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Franco's favourite ... Venetian food & restaurants

Franco's favourite ... Venetian food & restaurants

Apr 20th, 2006, 04:36 AM
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Franco's favourite ... Venetian food & restaurants

Venice is certainly not Italy's best place for eating out – but this doesn't mean the cuisine of Venice is bad! It's just the restaurant scene that is suffering from tourism...
That's the reason why I don't consider booking a hotel room when I'm going to Venice: I need an apartment with a kitchen to be able to prepare some meals myself (see "Franco's favourite … Venetian accomodation" – to come soon...). The markets of Venice (those at Rialto) are gorgeous – there is a fish market and a fruit & vegetables market (the former closing at noon, the latter at 2 p.m., and to fully enjoy the fish market, you'd better come early). Not only the fish and seafood of Venice are delicious – also the vegetables! Few people know that Venice is growing her own vegetables on two laguna islands, and they're among the very best I've ever had: you don't know zucchini, or artichokes, unless you've tasted those of Venice! On the market, look out for the signs indicating "S. Erasmo" as the vegetables' provenance – S. Erasmo is the main vegetable island.
I could go on with Venetian recipes now… but I suppose most of you will be interested more in restaurants, nevertheless! Just don't expect something really extraordinary; if you rather think of hearty plain fare, you'll find some places where you'll be happy.
My absolute favourite, and the one and only place that comes near the extraordinary, is Osteria alla Botte, www.osteriaallabotte.it. A very, very casual restaurant, noisy, cramped with people (mostly Venetians, get me right!) in jolly spirit. And excellent food for reasonable prices (another rarity in Venice...).
Other good places include Do Spade, a centuries-old, simple osteria (bacaro, in Venetian dialect) serving some excellent and some not-so-excellent dishes. Stick to the unusual, like goose sausages, or donkey stew, those are wonderful. Address is Sotoportego de le do spade, near the Rialto fish market, and don't arrive too late (i.e., don't arrive later than 8.30 p.m. – in the market area, everything is closing early, even earlier than elsewhere in Venice). www.dospadevenezia.it
Ah yes: dining hours! Venice is not very Italian in this respect – you won't find a decent meal after 9.30 (or 9 in winter). The few places serving dinner later on are exclusively tourist traps – with only two exceptions:
1. Vini da Gigio – in summer, you may arrive even at 10 p.m. This is a former bacaro, too, now tending slightly more towards the elegant. Very good food, not exactly cheap, but still affordable: www.vinidagigio.com
2. Ae Oche, near S. Stae vaporetto stop. This is only a pizzeria, but a good one, and you can order as late as 10.30–11 p.m.
Another recommended place is Capitan Uncino on Campo S. Giacomo dall'Orio. The food is very good, the service is not, and half of the fun is sitting outside on the campo – in one of the most unspoiled neighbourhoods of Venice, with kids playing soccer, dogs playing games whose names humans don't know, the senior citizens chatting: the perfect picture of a small Italian town’s everyday life (and that's what Venice is, in fact, even if it doesn't seem like that).
And another of my favourites is Osteria Al Bacco, in Cannaregio, near Madonna dell'Orto church (though "near" is somewhat exaggerated: Al Bacco is near nothing, it's right in the middle of nowhere). A wonderfully old-fashioned place. The two latter restaurants don't have websites (which is a positive sign for an Italian trattoria, isn't it?).
Another good pizzeria (well, there ARE people who love pizza) is Al Nono Risorto near S. Maria Mater Domini.
And if anyone is longing for vegetarian dishes (which isn't that widespread in Italy), check La Zucca, just around the corner from Capitan Uncino: they're not only serving vegetarian dishes, they're even serving GOOD vegetarian dishes: www.lazucca.it

Now for the more elegant dining. My top choice in this respect is Locanda Cipriani on Torcello island: the food is nothing really special, but still good, and the location is just wonderful – you're taking a 50-minutes-ride with the water bus to Torcello, crossing the most beautiful part of the laguna, and Torcello itself is splendid: this island was once Venice's foremost rival (in the middle ages), and nowadays, it has just 20 or 30 inhabitants – but still two of the most beautiful and stunning Romanesque churches of the laguna! To sum it up, Locanda Cipriani is a location for special occasions, celebrations and so on... Open for dinner on Saturdays only, otherwise exclusively for lunch: www.locandacipriani.com
Those who absolutely want to dine with a view of the Grand Canal have to spend a fortune, since the one and only place that is NOT a terrible tourist trap is the restaurant of the Europa & Regina Hotel: you're dining on a canal terrace opposite S. Maria della Salute, it's one of Venice’s most elegant hotels, and the food is even above the average (now you can imagine how expensive it is...).

