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Review: Il Refolo, Fiaschetteria Toscana & Il Ridotto | Venice

Thanks to the many hounds who provided input & guidance in forming our food-tinerary: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/683834 | Florence & Venice Food-tinerary
This will be just the review for the Venice portion of the trip; the Florence portion will be another post.

Il Refolo
Known for their pizza, Il Refolo served solid pizza. This was a bit tricky to find, even with the saved map on my iPod Touch; eventually, we asked a young man where Il Refolo was and he directed us to the spot. This is a comfy-chic spot with a warm interior, friendly & impeccable service and an awesome octopus salad. We shared everything we ordered, and the great kitchen was kind enough to split each serving onto two plates; it's considerate touches as this that win me over. This salad was our favourite dish of the evening; the octopus was perfectly cooked, lightly (but deliciously) flavoured and was not chewy at all. While our pizza was good, I didn't get the hype. We also got the pesto pasta and a dessert. Everything was good; and had we stayed a return trip would be in order--esp for the octopus salad. With a bottle of mineral water, a half liter of wine and a beer, the total was slightly above 100€.

Fiaschetteria Toscana
We walked in and knew from the table clothes, the tuxedoed waiters and the old-school interior that this was a serious restaurant. Previous reviews said they had great (not-to-be-missed) risotto, so I came here planning just that. We had a couple apps, but the risotto was completely disappointing; while the flavour was awesome, the risotto was very, very undercooked. We hemmed and hawed and Mr OCAnn finally decided to say something to the waiter who took offense. We asked about the risotto and the waiter went on a lengthly explanation of how their rice was not your regular rice, how they take 20 minutes, etc...they were clearly not pleased that we did not finish our risotto, so they brought us another menu. We were disappointed and off-put by their dismissiveness, that we asked for the check and left. 70€.

Il Ridotto
This was clearly our favourite restaurant in Venice. While there, there were two other parties in this small 14-seat restaurant, that were there for *both* lunch and dinner and we understood why. They presented us with an amuse bouche of monk fish liver. Our dinner included baby octopus, ravioli, risotto and squid--everything was delicious. At the end, we had to rush out to attend a concert, but before they presented the bill, they gave us complimentary chocolates & cookies made on premises. But before we left, we asked what time they closed (23:00) and asked if it would be okay if we returned for dessert post-concert. When we returned, we finished the evening with tea and tiramisu. The tiramisu was a different style, with bits of lady fingers and meringue--all quite good. The meal + bottle of wine + mineral water = 120€.

pic 1, storefront (il Refolo)
pic 2, octopus salad
pic 3, pesto gnocchi
pic 4, pizza

 
 
 
 
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  1. Attaching photos from Il Ridotto and providing links:

    for Il Refolo, http://www.dafiore.net/en/index.html

    for Il Ridotto, http://www.ilridotto.com/FIRST.htm
    pic 1, storefront
    pic 2, amuse bouche
    pic 3, baby octopus
    pic 4, complimentary post-dinner sweets

     
     
     
     
    4 Replies
    1. re: OCAnn

      As we were the first diners there, I had no compunction about taking pics of the menu at Il Refolo and post them here for anyone interested.

      However, there were other diners @ Il Ridotto, so I was uneasy about taking pics of the menu (but not of the food, as others were also taking pics of the food =).

       
       
       
       
      1. re: OCAnn

        I'm also attaching additional images that I did not on Mar 24, 2010.

        for Il Ridotto
        pic 1, bread basket
        pic 2, ravioli
        pic 3, risotto
        pic 4, stuffed squid

         
         
         
         
        1. re: OCAnn

          Also in Venice, we had tea twice in St Mark's Square; yes, it's a touristy thing to do, but Mr OCAnn had to do one each day. These are of Lavenna, I believe the youngest of all the cafes in the square. Pic #2 shows Mr OCAnn's cappucino & my hot tea.

           
           
           
          1. re: OCAnn

            And here are shots of Florian, the oldest of the cafes. I have three more photos, but apparently, there's not enough room on this post for them....

