meal but a
bargain for Venice, where lunch
can easily cost 150,000 lire per
person.

The rest of our meals we ate at
bacari, wine bars that serve
cicheti, the Venetian version of
tapas, and the Venetian sandwiches
called tramezzini, with a variety
of fillings, from tuna and olive oil
to calve’s liver, on triangles of
soft white bread. Each little plate
cost 1000-2000 lire (appx.
$0.67-1.33).

Osteria Al Portego (Castello San
Lio 6015, tel 522 9038)
Close to the Rialto Bridge but
tucked away on a quiet back street,
this bacaro offers a nice selection
of cicheti. With a glass of novello
rosso, we ate green olives stuffed
with proscuitto, rolled in bread
crumbs, and fried in olive oil,
sweet crab legs (also breaded and
fried), whole tiny crabs--think
of a soft shell the size of your
thumbnail-- called massenete,
boiled shrimp tails, marinated
artichoke bottoms (you see tubs of
these in brine in the vegetable
markets), sauteed eggplant, the
tender cooked salami called
cotechino, squares of polenta
topped with gorgonzola, and slabs
of grana padano, a hard cheese
similar to parmigiano reggiano.

Osteria da Toni (Dorsoduro,
1642, tel 528 6899)
Wandering through the less-
touristy Dorsoduro neighborhood
(sestiere, as the sections of Venice
are called) near Campo San
Sebastiano, we found this little
wine bar after noticing the crowds
of students outside, usually a good
bet for cheap food. It had the usual
cicheti, including butterflied
crispy-fried fillets of sprat, the
salt cod called baccala mixed to a
fluffy consistency with olive oil
and milk and spread on bread, and
whole sardines in saor, a Venetian
marinade of layered onions and
white vinegar with a sweet-and-
sour flavor that’s unbelievable.

Trattoria Due Torre (Dorsoduro,
3408, tel 523 8126)
On our last day in Venice we
wanted to eat a big lunch to hold us
for the train ride back to Tuscany,
so we headed back to Dorsoduro.
We poked into a few places around
the big Campo Santa Margherita,
looking at menus and checking out
the cicheti. When we opened the
door to this unassuming trattoria,
we knew we’d found the spot. It
was packed with working men,
complete with dirty coveralls and
boots, all eating big bowls of pasta
and slurping wine. Judith was the
only women in the place and
everybody stopped eating for a
second to check her out; we later
learned that 12-1 is traditionally
the workers’ lunch break and
everyone else comes afterward.
We huddled on a couple of stools
waiting for a table, drank
prosecco, and ate the sweetest crab
I’ve ever tasted, big boiled legs
called cheli di granchio. We had
plenty of time to check out the
cicheti, and before we sat down we
pointed at the platters of boiled
tiny shrimp and picked crab meat.
It was so good we ate another,
followed by penne bolognese, more
sardines in saor, and the
traditional finish, a nice chunk of
grana padano. We ate like pigs, and
with wine and caffe this meal only
cost 71,000 lire (appx $45).

  1. s
    stephen kaye Nov 29, 1998 03:43 PM

    thanks for your info. we just returned from app. 3 weeks in italy. in venice we ate at da fiore, and al covo. both were excellent. the al covo team, is coming to nyc, to do a cameo at the 4 seasons restaurant early jan 1999. one night only. if you're in the area, it should be a great night of wine and food.

    2 Replies
    1. re: stephen kaye
      m
      merowitz Nov 29, 1998 04:20 PM

      Did you try Madonna or terrace of Europa?

      1. re: merowitz
        s
        stephen kaye Dec 3, 1998 06:52 PM

        no we didn't. in venice only for 2 nites, about two weeks ago. the folks from al covo, are doing a special night at the 4 seasons rest. in nyc. 1/7/99. a very big night, food and wine tasting, one seating for the night only. my friend faith willinger involved with hooking it up. if yr in nyc, you might want to be there.

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