And to those who are interested in REALLY excellent food: sorry, but you have to go outside Venice!
Three (or four) top choices:
Al Cason, on the outskirts of Mestre. Maybe the best fish restaurant where I've ever been in my life. Terrific. Expensive. www.alcason.it
Villa Condulmer, near Mogliano Veneto. Splendid setting in an 18th-century-villa and its park. Very elegant. Excellent food. Reasonable (!!) prices. www.hotelvillacondulmer.com
Due Mori, in Dolo (on the Brenta canal); and Villa Goetzen, in the same village. Belonging to the same family, Due Mori (the traditional old trattoria) specializes in meat, Villa Goetzen (relatively new, more fancy) in fish. Both are excellent, I prefer Due Mori. But only Villa Goetzen has a website: www.villagoetzen.it

Back to Venice: wine bars! Apart from La Botte, which is also a wine bar (the wines not being sooo great, but the fun of sipping them there all the greater), I recommend, for wine lovers and connaisseurs, I Rusteghi (in a hidden courtyard, just opposite La Botte) – other than really excellent wines, they're making Italy's best panini. And Al Volto, in a dead-end lane heading to Canal Grande from Campo S. Luca – very casual, and you'd never guess that they have one of Italy's most famous and best-sorted wine cellars.

Finally, cakes and sweeties: just one recommendation that has no equal and no competition in Venice: Maria Boscolo on Campiello dell'Anconetta (i.e. on Strada Nuova, near S. Marcuola vaporetto stop).

Please note: This thread is not primarily meant for discussion... it's primarily meant for substituting myself while work won't permit regular posting during the next six or so months. I'll try to check once a week, however, so if anyone would like me to answer any questions related to food & drink in Venice, please post them here – I won't unfortunately be able to browse all the other threads...
franco is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 04:44 AM
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franco,

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, AND,... thank you!!
Traviata is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 07:07 AM
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Franco: This is wonderful! Thank you so much for taking the time. Here is a seafood place someone just recommended to me and I am wondering if you know it or would like to comment:

Al Vecio Bragoso, Strada Nuova/SS Apostoli, Cannareggio.
ekscrunchy is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 07:08 AM
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franco, thank you! I wish I had this a year ago but hope to make good use of it in the future!!
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Apr 20th, 2006, 07:26 AM
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Franco,

Your efforts are greatly appreciated!
Tri_Dude is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 08:36 AM
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ek - I've never heard of Al Vecio Bragoso, sorry. The one of us who comes to Venice next time should perhaps try it and report here accordingly!
franco is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 12:36 PM
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TTT
Bailey is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 02:09 PM
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Good idea, Franco! Or maybe we can even meet there one day! Thanks again for all of your help, don't work too hard, and come back to us soon!

ekscrunchy is offline  
Apr 24th, 2006, 05:21 AM
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I thought I’d provide one final service: linking all “Franco’s favourite…” threads to each other, in order to make them more easily accessible to future users:

Venice:
accomodation: http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34791672
sightseeing & transportation: http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34791890

Rome:
where to stay: http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34792021
food & restaurants http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34792415
sightseeing: http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34792538

Umbria: http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34792839
franco is offline  
May 8th, 2006, 11:01 AM
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In case that anybody hesitates to ask just because of my currently scarce presence on Fodor’s, I’d like to repeat that if you’d like me to answer any questions related to the topic of this thread, just post them here – I’m checking rarely, but regularly, but only my “own” threads due to work pressure.
franco is offline  
May 16th, 2006, 01:25 PM
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ttt
franco is offline  
May 16th, 2006, 01:46 PM
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Ho fame
anamaria is offline  
May 16th, 2006, 01:55 PM
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Thanks! We will be in Venice in June so this is a big help.
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May 16th, 2006, 02:46 PM
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I dined at Al Vecio Bragoso in September 2005 and quite liked it, well enough to return for lunch later that same week. I can't remember exactly what I had either time apart from the dessert, which was some sort of traditional cake related to one of the other communities in the lagoon. Very good.