             
          2. Funny you should comment about the undercooked risotto. On our trip to Italy last December we encountered a couple of undercooked risotti ourselves. Now, I understand al dente and the different types of rice used for risotto, so that was not a concern. One risotto we had was just plain inedible; it was obviously not cooked properly. Are the Italians playing a joke on unsuspecting foreigners (we're from the US) and seeing how far they can take al dente? lol

            5 Replies
            1. re: ttoommyy

              I had risotto four or five times during our week-long visit, so I understand their norm for al dente. But I had the same thought as you, that maybe this was some sort of weird joke on unsuspecting foreigners (or Americans). =( Oh well.

              1. re: OCAnn

                Two things, first I dont think a serious restaurant with an international reputation is trying to play a joke on americans, no. It is hard to understand why a restaurant that prepares risotto over and over again could make a mistake, however, I suspect that to serve the risotto in a timely way they precook the rice part way. and then finish the rice when it is ordered. Maybe if this step is shortcutted too much, the rice will finish a shy bit too undercooked. We had an issue with our risotto too, at da Fiore - there was no visible seafood in a seafood risotto.

                Second I do think that italians cook their rice in risotto a bit more underdone than we do in the US. If they are cooking to order, instead of having a big pot of it in the kitchen (which tends to get overcooked) they do run more of a risk of missing the mark.

                Its a shame.

                I suspect people go to Il Refolo more because of the cachet than the pizza. There are plenty of other places to get good pizza in venice without paying 100 euros for the privilege (you did get a good octopus salad into the bargain however).

                1. re: jen kalb

                  Risotto. Venice, Il Ridotto, Il Refolo (with a photo taken at nighttime!) I cannot tell you how difficult it is not to weigh in on this discussion.

                  By the way, where is Alle Testiere in all this?

                  1. re: Joe H

                    Weigh in, please!

                    We never made it to AT; I believe they were closed the days we were there (Sun & Mon), so an attempt was never made.

              2. re: ttoommyy

                No, the Italians do not push anything most especially their food, there are three major types of rice used for risotto, each area of italy serves the risotto differently. The rice should still be white in the middle, yes hard, if your more used to a softer rice the lombardia area will suit you better, It's really a shame when we are not happy with our meals. I live in the NYC area and have had more less than perfect meals then the 30 years i've eaten in italy. I perfer it hard on the tooth, but thats why Heinz makes 52 different varities.

              3. I've been trying to go to the website for Il Ridotto and it just keeps bouncing me back that it can't be found...anyone having the same problem? Thanks!

                4 Replies
                1. re: sibeats

                  I'm having the same problems now too. Maybe wait another day & try again....

                  1. re: sibeats

                    He also owns L'Aciugheta. Google L'Aciugheta and use the email address given there.

                      1. re: livingvenice

                        Yes, thanks...we've actually been to Venice and returned already. Our meal at Il Ridotto was the culinary high point of the trip...thanks everyone for the rec's!!

                    1. Reservations for the above can be made via email:

                      Il Refolo's can be made vai Da Fiore's website: http://www.dafiore.net/en/index.html (click on "Reservations" and make sure you mention that it's for Il Refolo).

                      Il Ridotto: info@ilridotto.com.

                      Fiascheterria Toscana: busatto@fiaschetteriatoscana.it

                      20 Replies
                      1. re: OCAnn

                        Thanks. I'm finding that there isn't much info on many of the websites in general. Certainly not like around here with menus, photos, etc!
                        Question re: Il Ridotto...we are a group of 9...do you think that will be a problem? Our trip is in early/mid June. We also have a couple of people with "fishues"...will they be able to be accommodated at Il Ridotto or are too many of the items fish centric?
                        Beyond that, I've been going through many old posts, trying to get a sense of where to go. I have a long list I'm working on, will definitely be back with more questions!

                        1. re: sibeats

                          They should be able to accommodate you. They have enough seats for about 14; four nearest the kitchen and 10 on the left side of the room. And if IIRC, they did have a number of non-seafood items, so they should be fine. =)

                          1. re: OCAnn

                            Another question regarding seafood. Alle Testiere is on my list, from what I've read, all I've heard about is fish...do they have other items on the menu for our fish-challenged friends?

