Italy’s brokedown palace by the sea

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.

Trattoria Alla Rivetta: Venice
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.
Trattoria Alla Rivetta: Venice
Our two new friends from Turin.

Trattoria Alla Rivetta: Venice
Mmm. Forbidden strawberry wine.

Trattoria Alla Rivetta: Venice
Mixed Venetian style seafood antipasto, most of it from the lagoon.

Trattoria Alla Rivetta: Venice
Mixed Venetian style vegetable antipasto.

Trattoria Alla Rivetta: Venice
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.

Trattoria Alla Rivetta: Venice
My pasta with shrimp, mussels, and clams. Also, another thing you should brace yourself for in these posts. I went clam crazy.

Trattoria Alla Rivetta: Venice
What else do you order but fritto misto for dessert?

Rossa Rossa: Venice
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.
Rossa Rossa: Venice
Their version of a Venetian mixed seafood antipasto.

Rossa Rossa: Venice
Cuttlefish in its own ink with white polenta: a Venetian standard.

Rossa Rossa: Venice
Vongole or clams with spaghetti. Venetian lagoon clams make all the difference. They’re much sweeter than American clams.

Rossa Rossa: Venice
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.
Rizzardini: Venice
Many of them, like Rizzardini, have been open for more than a hundred years. Rizzardini opened in 1742!
Rizzardini: Venice
Ordering a little coffee, syrupy hot chocolate, or Campari spritz (the drink of Venice) to warm up.

Rizzardini: Venice
Mmmm. Pastries.

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.
Al Fontego dei Pescatori: Venice
A platter of Venetian seafood to start.

Al Fontego dei Pescatori: Venice
My spicy squid ink pasta with busara shrimp from The Lagoon.

Al Fontego dei Pescatori: Venice
Hollyweird’s fresh gnocchi with scallops.

Al Fontego dei Pescatori: Venice
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.

Billy Bath's: Venice
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.

Billy Bath's: Venice
My new friend: prosciutto and egg tram. The first of 100 on this trip.

Billy Bath's: Venice
Italian crack.

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.
Nico: Venice
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).
Osteria Da Carla: Venice

Osteria Da Carla: Venice

Hollyweird’s antipasti, some sort of fish cake with melted sardines/anchovies on top.

Osteria Da Carla: Venice
My trams. They were so good. The seasonal radicchio di treviso was off the charts amazing.

Osteria Da Carla: Venice
Moon’s pasta. Some sort of eggplant with olives and squid.

Osteria Da Carla: Venice
Hollyweird’s fish main.

Osteria Da Carla: Venice
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.
Antiche Carampane: Venice

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. Antiche Carampane: Venice
A little starter of fried baby fish.

Antiche Carampane: Venice
Hello little friend.

Antiche Carampane: Venice
Moon’s razor clams. God, I love razor clams.

Antiche Carampane: Venice
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.
Al Covo: Venice

Seafood antipasto.

Al Covo: Venice
Pasta with spider crab.

Al Covo: Venice
Razor clams over white beans.

Al Covo: Venice
Fish with fried artichokes.

Al Covo: Venice
More fish I do not remember the name of.

Al Covo: Venice
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.

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  • Re: Italy’s brokedown palace by the sea
    posted by: Kev · February 9, 2011  5:50 PM

    Jennifer, I am so jealous. Everything looks wonderful.

  • Re: Italy’s brokedown palace by the sea
    posted by: mike · February 9, 2011  9:33 PM

    you have been my go to girl for Buford Hwy, thank you. After reading your venetian revues you have further solidified my respect for your taste in countries to visit and food to eat. Grazie Mille

  • Re: Italy’s brokedown palace by the sea
    posted by: Karen · February 10, 2011  10:58 AM

    What a beautiful post. You’ve managed to capture something pure and essential about being in Venice. After reading it, I feel like I just took a five minute trip there. Fantastic, thank you.

  • Re: Italy’s brokedown palace by the sea
    posted by: jonnymack · February 10, 2011  2:01 PM

    The jealousy factor is incredibly high right now. Simply awesome.