Though there's no way of comparing my taste to Franco's directly, I have been to several of the restaurants he mentions and agree that they serve reasonable food.

Ae Oche: very good pizza as well as traditional dishes like liver with polenta on my visit with my children several years ago, and at the time had the distinction of an entirely "no smoking" side to the restaurant (which was, interestingly, mostly Italian families with children on our visit). This is no longer an issue, as there's no smoking whatsoever in restaurants in Italy now, but at the time was nice.

La Zucca: Another place I liked so well that I returned within the same week, also the visit several years ago with my children. Not just vegetarian, by the way, but vegetables prominent on the menu. Be sure to book ahead, either the day before or the day of.

Al Nono Risorto: I happened on this place one afternoon and picked it for a later return based largely on the vibe and absence of any signage other that Italian. Turns out they host a local chess club, so my 12 year old son got to play (quite well) with some of the locals. Food fine.
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May 22nd, 2006, 02:56 PM
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Franco - wonderful recommendation about Osteria La Botte, though it took 3 tries to finally manage a visit while they were open ;-) The staff seemed a bit confused about our trip back to the dining room, as we had this space all to ourselves for the duration of our meal. The real action was in front, mostly a happy-hour kind of conflagration at the time we visited (7-ish?), with a younger crowd eating ciccheti and drinking wine and catching up with one-another. The staff took very good care of us, however, and the food was excellent... antipasti of insalata caprese, and polipo - and spaghetti al vongole. mmmmmm!
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May 29th, 2006, 08:04 AM
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ronin - I'm glad you've enjoyed your meal at La Botte! If you come a little later, at the usual Venetian dinner time around 8-8.30, also the dining room will be cramped, and it's always wise to reserve, unless you want to be part of the happy crowd in the front room while waiting for a table (which is not the worst solution, IMO!).
franco is offline  
May 29th, 2006, 08:08 AM
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Franco! Glad you're back to top this thread. I seem to always have a hit or miss experience with dining in Venice, and know this will help alleviate that possibility in the future.
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May 29th, 2006, 02:31 PM
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franco:
Thank you so much for your most helpful posts! The first time we were in Venice, we were in a hotel for 3 days--knew we had to come back to an apartment--which we did last October for 1 week--now we are returning to the same apartment for 2 weeks this October. I love to cook, and I do appreciate the gorgeous markets. I couldn't believe the artichoke bottoms--what a luxury! I am unfamiliar with most of the seafood and felt intimidated by the huge selection. So if your time permits, could you please "...go on with Venetian recipes..." or recommend a cookbook that would help me use the seafood and produce so readily available?
We mostly eat in, but we did discover La Zucca and thorougly enjoyed it. Thank you again!
roamer is offline  
May 29th, 2006, 03:29 PM
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Just returned from Italy and France. al Paradiso in San Polo (Calle del Paradiso) was recommended to us by the cousin of a close friend. The cousin is a native Venetian and his family always eat there when they have guests to treat. It doesn't have a tourist menu, though it is near the Rialto. The meal was excellent, prices moderate and the service was very kind. Hope we can go back someday!
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Jun 2nd, 2006, 02:15 PM
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roamer - I'm happy to oblige (this weekend, I'm taking a downtime from my work!). For a first start, I'm trying to limit myself to recipes that you can prepare in October (but if you or anybody else would like to get recipes for other seasons as well, don't hesitate to ask - cooking is my passion!). October is not the very best season, I must say - the artichokes' season will long be over, but for the really good radicchio types (tardivo di Treviso and Castelfrano), it will still be too early - they're arriving by mid-November. And as far as fish and seafood, spring is usually the best season...
But never mind - there is still plenty to cook! First of all, we'll prepare one of the foremost Venetian specialties: baccalà mantecato, mash of cured cod (easily available everywhere, but NO restaurant is catering it in really good quality, not even La Botte, strange enough). In some shops besides (not on!) the fish market, you'll find cured (i.e. salted) cod already soaked - or at least, you can ask them to prepare it for two days later or so (that's the minimum time for soaking cured cod). Cook the drained cod in milk until tender (don't add salt, obviously - it's already salted!). Take it out of the milk, mash it with a fork. Generously add excellent olive oil: get yourself a bottle from Casa del Parmigiano, the best delicatessen shop of Venice, located on the way from S. Giacomo di Rialto, the small church behind the bridge, to the fruit & vegetable market - it's on the left side, and everyone knows it, should you have problems; they've two qualities, both are gorgeous: a more delicate Tuscan and a very, very strong Apulian oil. For baccalà mantecato, I'd prefer the Tuscan oil. Add SOME of the milk in which you've cooked the cod (attention, it's salty!). Add a small quantity of garlic, and some parsley, both chopped, of course, and if necessary (likely not!), some salt. Eat with fresh white bread as a starter. (Bread is not always very good in Venice. I recommend the "filone" of the bakery on Ruga dei Speziali, two steps from the Rialto market.)