                            Along those lines, is there anywhere to actually see menus for some of these places?

                            So far, my list includes Il Ridotto, Alle Testiere, Vini da Grigio (someone in our group went there years ago and loved it), Fiaschetteria Toscana, Il Refolo, Al Covo. Definitely want a variety of places, so if these are all similar, please advise.
                            We will be staying in an apartment for a week, would like to go out around 4 times, cook in the other nights. Would like some casual places, also maybe some places to have lunch at on days we might stay in for dinner.

                            Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

                            1. re: sibeats

                              All three of the places we went to are open for lunch. Not sure about menus, so you'll want to Google the restaurants to see if any of them have them available online. Il Refolo and Il Ridotto were definitely more casual than Fiaschetteria Toscana, but as a tourist city, I saw two European (non Italian) families with babies, Italians from other areas wearing jeans--all nice casual (dressed up jeans).

                              I received a lot of good advice from Joe H (and others as well), so you may want to search this board (if you haven't already) for "Venice Joe H". =)

                              1. re: OCAnn

                                Thanks, I have read many of Joe H's posts, they were helpful. I haven't found any menus on-line, but still looking. Thanks for your response!

                              2. re: sibeats

                                Id say mostly your chosen places are relatively high end costwise. they are certainly in the top group of tourist choices. There are plenty of other places around Venice to eat with a variety of food types tho most of the local places feature the local fish and seafood. If you have folks that dont like that, do a search for Venice meat (chose relevance when the results come up) and you will find some restaurants that are not fish-focussed. some places we liked and that I recommend over and over again here are Alla Zucca (focussed more on vegetable, cheese and meat dishes than fish), Osteria Alla Frasca, Anice Stellato.. There are some good pizzerias where you will probably not pay as much as at Il Refolo, including Ae Oche and Dai Tosi, the latter down near the Bienniale site. Many of the good pizzerie have other dishes as well but they are really evening (not lunch) places. There is a cluster of midlevel restaurants near the church of San Barnaba in Dorsoduro - I have not been to them but they have diverse cuisine - La Bitta, meat, Oniga, Quattro Feri - a good place to head if you dont know what you want. Farther down Calle Lunga San Barnaba are some others - there is a guy named sandro who has been associated with a bunch of places over there - furatola, Enoteca San Barnaba (where we greatly enjoyed a lunch a couple of years ago - I think he has a pizzeria Al Profeta farther along that street now - can anyone confirm?

                                there are some really good posts and recommendations on this board if you dive in a little deeper into the trove

                                1. re: jen kalb

                                  Thanks for the recommendations. I have been reading all sorts of older posts here, just trying to get some clarification regarding menu options since I have been unable to find any online.
                                  Since you said that my chosen places were in the "tourist choices", do you think it is a mistake going to some or all of them? Or is that not necessarily a bad thing?
                                  Alla Zucca and Anice Stellato were on my list that I jotted down after reading some other posts here, I will look into those further, as well as the other places you mentioned.
                                  Thanks, I will keep researching and coming back with questions!

                                  1. re: sibeats

                                    I dont mean anything bad by tourist choices - locals eat there too (Im not sure about Il Ridotto!, to me its the biggest wildcard on your list since its so tiny and some have loved and some have hated it) - what I mean is that they are very high visibility in the tourist community, recommended frequently here and elsewhere. I can't say whether they have this chosen status because they are "best" since I have been to none of them Da Fiore, "parent "of Il Refolo, used to be on this list that everyone went to, but it somehow fell off, maybe because some people, including me had disappointing experiences and the value for money was off. Im sure its seafood is as pristine as ever but its off the chowhound greatest hits list now. We dont usually want to spend so much $ and like to be able to be more casual and be walk-ins rather than reserving. Its not altogether evident to me that these 5 places are all significantly better than say 20 or 30 similar venetian places that have a little less cachet, but they do seem to be reliable recommendations based on the accounts here. One thing to consider is that the Venetian cuisine is very simple and depends mainly on the freshest seafood, not any complicated techniques. All of the good restaurants, especially those that serve more venetians are going to be very careful about this quality. In the end you will be best served by doing your research and choosing the places that fit the way you enjoy restaurants,

