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May 30, 2007 05:51 AM

Venice - lunch recs near the Biennale?

We are going next weekend and looking for great lunch recs near the Giardini and Arsenale. We already booked Alla Testiere for Saturday lunch, but are looking for somewhere Friday and Sunday. We ate at La Corte Sconta two years ago and really enjoyed it, and are looking for other suggestions. It doesn't have to be a sit-down meal. Some delicious cicchetti and local wines are fine.

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  1. We stayed at Arsenale and enjoyed the following places a few years back -
    Osteria Santa Elena (otherwise known as Dal Pampo) at the Sta Elena vaporetto stop, a classic Venetian parish restaurant, with good grilled fish, pasta and seafood - we enjoyed a fine relaxed Sunday lunch there - very informal, on the little plaza near the football stadium and if a game is on, its a scene. Wouldnt say its the equal of Corte Sconta, but its not as expensive, either.
    Ai Tosi on Secco Marina nearby, for very good pizza and seafood, also very informal
    both of the above are convivial and would be good for a lunch, I think
    Da Franz, a more dressy establishment near the Giardino/Bienniale vaporetto stop is also nearby and has a great rep, we havent tried it. This one you would definitely have to book ahead at Bienniale time - I dont know whether they offer lunch.

    There are quite a number of places on Via Garibaldi, the ones we tried were indifferent, but this one has been recommended by chowhounds in the past, Giorgione

    FWIW here's a link to a list of restaurants recommended by the very good rental agency we used for the Arsenale apartment. They recommend another place Il Nuovo Galeon, on Via Garibaldi which we didnt try on our visit.

    Finally, I pulled my Venezia osterie e dintorni - Scibilia doesnt include any of the above other than ai Tosi (she notes "piccolo" - its on the south side of the street.

    Her recommendations in the area are

    al Gharangelo 2 , Castello 1621 Via Garibaldi, a tratt with a grill and cichetti (closed Tues


    al Diporto, a trattoria di quartiere" at Sant' Elena 25 on Calle Cengio, closed Mondays.
    "offering an honest cuisine at a good price" - the antipasti misti di pesce, and frittura are recommended.

    She also recommends a bar, Angio, Castello 2142 (at Ponte della Veneta Marina the first bridge you cross heading up toward San Marco from the Via Garibaldi, before the Arsenale canal.

    7 Replies
    1. re: jen kalb

      The Galeon is good.
      I agree with you on so much, but must register my disagreement about Corte Sconto, which I found a major ripoff. I prefer Al Covo and Da Fiore. Ivo is supposed to be great, but I've never been.

      1. re: mbfant

        We had an unsatisfactory experience at Da Ivo and I wouldn't dine there again. Not at those prices. The food was good, but nothing phenomenal. We had heard that bistecca Fiorentina was their signature dish. Having eaten sublime bistecca F. at Leo in Santa Croce in Florence just a few days earlier, we were so appalled by Da Ivo's price that we passed. Still, the food was not the issue; the service went downhhill as the evening wore on.

        I think we a reservation in the 7:30 -- 8:00 range -- not extra-ordinarily late. Apparently, it got past the bedtime for our waiter somewhere around the pasta course. Someone brought out our secundi in a timely manner so we had no complaints then. However, we had to go to extremes to get our check at the end of the meal. We're used to European waiters waiting for the patron to ask for the check. We were contentedly talking and sipping limoncello and 30 minutes may have passed before we began asking. One waiter. No results. Another waiter... I no longer can state with certainty how many times we had to ask the remaining waiters for the check with no results. I can state with certainty that the time between requests got longer and longer since the waiters came into the dining room with less frequency. Finally, a fellow dining at the table next to us, got up from his seat, walked until he was directly in front of a waiter and demanded that the waiter give us our check. That finally worked.

        Incidentally, the people at the table next to us were working hard that evening. One of the small canals passes alongside Ivo. Two different sets of diners used the services of a gondola. The gondola pulls up alongside the restaurant so people exit directly from the restaurant via one of the full-size windows. This would force half of the patrons of the table next to us to stand up and walk away from their table to let the gondola-riders out. We thought it was great theater -- certainly distinctly Venetian -- but I can see diners objecting to these interruptions in their meal.

        1. re: Indy 67

          So much for Ivo. I certainly won't bother after that story.

        2. re: mbfant

          we had a wonderful meal with the very convivial hosts at corte sconta one Christmas day where they kindly squeezed us in with the festive local crowd- I wouldnt go past the mixed seafoodd app, served in a couple of courses and pasta to the grilled fish - Ithe fish in Venice is where you usually get soaked, and we werent hungry after the other two courses.

          On the other hand Ive written before about the upsetting and annoying meal we had a couple years back at Da Fiore which Ive written about - involving insulting treatment on the bill (funny business around whether service was included), a seafood risotto glamorously presented but with no visible seafood, lack of advice on dishes (my husband wound up with essentially two raw fish preparations when his tuna main was red raw and cool in the middle after a crudo app), the waiters made faces at each other when we asked for an additonal small carafe of wine toward the end of the meal rather than another (expensive) bottle, the dessert, a lemon ice with licorice was unpleasing and expensive. Really, the only meal element that stood out was some wonderful schie with polenta. There were mainly english speaking tourists in the room - the one italian group was showered with attention. Husband has vowed NEVER to return there.

          Never been to Al Covo or for that matter Alle Testiere - it just seems that there are so many other places in Venice that arent so impacted with tourists that it didnt seem worth it.

          1. re: jen kalb

            The owners of Al Covo, Cesare and Diane Benelli, are two of the warmest, most professional people I've ever met, so I would urge anyone to try the place. Also Benelli and Martin (Fiore) are among the only Venetian restaurateurs who deal directly with local fishermen to get the good seafood from the lagoon. Fish in Venice is expensive, yes, but the good stuff -- which most places don't serve -- is sublime and doesn't reach many tables. I'm sorry you had such a bad experience at Da Fiore. I haven't been to Venice in a few years, but my last meal at Fiore was a memorable Saturday lunch (an uncrowded slot) at the beginning of Carnevale. We were attended by Martin himself and a number of super waiters and wound up carrying away a bag of Carnevale sweets. The Corte Sconta experience was in spring, again a few years ago, with American friends. We felt pretty much railroaded. I also dislike alle Testiere on the basis of one dinner some years ago. The food was not more than OK and the confusion factor was great owing to trying to do too much in too small a kitchen. In any case, it's disturbing how reasonable people can have such different experiences in the same place. Makes it very difficult to choose.

            1. re: mbfant

              I really think Da Fiore is overwhelmed with tourists. For that matter people who arent even interested in food, but in going to the one-star place, with bragging rights. Having experienced the eye rolling, attempts to get us to tip, etc, and seeing the stupidity of some of the other patrons there it was just a real turnoff. Notwithstanding that they do have great raw materials as you note.

              An ability to speak Italian well must be a great help and probably gets you past a a barrier...the same service staff was very courtly and friendly to an italian group when we were there.My decision for Venice was basically to steer clear of the most highly touted places (and expensive) after the Da Fiore debacle, and its worked so far.

              1. re: jen kalb

                Yes, too bad star collectors ruin things for the people who really care about the food, but it's true. Certainly language makes a big difference. There's so much subtle negotiation going on in an Italian meal, and if you don't speak the language, you can't play the game. You have to establish early in the meal that (a) you know what you're doing, (b) you are boss, (c) but also you're one of the guys, and finally (d) you really want to understand their cooking. Some people can do this with their natural communication skills, but language is a big help.

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