A Week in Venice

May 2009

Fiaschetteria Toscana

Cannaregio 5719, San Giovanni Grisotomo
Be certain to book the dining room downstairs.  We ate at this restaurant twice because our first dining experience here was our favorite in Venice.  The upstairs dining area is where they relegate larger parties and children.  And that’s totally cool, but you might get stuck waiting for an hour+ after ordering to get your food and then having to ask for the bill three times.  The food is the same on both floors, but the service was not.
I tried to not let our second experience detract from our first, because the first time around was so lovely.  The bartender from our hotel, Marco, a local and also self-proclaimed foodie, said FT was one of his favorite restaurants in the city.  The food doesn’t change over the years, and it’s simple preparation, but only the freshest ingredients are used.  Using our first dining experience here as the beta, we wholeheartedly agree, dine on the downstairs level here and this would be one classic Venetian place not to miss.   Be certain to get the fresh grilled fish, as it is their specialty.  Save room for the tiny strawberry tartlet if strawberries are in season.

Il Ridotto

Water taxis in Venice, Italy
Castello 4509, Campo SS. Fillippo e Giacomo
A very close second prize for dining experiences this week goes to Il Ridotto.  Initially, it felt a little exclusive and on the fancy side versus the other restaurants we had been to in Venice; however, this feeling subsided quickly.  The chef treats his restaurant as his home, and was determined to make our dining experience an inviting and special memory.  He checked up on us frequently to make sure we were enjoying his creations, but he was so subtle that it never felt intrusive.  He gets more artistic and creative with his preparation and presentation than our other Venetian dining experiences, but it wasn’t over the top frou frou noveau.
We loved the local baby squid in their ink on top pureed potatoes.  We had various raw fish tossed with lavender and paired with fruit or other items as a starter.  Our favs from this dish were the scorpion fish with apple and fennel, the sea bas on top of a peach and the tuna with thyme.  Our absolute favorite part of the meal – and one not to miss – was his pasta.  We had peperoncino ravioli with rock shrimp, garnished and dressed with fresh tomatoes, basil and a sliver of mozzarella.   OMG.  So delish.  The fresh fish is also not to be missed here.

Al Covo

Castello 3968, Campiello della Pescaria,
I know this one gets added to every Venice foodie list and we were told by one of our friends who is the GM of a very famous Italian restaurant in NY (as well as a few others he worked with) that this was THE best place in Venice to have fritto misto. The owner/chef was so honest and endearing.  He alone will make you come back.  We defaulted to him in selecting our dishes.  He said it was like asking a father who his favorite son was.  But, with his guidance, we shared the fritto misto (the portion is so large that it needs to be shared and the owner will tell you this even though it goes against the P&L).  It was truly delicious and prepared in the classic Venetian way.  I loved the cod – mmmm mmm good.  He has a broad wine list with wines that are reasonably priced.

Vini da Gigio

canal in Venice, Italy
Cannaregio 3628, Fondamenta San Felice
Ok – this one was written up in so many food-rating books and all with very high ratings.  It was good, but we were a little disappointed.  We loved the soft shell crab and I would imagine their fritto misto would probably follow suit, as the preparation would have been the same.  Pass on the pasta.  The servers were very lovely and personable, but I think this restaurant has such a following and demand for reservations that they’ve fallen prey to the “resting on their laurels” syndrome.  Advice to management – A restaurant with ratings in major guide books such as yours shouldn’t allow the pestering rose guys to ask patrons 4 times over the course of a meal if they want a rose.

Ca d’Oro (Alla Vedova)

Cannaregio 3912
Inexpensive, good and endearing.  A traditional bacari experience.  You must have a meatball (or three).

Snacks, lite bites and other:

Osteria Enoteca

San Marco 1610
After seeing what could be the most expensive and underwhelming cocktail or snack of your life in the San Marco Piazza, this was such a welcoming experience.  We had a lovely half bottle of Brunello and deliciously and perfectly cooked pasta.  Put this one on your agenda for a lite lunch after walking around San Marco, as all the tourists in that area are too busy queuing at Hard Rock Venice to find this little gem.

Il Refolo

Santa Croce 1459
Post reading many guide books and seeing a deluge of non-locals (massive fanny packs seem to be the dead give away) eating at pizza places, we steered clear of this food genre.   I mean amazing prosciutto and melon is in abundance here people, so why default to pizza especially if you are warned in advance that it’s so-so?  However, sometimes, a pizza and a beer hit the spot.  We agree, the pizza here was very good.

Antica Drogheria

(wine store)
San Paolo
He was very honest telling us which wines had been sitting around for a little while and which ones they had just got in – 2004 Brunellos had just arrived that week, so of course, we picked up a few to take back.

Best of the Best:

If we were to diet for a month and prepare our ultimate Venetian dinner menu based on our experiences this week it would be:
Soft shell crabs, Vini da Gigo
Meatball(s), Ca d’Oro
Prosciutto, so fresh at most locations
Pasta sampling:
– Rock shrimp in peperoncino ravioli, Il Ridotto
Osteria Enoteca
Grilled Fish, Fiaschetteria Toscana