                                    By the way, most but not all venetian restaurants will have at least one meat dish on the menu and will have something (maybe not very exciting) for vegetarians to eat. When we were at Anice Stellato for lunch, the non-seafood dish was quite a nice duck breast - in many places it will be calves liver (fegato alla veneziana) which can be excellent. But there may not be much selection at many places for folks who will not eat fish or seafood. Venetian grilled fish can be just wonderful (if pricy) and some of the seafood is unique or very special. Books like Faith Willingers or Fred Plotkins can give you an idea of what to expect on your plate there. and Micaela Scibiia's Osterie guide is very helpful in finding some of the less prominent eateries around the city - I think they may even have it for Ipod now.

                                    1. re: jen kalb

                                      Thanks so much, this is great information. Unfortunately 2 people in our group do not eat seafood at all, which is disappointing because I really want to try Alle Testiere and other places that don't seem to serve anything but seafood. Maybe we'll just have to split off from the group for a night!
                                      I will continue my research, maybe contact some of the places by e-mail and ask directly if they have any non-seafood items on the menu.
                                      We were in Venice 5 years ago. I was reading through my dining notes and we did eat at Da Fiore..apparently it was one of my favorites, and my husbands least favorite! Guess we won't be going back there...
                                      So since you seem to be pretty knowledgeable here, what is on your "must - eat" list? Anything from pricey to hole in the wall?
                                      I think our most memorable food experience when we were there last was going to Al Marca and standing outside with a glass of wine and some delicious little sandwiches....so good we went back again the next day!
                                      Thanks again.

                                      1. re: sibeats

                                        Wow! Thanks for the nice words-they are sincerely appreciated. My wife, who is looking over my shoulder, says that we should be going back to Venice instead of the Dolomites and Munich which we leave for next week. She loves Venice-absolutely loves it. And, I do too.

                                        You must find a way to go to Alle Testiere (and reserve at least two weeks in advance-it is KNOWN). Forget about anything other than seafood there-this is a seafood place. Of course having said this Venice itself is about seafood. Honestly, for someone going to Venice who does not like seafood, they are not going to have a very good time at dinner. Venice's best is from the sea. But find a way, an opportunity to go to AlleTestiere. Simply, it is well worth it. A great restaurant.

                                        I must also note the imaginatively creative Met which now has two Michelin stars. It is an extraordinary evening. If I were writing about Venice in '10 this would be my focus. But it is a different restaurant, a different experience than the others. It is also very expensive, more of a Le Calandre type of thing.

                                        Go to Il Refolo (especially on a warm evening; candle light, an adjacent canal and sitting outside on a warm evening still matter The setting, the soft light off of the canal if you are sitting outside-this really is a memory for long after you have returned home!), to Alle Testiere, Al Covo (for frito misto that does not taste like fried seafood-exemplery along with excellent risotto) and sit in front of one of the Vaporettos that has seats outside in FRONT of the cabin. Ride out to Lido, walk the brown sand beach (it's a Venetian beach which makes the brown sand and murky water all right!), sit outside as the sun sets and have a glass (or two) of wine. Please toast us. We may very well be envious of your trip.

                                        Perhaps we should be returning to Venice ourselves this year.

                                        1. re: Joe H

                                          Thanks, this is great info. I noticed that no one is talking about Fiaschetteria Toscana...where does that fall on the radar? One of our party went to Vini da Grigio years ago and very much enjoyed it. Is it worth a return visit? Boccadoro has also popped up a few times...any thoughts on that?
                                          OCAnn, thanks for posting the new pics and menu shots, very helpful!

                                          1. re: sibeats

                                            We loved Vini di Gigio, although it's been a couple of years, I would guess it is worth a return visit. Fiaschetteria Toscana gets pretty consistently good reviews. My travel companions ate there and loved it on a day we split up -- I went to Da Remigio and loved that too.