  • Re: Italy’s brokedown palace by the sea
    posted by: Foodgeek · February 10, 2011  4:34 PM

    How were the mantis shrimp? Are they difficult to eat? I bought some frozen ones from BHFM and they were awful, but I’m sure fresh ones would be much better. Looks like you had a nice trip.

  • Re: Italy’s brokedown palace by the sea
    posted by: blissfulglutton · February 10, 2011  4:41 PM

    Thanks for the kind words, everyone!

    FG: The shrimp were not that difficult to eat once sliced down the belly. Very sweet. No seafood has compared since we returned.

  • Re: Italy’s brokedown palace by the sea
    posted by: GemmaG · February 10, 2011  9:05 PM

    I could eat cuttlefish ink pasta sauce until it comes out of my pores and still want more. I’ve never found anything as good as the first time I had it in Venice, although a cuttlefish ink risotto from Naples came a close second.

  • Re: Italy’s brokedown palace by the sea
    posted by: Laura · February 11, 2011  5:03 PM

    I am green with envy. I haven’t been to Venice in over 10 years… too long.

    LOVE that “no pizza – no lasagna – no tourist menu” sign. That’s a good indication the food will be phenomenal. Diverti!

  • Re: Italy’s brokedown palace by the sea
    posted by: Gloria · February 11, 2011  5:43 PM

    I love love love this post! I have been truly dying to go to Italy and now I’m feeling a bit over the edge. I hope I can go to all those places too one day!!

  • Re: Italy’s brokedown palace by the sea
    posted by: ahungryartist · February 14, 2011  12:22 AM

    I completely agree. The best parts of Venice are never visited, but it should be kept that way.

  • Re: Italy’s brokedown palace by the sea
    posted by: elizabeth · February 17, 2011  12:09 AM

    Not sure what I will do with my 10 points if this measures up. Never had it while in Venice but we like making it here at home.

    I despise rum so I never make the zabaglione in this recipe – just eat the semifreddo as is. And I used a more bittersweet chocolate too( valrhona feves last time – 70%ish) Why did I never add fresh whipped cream? Next time. Hope to hear if this rivals the real thing.

    Gianduia semifreddo with hot rum zabaglione
    (Yield: 6 servings)

    2/3 cup hazelnuts
    1/2 cup milk, heated to lukewarm (105°F)
    6 1-ounce squares semisweet chocolate, chopped
    3 eggs, separated
    3 tablespoons sugar
    1 cup heavy cream
    1/4 cup sugar
    2 teaspoons rum
    Line a 9×5-inch metal loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the ends. Place in freezer.

    Preheat oven to 350°F.

    Arrange hazelnuts on a baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Wrap hazelnuts in a kitchen towel; let steam for 1 minute. Rub hazelnuts in the towel to remove the skins.

    In a food processor, process hazelnuts until finely chopped; add milk and process until mixture is smooth. In a large metal bowl, over simmering water, melt chocolate, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth. Stir in hazelnut mixture; set aside.

    In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually beat in 3 tablespoons sugar until stiff peaks form. In a medium bowl, beat cream until stiff peaks form; fold gently into egg whites. Fold one-fourth of the cream mixture into the chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining cream mixture.

    Pour into chilled loaf pan; cover with plastic wrap. Freeze for at least 8 hours. In a metal bowl, over simmering water, combine remaining sugar, egg yolks, and rum; beat for 5 minutes or until mixture is thick and has quadrupled in volume.

    Unmold the semifreddo onto a serving dish; serve it sliced topped with the hot rum zabaglione.

  • Re: Italy’s brokedown palace by the sea
    posted by: blissfulglutton · February 17, 2011  7:38 AM

    Oh my goodness! Thank you, Elizabeth! I will let you know how it turns out…

  • Re: Italy’s brokedown palace by the sea
    posted by: elizabeth · February 19, 2011  9:00 PM

    Great! Hope it turn out as your expect. If not, I now have a (another) reason to go back to Venice 🙂

    It is off the rotation as 30 extra pounds has found me – I will have to live vicariously through others enjoying it for a while though!

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