Seafood: one of my favourite recipes is mazzancolle con lardo di Colonnata - another starter (the cuisine of Venice is big on starters). Mazzancolle are a particularly delicious kind of small tiger prawns. On the Venice market, they're always raw (which is a sign of quality, of course). Wrap in razor-thin slices of lardo di Colonnata (this planet's best raw salted bacon, 100 percent fat, salt, herbs, incredibly delicious, to be found at - exactly, Casa del Parmigiano). Fry cautiously in olive oil with a small quantity of garlic (the lardo will almost melt away). Give a dash of dry white wine, add salt and pepper, let cook a little. Away from the heat, add some chopped parsley. Serve lukewarm (!) with white bread.

Another starter: latti di seppia - I hope they're available in October! Latti di seppia are some sort of squid entrails, but they don't resemble any better known entrails. Rather, they resemble the squid itself, but their taste is more subtle and their consistency more tender. Put into COLD water. Bring to a boil. Continue boiling for 8 minutes. Drain. Season with olive oil, salt, pepper, parsley, and some fresh lemon juice. Marinate for some hours. Serve cold.

And now, a main course that I owe to the owners of the apartment that I'm usually renting in Venice (see my "accomodation" thread, the link is somewhere here above): swordfish with zucchini and olives - there should still be some zucchini in October, and the zucchini of S. Erasmo (the Venetian vegetable island) are certainly the world's best!! Cut the zucchini into rather thin slices. Brown in olive oil (I'd suggest the Apulian variety, this time), add chopped green olives (once more, I use to purchase them at Casa del Parmigiano - or try the tremendous olive taggiasche, a green-brown-grey sprinkled variety, incomparably delicious), add few (!) salt. Serve with sword fish steaks, simply fried in olive oil with salt and pepper and maybe a little lemon juice. (Sword fish steaks are always available in excellent quality in Venice.)

Finally, if you happen to find gò (this is possible most periods of the year) - that's the best fish to make fish soups, and maybe the best single product available in Venice. Gò is Venetian dialect, but I don't know how they're named in proper Italian, nor in English - it's a laguna fish, a kind of goby (but there are more than 2000 kinds of gobies on this planet!!). If you add some small passere (the passera is a kind of flounder, but not the usual dull flounder - it's gorgeous both cooked and fried!), maybe a small scorpionfish, and/or a small gurnard, you'll get the best fish soup you've ever had in your life. Sometimes, the fishmongers of Venice are preparing a mixture of small soup fishes (but gò are always to be ordered separately... for the true Venetian, they're the "stars" of the market). Whatever the seasoning, this soup will be unique. I use to make a French bouillabaisse with these Venetian fish, since I love bouillabaisse, but that's of course no Venetian recipe, not at all! (I don't of course dare telling any Venetian that I'm using their gò for a French soup! Italians are so conservative in gastronomic respects...) Btw, of the gò, not much will remain. They will cook to rags, and at the end, you simply throw their heads and bones away - they're making the soup a little thicker, and above all, they leave their incomparable taste...

I hope that's sufficient for the moment - at least, I stop it here because writing so much has already made me tired, I must admit. But don't hesitate to ask for further recipes!
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