                                            Since you will be in an apartment (so were we) I can recommend Casa di Parmigiana (in the little campo to the right at the foot of the Rialto) for cheeses, prosciutto, olives and so on, and the little pasta shop in the same campo, as well as the produce vendor there, who will remember you on a second visit and greet you as a regular at your third visit.

                                            1. re: GretchenS

                                              Great info on the shopping. Our apartment is actually right near that area. Did you do much cooking while you were there? Is there a good place to get meats? I know the Rialto fish market is closed on sun and mon. I'm really looking forward to being able to shop and cook from these markets. When we were there years ago I remember looking at all the beautiful produce and wishng I had a place to cook!

                                            2. re: sibeats

                                              Here is a "tipico" fixed price menu that Fiaschetteria.Toscana posts online.
                                              They will have a la carte and daily specials also, of course. Note the non-seafood meal, upper right
                                              http://www.fiaschetteriatoscana.it/pd...
                                              this source is indicating they have a steak and a beef tartare (chianina, the tuscan feef breed
                                              )that risotto with go/beverasse, lagoon fish, looks tempting
                                              http://www.toptable.com/en-gb/venue/m...

                                              Here are some sample menu items for vini da gigio - which include meats. Look good!
                                              http://vinidagigio.com/index.php?name...

                                              got tired looking for more but this timeout page has a whole lot of info (timeout is generally a pretty good info source) and you can click into website links
                                              http://www.timeout.com/venice/search/...

                                              1. re: jen kalb

                                                Thanks for the info. I had seen the Vini da Grigio website before, but not the toptable. Appreciate it!

                                              2. re: sibeats

                                                I realize this is an old thread before my time, but I couldn't resist posting for the ages that I had a thoroughly disappointing meal at Fiaschetteria Toscana some years ago -- and nobody believed me!

                                                Perhaps the biggest part of the disappointment is that I like liver, which almost never appears on American menus, and I had been really looking forward to going to a city so famous for its preparation of liver.

                                                I expected Fiaschetteria Toscana to produce a stellar version, given its reputation. It arrived at my table overcooked.

                                                I looked at the menu links jenkalb posted, and a "fegato all veneziana" doesn't appear among the classic Venetian dishes the restaurant offers. Good!

                                            3. re: sibeats

                                              Ive listed some of my faves - others have disappeared over the years. No musts - less of a romantic than Joe perhaps, certainly less of a spender, I like to keep exploring. I have more of a food must for Venice - thoroughly sampling the seafood specialties at one or more good restaurants. We had our best experience of that at Corte Sconta but others who post here dont favor that place. I recommend getting a mixed seafood antipasto at one of the better restaurants, which will show you many of these treats. Scampi in the mediterraean is special - a different crustacean than what we call scampi in the US. The tiny grey shrimp called schie are very special and delicious too.

                                              Dont despair on the seafood front - your friends will be able to get vegetarian food (say, a pasta or risotto) at least just about anywhere. It just wont be as good as what you are eating.

                                              by the way the excellent Michela Scibilia Osterie guide seems to be available now in an I-phone app. Its not my thing, but certainly a good way of getting it for I-phone users http://www.tapvenice.com/

                                              1. re: jen kalb

                                                Jen, we haven't been to Corte Sconta in four or five years but our last visit was wonderful. This is a restaurant that doesn't receive nearly as much publicity as it should on here.

                                                I am a romantic (although my wife might disagree...) but as I get closer and closer to retirement I find that less expensive wine tastes much, much better. For that matter hotels such as the Danieli now exist as a memory and not where we will stay on our next trip. To be honest with "safe" investments returning 3% or so I've found that a lot of my values have changed. Now it is more important just to be "there." Much less important is the style we once had.

                                                We still love Venice and Italy every bit as much.

                                            4. re: jen kalb

                                              Sorry to revive this old thread, but there is a ton of great information here - thank you jen kalb et al!

                                        2. re: sibeats

                                          I posted pics of the menu I took for Il Refolo upthread....

                                  2. The original comment has been removed