posted on February 9, 2011 at 1:28 pm
I feel sorry and thankful for the tourists who only stop in Venice for a few hours–something most people seem to do. Sorry because they miss so much. Thankful because, when the sun goes down, the city feels deserted for those of us who stay on longer. Despite there being an abundance of historical relics, elaborate churches, and stupefyingly beautiful art, the most alluring part of Venice is the feeling of endlessly walking its winding streets at night. There is so much to discover and since it is so small, you can always find your way back home if you get a little lost, which is recommended.
One of Venice’s many narrow streets at night
The fact that Venice is a series of islands connected by bridges also plays a huge part in its cuisine. Seafood is king. Most of it comes from the Venetian Lagoon, an enclosed bay of the Adriatic sea. There is something different about the incredible abundance of seafood that comes from the lagoon. It tastes colder and more steely than its warm water counterparts. Moon had romanticized the seafood for the months leading up to the trip, but I didn’t really understand it until our first dinner of the trip, which, incidentally was the last place we had dinner on our trip since we liked it that much.
The entrance to Trattoria alla Rivetta is tucked away near the base of a bridge. You’ll know you’ve found it when you see the line. There’s always a line. But the line is no problem when you are greeted by this gent who dispenses free nibbles and Venice’s special, controversial, and slightly frizzante strawberry wine.
Our two new friends from Turin.
Mmm. Forbidden strawberry wine.
Mixed Venetian style seafood antipasto, most of it from the lagoon.
Mixed Venetian style vegetable antipasto.
Moon’s fish. I don’t remember what kind although it looks like sole. You’ll see a lot of “I don’t remember what fish that was” in these posts.
My pasta with shrimp, mussels, and clams. Also, another thing you should brace yourself for in these posts. I went clam crazy.
What else do you order but fritto misto for dessert?
Moon’s brother–who we shall call “Hollyweird” from now because he is a director in Hollywood and I am too lazy to think up a better name–arrived the day after we did. We took him for lunch to a place around the corner called Rossa Rossa. Rossa Rossa is a more modern type of place trying to be trendy, but coming up short. The music was terrible. The food, however, was very good. Solid Venetian fare and a lot of people seem to get pizzas. We got seafood.
Their version of a Venetian mixed seafood antipasto.
Cuttlefish in its own ink with white polenta: a Venetian standard.
Vongole or clams with spaghetti. Venetian lagoon clams make all the difference. They’re much sweeter than American clams.
One of the few meat dishes ordered during our trip: baby lamb chops.
My father always says France has horrible coffee and amazing pastry. And the opposite is true about Italy. And I forgot just how good coffee could be until this trip. We, therefore, spent a lot of time in cafes and pastry shops.
Many of them, like Rizzardini, have been open for more than a hundred years. Rizzardini opened in 1742!
Ordering a little coffee, syrupy hot chocolate, or Campari spritz (the drink of Venice) to warm up.
Our dinner that evening at Al Fontego dei Pescatori was one of the highlights of our trip. The owner, Lolo, is the president of the nearby Rialto Fish Market, where most restaurants purchase their seafood (more pictures on that later). The fish and execution was impeccable.
A platter of Venetian seafood to start.
My spicy squid ink pasta with busara shrimp from The Lagoon.
Hollyweird’s fresh gnocchi with scallops.
My fritto misto, which was ethereal, sweet, and by far the best version I have ever had in my life. The carrots were a beautiful touch.
In Argentina and Miami, Argentinian bakeries sell sandwiches called “migas.” They’re made with fresh white bread and stuffed with ham, mayo, hearts of palm…you name it. Moon was always waxing on and on about how they had nothing on Venetian tramezzini. Being the stubborn sort, I never believed him until we went for breakfast the following morning to a place Moon and Hollyweird simply refer to as “Billy Batt’s” after some mob movie character. It’s at the foot of the Accademia bridge on the Dorsoduro side.
An assortment of trams, as we called them. Most places like this have them displayed next to the bar. They are a great breakfast alongside a cappuccino or as an afternoon snack with some espresso.
My new friend: prosciutto and egg tram. The first of 100 on this trip.
Crossing the grand canal on Venice’s best transportation deal: the traghetto.
As I’ve said before on this blog, I do not like ice cream. It feels like a waste of calories when I can have, say, a tram instead. Hollyweird and Moon insisted to the point of annoyance that we hit Gelateria Nico for a Venetian specialty called “gianduiotto,” which takes its name from a popular Italian chocolate candy.
Gianduiotto is basically a block of frozen chocolate and nutella ice cream surrounded by fluffy fresh whipped cream. It is the best frozen treat I have ever had and have been searching in vain for a recipe. Ten points if you can find it for me.
Dinner that night was Hollyweird’s choice. We were exhausted from doing nothing but walking so we stayed close to San Marco. Osteria Da Carla is a more contemporary restaurant run, it seems, by only women. It was good, but the service was a bit salty for my taste. To start, I had a traditional Venetian spritz (minus the olive).
Hollyweird’s antipasti, some sort of fish cake with melted sardines/anchovies on top.
My trams. They were so good. The seasonal radicchio di treviso was off the charts amazing.
Moon’s pasta. Some sort of eggplant with olives and squid.
Hollyweird’s fish main.
Moon’s John Dory smothered in tomatoes.
The next day was Moon’s birthday and it was husband’s choice for everything from art to cuisine. We went to see Venice’s most narrow street.
A jaw-droppingly gorgeous ceiling done by Tintoretto, Moon’s favorite painter, at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco.
Lunch was at a place Moon had found, as he did with most restaurants, through Ruth Edenbaum and Shannon Essa, the ladies behind the unparalleled Venice eating guide: “Chow! Venice.” If you go, you must must buy their book.
I knew I was going to enjoy Trattoria Antiche Carampane the minute I saw this sign in its window.
Inside, the small restaurant was packed with Venetians–locals, as you know, are always a great sign when dining in a city.
Unfortunately, the lighting was not great so I didn’t get good shots of our food. But let me tell you it was amazing! The menu changes depending on what’s good from the market–as it should.
A little starter of fried baby fish.
Hello little friend.
Moon’s razor clams. God, I love razor clams.
A little homemade Gianduiotto just because.
One of Venice’s many neighborhoods. If only my hood were this beautiful.
Dinner that evening was at Al Covo, a restaurant his highness Anthony Bourdain profiled in his show on Venice (a must see if you want to get a feel for the town). Al Covo is actually a famous restaurant as it is part of a Venetian restaurant group that aims to source sustainably and continue the old traditions of Venice. The restaurant is far from the tourist areas, but worth the walk. Our hosts were more than gracious and dinner was superb. Recommended.
Pasta with spider crab.
Razor clams over white beans.
Fish with fried artichokes.
More fish I do not remember the name of.
My veal cutlet with fried potatoes. I was jonesing for some meat by now, but I wish I’d gotten seafood.
Up next: our side-splitting trip to Bologna and more seafood. Stay tuned.