Venice trip report April 2007 (long)
Venice April 2007
We ate quite well in Venice. A big thank you to all the Chowhounders whose posts we appreciated greatly, especially mnwinship’s lengthy posts which were especially helpful. Yes, Venice is expensive, but it is so beautiful that I want to go back. My dream is to get a few people together and get an apartment in Dorsoduro and do a lot of our own cooking. There is a great supermarket on Zattere near San Basilio. Prices given below are total bill for two people with bottled water and coffee (macchiato at the end of every meal).
Taverna San Trovaso (Fondamenta Priuli, Dorsoduro) An good less expensive place. Partner’s penne arrabiata was good but didn’t live up to our Florentine gold standard (see http://www.chowhound.com/topics/396804); my tortellini with ham and peas were nice. Partner went for beef stew with polenta which was tender and very flavorful. I tried seppia in ink, the classic Venetian dish. The squid was extremely tender and good but the utter blackness of the sauce was a bit much for me, and the serving was gigantic. Glad I tried it. House white wine. 48E.
Osteria Ai Assassini (Rio Tera degli Assassini, San Marco, 041 5287986) Unplanned stop, because Vino Vino was closed for renovations. This is a solid Tuscan place and everything we had there was excellent, better that most places we ate in Florence. Menu changes daily. We got a bottle of Valpolicella (16E I think). Started with an excellent plate of breseola with fresh mozzarella and rucola. Partner’s homemade orecchiette with chef’s special tomato and meat sauce was wonderful, as was my fusilli with radicchio and gorgonzola sauce. Partner had roast pork, this was the most flavorful roast pork we had in Italy, served with crispy fried cracklings of skin. I had a delicious veal stew with tomatoes and peas, served with a creamy mound of polenta. Tiramisu was invented in Venice, the version here was light and perfect. Would definitely return to this place. 90E.
Aciugheta (San Marco) Our only pizza stop on this trip. We had sardines in saor here, served in the classic manner, fried, then marinated with onions and served with raisins and pine nuts. These were great but expensive at 10E for about 3 sardines. Nice crisp crusts on the pizza. My pizza was excellent, “Roma”, with tomatoes, mozzarella and anchovies, 9E. Partner tried a pricey 14E pizza with porcini and pancetta, not really successful as the creamy porcini didn’t work so well on pizza. Pints of beer. 50E.
Avogaria (Calle Lunga Santa Barbara, far end, Dorsoduro) I wanted to look at the menu here then go down this prime restaurant street to see the other options, but partner was intrigued when we saw this place. We had our most expensive meal of the trip here. The interior is serene, modern, exposed brick and beautiful lighting. Extensive and interesting wine list. I ordered a bottle of a white from Apulia but they were out, and the waiter recommended a Soave (24E) which was excellent. We started with a crudo plate, little separate piles of diced prawn, tiger prawn, tuna and two crayfish served whole (called cigarillas in Spain, I don’t know the Italian name), dressed with olive oil, lemon, basil and mint. My pasta was wonderful handmade fusilli with crisp slices of fried artichoke and prawns; partner had a pasta with chunks of veal in tomato sauce. We went for the grilled seafood platter for two (58E) which was huge, generous, everything very fresh; I must note however that the prawns and monkfish were slightly overcooked and in general we were not blown away with the seafood here as we were at several (less expensive) places in Barcelona. But the mussels, branzino filets, grilled squid, crisp little cuttlefish, crayfish, prawns and tiger prawns were all very good. Dessert was a decadent poached pear in a fig-butter reduction that tasted like cognac was used. This was a nice place for a fancy splurge, far from the tourist scene, we liked it a lot. 154E.
Al Prosecco (Campo San Giacomo da l’Orlo, Santa Croce) Thanks mnwinship for this one. This is an ideal café for lunch, on a piazza filled with kids playing, few tourists in sight. Prosecco col fundo was delicious, we each had two glasses. Panietti of mortadella and porchetta with mustard were really good for 2.8E, and we each had giant a beautiful mixed salad with little piles of marinated mushrooms, olives, etc next to a mountain of frisee and other perfectly fresh greens. 34E.
Alla Rivetta (San Marco, very close to Piazza San Marco) We found ourselves in this densely touristy area because we needed to eat early before a performance and partner was not interested in cicchetti. Despite the hordes of tourists we were glad the food was decent. The waiter suggested their special of very large fresh scallops baked in the shell with cheese, asparagus and shrimp, these were great. Sardines in saor were good, more generous portion than Aciugheta but without the pine nuts and raisins. Partner’s spaghetti with clams was perfect, with lots of tiny fresh clams in shells, and my asparagus-shrimp lasagne was fine but nothing special. We rushed out without coffee and they were happy to turn the table. 51E.
