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Apr 5, 2012 10:44 AM

[Venice] Fiaschetteria Toscana

Comparisions are odious, so the old saying goes. But this was our fourth and final Venice dinner. And the first three had been really good. And I mean, really good. And this one just wasn’t. Perhaps if it had been our first meal, we might have thought different. But it wasn’t. And we didn’t. Comparisions, eh?

White polenta features heavily on the fairly extensive menu. It cropped up on both starters. First in an underseasoned wet form on which were scattered a generous portion of very fresh, very sweet prawns. It also appeared in the “set and fried” version accompanying a small fillet of sole, with the classic Venetian “saor” sauce. This is mainly onions in a sweet, yet vinegary, sauce, spiked with capers. It usually appears with sardines where the assertive flavour of the fish will stand up to the dressing. But the more delicate sole was overwhelmed by it.

I’m a big fan of “fegato alla Veneziana” and will often order it at home if it’s on a menu. As might be expected on its home turf, this was a good version. Small squares of very lightly cooked calves liver; the long cooked onions almost meting away to form the sauce. More fried polenta as a carb.

Beef fillet wasn’t the best piece of meat ever encountered. Now I know you don’t expect fillet to have as much taste as other cuts but this was very underwhelming and, indeed, a bit scaggy in parts. The red wine sauce was almost non-existant but the topping of finely diced caponata vegetables was a cracking idea.

Contorni were €7 each which doesn’t sound a great bargain and, when you see you’re only getting two artichoke hearts, you know it’s not a bargain.

Also not a bargain was the €20 glass of Merlot. Perhaps that’s why the waiter came back to point out the price to my wife. Or perhaps, she didn’t look the sort who would order a €20 glass. In any event, she was somewhat affronted by his attitude whatever the reasoning. My advice to the restaurant is that, if you don’t think customers know what they have ordered then don’t put these items on your freaking menu.

We decided not to have dessert but did have espresso. It was OK but no more than that.

One final point of interest to us was to see on the menu Welsh lamb and that Halen Mon was the kitchen’s salt of choice. It seemed odd to see produce from an hour’s drive from home on a menu on the other side of Europe.

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  1. I agree that the soupy version of polenta - and traditional venetian polenta generally - can be underwhelming. often its not salted although I have had renditions that I like..

    as far as the wine service goes, I might have appreciated the waiter bringing the cost of the wine to my attention. Of course apparent attitude is everyting, but usually waiters seek to please not to offend or upset. With a language barrier and a first timer, to me its more likely that he was trying to make sure so there was an agreement so there wasnt unpleasantness later on.

    Regarding the lamb, id venture that they view it as a superior product - lamb is also tricky because of the seasonality of the production - it may be that the welsh company does a better job of managing its flock to provide good lamb at a good price year round .

    Re the contorni, thats a typical price. When you consider the cost in the rialto market of artichokes (and these were likely local) and of extracting the heart, 7E does not seem so much. Artichokes are a luxury product, except perhaps from the freezer compartment.

    1. Just note that the fegato alla Veneziana I had at FT was overcooked. I've also read Chowhound reports of people being unhappy with risotto at FT. Hard not to form the impression over time that different nights produces different food.

      As for the lamb, I would have found it odd to find lamb on any classic Venetian menu other than as a springtime special around Easter, or maybe in a restaurant in the Ghetto? Or as a lamb ragu? I'm trying to think of where sheep might graze anywhere near Venice, and I am coming up blank.

      (edited to add: Just found a picture of them in Trentino! But at that distance, you might as well fly them in from Wales.)

      2 Replies
      1. re: barberinibee

        there is one holiday (cant remember which) where "castrauro" is eaten in Venice, but its certaintly not a commonly found item.

        Its easy to overcook fegato, but its not easily excusable in a restaurant. Risotto is another matter of taste - like pasta, it can often be "harder" or more al dente in a restaurant then I or perhaps many others prefer.

        1. re: jen kalb

          Hello jen,

          The feast is the Festa della Salute on November 21, when a temporary bridge is erected to cross the Canale Grande in front of S.Maria della Salute. The dish of the day is called "castradina", and it is a stew made from dried and salted mutton.

          The story behind that dish and the feast is from the days when the plague was epidemic. Venice observed a quarantine in order to evade the plague, and the only food available during these days was dried mutton from the Croatian mountains. Unfortunately they were not able to maintain this strict rule, and the plague hit the town and about one third of its population died. The feast is celebrating the day when the plague finally was over.

          A nice write-up can be found here:
          and here:

          We were lucky to enjoy the bridge and a great sample of castradina two years ago, but I am careful not to mention the restaurant where I had this bowl of mutton stew...