Once again we, my wife and I, made a short trip to Venice in November, for visiting the Biennale art exhibition and some shopping and dining. Venice is less expensive in November than at any other time of the year, but during the last years many tourists have noticed this, and so this year it was almost as crowded as in summer...
In the last years we have been at many Venetian restaurants: Alla Madonna, Alla Testiere, Al Vecio Fritolin, Anice Stellato, Da Robia, Vino Vino, Aqua Pazza, Al Mascaron, Al Giardinetto da Severino, Rosa Rossa and Fiaschetteria Toscana (FT). This time we planned to find something new and to return once more to the FT.
When eating out in Venice one has to take into account that this city is the most expensive in Italy. So every place you can find which does not charge for the location is a find - and a real gem if the food is above average. So we were quite happy when we found an old-style Osteria within 100 m from our hotel (alla Comedia) which does fit not only these criteria but is also located quite centrally – and has never before been mentioned on this board !!
The Osteria a la Campana is located in the Calle de Fabbri 4720, close to the Teatro Goldoni and the Campo San Luca.
Monday to Friday it offers „primi piatti“ at 5.80 Euro and „secondi“ between 7 and 10 Euro. There is a coperto charge. Primi piatte on weekdays are simple pasta dishes, or pasta „al forno“, or risotto (!!), or zuppa di verdure (see photo). Only on saturday (or maybe in the main season in summer), they offer a more elaborate a la carte menu.
We ate lunch there three times, simply because it was so convenient. On Thursday we had a zuppa di verdure, a risotto alla zuchini e salsiccie (sausage) and penne al pomodoro. With a small jug of white wine (0.25 litre), a bottle of water and two espressos we paid Euro 26,80. And we paid exactly the same amount (26,70 !!) next day for a quite delicate fritto misto (scampi and calamari), a mixed salad and a risotto al gamberi.The place was always full, about half Venetian locals and half tourists, but there was always an empty table since all dishes were served within 10 minutes.
The experience was slightly different when returning on Saturday for lunch. This was the Festa della Salute, and Venice was crowded with local people from the mainland coming to celebrate. The a la Campana offered only a la carte dining, and we had another soup and sarde al saor for starters, and then ravioli al zucca and fegato alla veneziana. With exactly the same drinks as before the bill was now 64 Euro, since the pasta was now priced at 14 Euro and the fegato at 18 Euro. Also the wine, water and espresso were more expensive than for prior lunches. Most likely a „prezzo per la Festa“, but I guess they will have similar price changes during any one of the high seasons in Venice.
The Fiaschetteria Toscana has been our favorite restaurant for fine dining in Venice since 1975, when we went there for the first time. We still remember the time before 1983 when they served food at tables upstairs and in the small garden only, downstairs there was just a bacaro with standing room, and people came in in droves to get a quick pasta or some cichetti for lunch. FT got renovated in 1983, which made dining downstairs a great pleasure.
When we arrived in Thursday morning our first walk was to reserve a table at FT for Thursday as well as Saturday evening. Throughout the years we tried almost every item on their menu, and we knew already what to order on Thursday without even opening the menu. First both of us had cicale de marie („canoce“, boiled mantis shrimp), followed by schie al polenta (small sauteed grey shrimp with creamy polenta). The canoce were exactly as they should be, soft and just lukewarm, perfect in their tast with just a drop of olive oil and some salad. The schie are served hot and are quite juicy and tender, perfectly in balance with the polenta. You do not need any pasta after this, and so both of us had some fritto misto, my wife had the fritto with baby calamari and monkfish cheeks, I had also the monkfish cheeks and „moeche“, fried softshell crabs. We enjoyed these variations of fritto misto very much and felt sorry for the next table who had all ordered „frittura serenissima“, which not only sounds great, but is also more expensive (Euro 25) than our seafood-only version (Euro 18) and consists of some fried calamaretti and scampi dominated by a huge serving of fried zucchini. BTW: I will never understand the pricing of his dish, my personal suggestion is that it is meant to drive away unexperienced tourists. And if you follow this board for some time, you will have noticed that it works quite well ;- ) !!
As side order to he fritto misto we had a salad of radicchio trosso di Treviso prepared by Roberto himself. This salad of delicate slim leaves was the perfect companion to the crisp fritto misto. As dessert we shared a raspberry tart, since the Sfogliata we had ordered as already gone. The bill was 146 Euro including a bottle of Prosecco tranquillo (light and dry, the perfect companion for this kind of seafood), water and coffee. And they do not charge any coperto...
Luckily we did get The Sfogliata alla mandorle con salsa di vaniglia on Saturday, and it turned out we had also been lucky to reserve two days in advance, since Saturday November 21 was one of the great Venetian feasts, la Festa della Madonna della Salute, commemorating the last day of the plague in 1630. There is a special dish in Venice on that day, and luck stayed with us since this dish, the famous „castradina“ soup, was also served in FT.
But lets start the meal with some seafood starters: My wife again had canoce and schie al polenta, but this time I had canoce followed by calamaretti saltati al coriandolo, sauteed baby calamari with coriander. So tender and sweet and still with some crunchy bite, these calamaretti were simply perfect. We shared a bowl of castradina, which is a stew of dried mutton, onions, cabbage and wine. It has a peculiar taste, but the dried mutton has been soaked for days before cooking so that it does not have a strong mutton note at all. I liked it and ate the whole bowl myself.
We then shared a large branzino alla griglia and again a radicchio trevigiano salad and then had the Sfogliata and some lemon sorbet. With a bottle of white wine, water and coffee this five course dinner cost 188 Euro.
Now you might ask what we did for Friday dinner. We revisited a place we had in good memory, the Pizzeria Rosa Rossa on Calle della Mandola. This used to be an old fashioned pizzeria and has recently reopened in a very minimalistic style, quite similar to il Ridotto, only at a quarter of their price range. http://www.ciaopronto.com/d-128318440...
We shared grilled vegetables as a starter, my wife had a pizza with fresh goat cheese and arugula and I had lamb chops. With a bottle of wine, water and coffee we paid 60 Euro. The pizza was fantastic, much better than the one we had had some time ago at Aqua Pazza, which was at this time the best pizza in town. The Rosa Rossa was quite crowded already at 7 p.m., at 8 p.m. several people had to leave or wait for a table, which is quite unusual for a weekday in low season. If you just want some basic Italian food with a good price/value range this is exactly the place to go !!
Not to forget the coffee bar Marchini at the Campo San Luca, where you get the best espresso/macchiato/cappucino and wonderful pastries or sandwiches all day long. When you pay just Euro 4.50 for two cappucinos and two small pastries you can never pass this bar without entering for a quit bite...