Ai Pescatori (Burano) Skip Murano and take the LN from San Zaccharia directly to Burano by way of Lido. We loved it. We looked at the more expensive Gatto Nero but the waiter was quite rude so I am glad we left and came here. Walking from the ferry it is one of the first restaurants on the main shopping street. It was inexplicably empty when we got there while other places that looked worse were full. Very friendly staff. After we sat down a party of 6 Italian men came and proceeded to have the most incredible seafood feast, including the spider crab that our waiter said they had reserved so we couldn’t get. No complaints, though, this was our best meal in Venice. The waiter was helpful and made great suggestions when I asked what was in season or particularly good. I started with a plate of fabulous canocie, I am not sure what they are but they are sort of like large (8 or 9 inch long) shrimp and they live in the sand; dressed with lemon and olive oil. Partner got a starter assortment which had one canocia, some prawns (so briny and good), a beautiful tender medium-sized cuttlefish, a pile of snails out of their shells, and slices of cuttlefish eggs. I guess the large cuttlefish have sort of an egg sac that can be cooked and looks something like a scallop when sliced. Everything was fantastic. Next partner had grilled San Piero filet (flounder like) and I had the recommended fried soft shell crabs called moeche; not flat like the blue crabs we eat in the US and smaller, a pile of 12 – 15 of them…amazing. Sides of French fries and rucola/radicchio salad. Seeing the other table’s feast we tried some wonderful baby artichokes and sardines in saor, presented with red onions, the best of the trip. 1 liter prosecco. 132E.
Drinks and snacking. This was what Venice was really all about for us, every inch of it is so gorgeous that you just want to sip and gaze at everything. Our favorites:
Ai Artisti (Fondamenta della Toletta, Dorsoduro) An osteria as well as a wine bar, we used it as the latter and had absolutely stunning wines. Just get whatever the barman recommends, you will not be sorry. The best Chianti I have had, and a Barbera from Lombardia that was the most intense evocation of black cherries and forest floor that I have ever tasted in a wine. We had about four glasses of wine and some salami and cheese here.
Gia Schavi (Fondamenta Priuli, Dorsoduro) Nice wine bar for inexpensive cicchetti (0.5-1E, anchovies with cippolini were my favorite) and a lively scene spilling out onto the sidewalk and steps of bridges nearby.
Naranzaria (north of Rialto Bridge by the market) Best spot for a table on the Grand Canal and a spritz. But even better…
Al Marca (through the colonnade that separates a courtyard from the canalfront location of Narazaria and Bancogiro) Young Italians ordering drinks and snacks and standing around in their fashionable clothes chatting, no tables. 1.8E for a Campari spritz (Aperol isn’t bitter enough for me)…take your glass over to the dock and sit on the steps of the Grand Canal with the young people—best bargain in Venice.
Taverna del Campiello Remer (Cannaregio, at the end of an alley behind the post office that opens into this campiello that is on the Grand Canal, opposite the Rialto market). We happened on this hot new spot and had drinks here, at first taking them outside to watch the canal and then sitting at the bar while the bartenders filled us in on life in Venice. Had a great prosciutto and cheese plate, lots of drinks, I think we paid about 24E. This is a very popular restaurant, too, would come back to check it out. The bartenders were making a dessert of fresh pineapple, sugar, Cointreau and strawberries and cranking out espressi with shots of Fernet Branca.
Campo Santa Margherita (Dorsoduro) The late-night student bar scene felt like Madrid or Naples, at least ten bars and cafes, as well as young people with bottles of wine and beer sitting on the benches. The pizza spot has 1.8E slices that are really good (use the can of olive oil!). During the day there is a small fish and produce market here.
"Ai Pescatori (Burano) ... Walking from the ferry it is one of the first restaurants on the main shopping street. It was inexplicably empty when we got there while other places that looked worse were full."
Your comment about "looked worse" intrigued me. What do you mean by "looked worse?" What do you look for when you judge restaurants by looks?
I tend to obsess about restaurant choices for dinner and research them thoroughly. However, lunch in the middle of a day of touring is a wholly different story. I tend to blow off lunch and simply pick up a sandwich from any food shop that looks clean and appealing. As a result, I've never developed the art of scoping out restaurants based on looks. Advice welcome!
re: Indy 67
Well, in Italy and Spain, the midday meal is often the largest, so we were often having a larger meal at that time--it was our dinner for that day.
Warning signs for restauants in touristy Italy are trilingual menus posted outside the restaurant, a dearth of local people eating there, etc. In Burano the "looked worse" was based on what I saw on people's plates in the other places, hamburgers, giant mugs of beer, other non-Italian things, which I was not in Italy to try. With Ai Pescatori we went with a gut feeling that it might be good and were happy to have it confirmed both by our meal and by the party of Italian men who had planned to eat there and were obviously pleased with their feast.
Glad you skipped il gatto nero on Burano - I wish we had, expensive and rude for what we got. So you know for next time, San Pietro (assuming that's what is was) is John Dory or Anglerfish. It's one I made sure to find out as I adore it!
Thanks for the report. I will be in Venice in a few weeks and I won't be there very long. I don't want to waste a meal with a bad restaurant choice.