Mangiare Venezia

December 29, 2017

… or Eating Venice. At least eating our way through Venice. The history, the architecture and the beauty are astounding, but what would they be without the great food to go along with them? We asked one local guide for recommendations as well as took a Venice Food Tour with another, so we have been happily eating our way through the city.

When Steve tasted it he said, “It’s just like flan!” I was impressed he’d remembered what flan was.

Several foodie web sites as well as Laura, our guide from Venice with a Guide, who took us through Basilica San Marco and the Ducal Palace recommended Trattoria alla Vedova, a two minute walk from our hotel. It is a hidden gem full of locals that serves both cicchetti, small bites like tapas, and meals from a regular menu. Their foyer was crowded with young people eating cicchetti and drinking wine even at an early hour. Cicchetti is a stand-up affair. Eat a couple of bites with a glass of wine, order another, and then move on to the next place, so no sitting. The meatballs, or polpette, are famous at Vedova so of course we tried them. They were light, more veal I think, and rolled in breadcrumbs before frying which gave a crunchy exterior. And BIG; very different from our idea of meatballs but still delicious. We followed them up with pasta, mine with clams and Steve’s with anchovies, and then split a Venetian specialty – liver with onions and olive oil over polenta. We’re a couple of the minority population that loves liver, and I think this liver could have swayed a few more folks to our side. Tender, flavorful and not gamy or mealy, it was a delight. And we’ve been happily sampling tiramisu wherever we go. Our waiters? A handsome set of adorable twins.

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After the tour of San Marco we stopped for a late lunch of fish soup, chock full of mussels, clams, cuttlefish, shrimp and fish in a tomato broth and salads of Italian tuna atop arugula and mesclun with capers and black olives. And then back to the hotel for a nap. Later that night we tried another recommendation, Trattoria al Vagon, also near our hotel. We split pasta Bolognese and caprese salad with surprisingly good tomatoes. I had veal Marsala and Steve a grilled salmon steak. Neither Venetian specialties, but what we were in the mood for. I ordered panna cotta for dessert. When Steve tasted it he said, “It’s just like flan!” I was impressed he’d remembered what flan was.

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The next day was the food tour with Walks of Italy. Barbara, our guide, is native Venetian, a rare breed. Their population is shrinking as landlords make more money renting apartments to tourists than to locals, and the cost of living (as everything must be brought from the mainland) is very high. She loves Venice, loved the fact we were here for an extended stay as she feels day-trippers don’t get a true sense of the place or see nearly enough of it, and she loves to cook. As we toured the market she shared recipes as well as history, and took us for cicchetti at two stops and then a sit down plate of pasta in a hidden gem of a restaurant we’d never have found on our own. She pointed out that the best cicchetti bars have a barrel outside with a tray over them, so people have a place to put their drinks when the bar gets so crowded one can no longer get near the counter. We sampled amazing baccalau, truffled cream cheese with porcini, eggplant polpette, soppressa salami with gorgonzola, tuna, parma ham, speck – another ham, all done on fabulous bread with interesting cheese and herb, mushroom and vegetable garnishes. And wine. Lots of Prosecco, red wine or spritz – their aperitivo made from Prosecco, soda and Select, a bright red aperitif like Campari, only slightly sweeter. The last dish we ate was spaghetti with cuttlefish in their ink, a mass of beautiful black pasta. And more wine, followed by espresso and dolce (sweets) – this time lovely cookies. And another nap.

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Later that evening we walked and walked, viewing churches after dark and getting lost in the myriad streets of Venice. I was looking for another restaurant that had been recommended but couldn’t find it, so we spotted a place that looked interesting and very appealing, called Aciugheta, not far from the Bridge of Sighs. It’s a lovely looking place with exposed brick and beamed ceilings, and a cicchetti bar in the center. We asked for a table for 2 (and there were tables available in the dining room) but were relegated to tiny tables in the cicchetti bar along with a French couple and another English speaking couple. It seemed the dining room was reserved for locals. Oh, well. We’d heard it happened but hadn’t run into it yet. We ordered sardines en saor (sardines in a sweet and sour onion sauce), which were delicious. The pizza I ordered was outstanding; one of their “Winter Pizzas”, mozzarella, mushrooms, “mountain cheese” and speck ham. One of the best pizza combinations I’ve ever had, and I think some truffle oil made its way onto the pie. I’d go back again just for that pizza.

Their English translated menu was laughable. The dessert I ordered was pistachio flan, but what came out was the consistency of a pistachio muffin. Even my pizza translated into English described smoked bacon, which speck is a far cry from. So kudos for food but the translations could use some work.

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As part of our food tour we spent time in the markets, which always make me smile. I would have happily carried a crate of baby artichokes and Roman cauliflower home with me. The culture shock was evident when Barbara took us to a butcher’s shop, which specialized in horsemeat. And donkey salami. Even some pony. Yes, really. Barbara was not a fan, but says her father loves the stuff. The other side of the shop had the usual stuff; chicken, pheasant for Christmas, beef, pork and veal. The fish market was hopping, with lots of local fish and some imported farm raised stuff like salmon. Baccalau is dried cod, which is not found in the Adriatic, but has been an important product to Venice since their ships, marooned in northern waters, found out from the locals that cod could be salted and taken on long journeys, well preserved. They’ve used it ever since. Bream, branzino, anchovies, sardines and octopus are some of the locally caught specialties evident in the market. Barbara said she loves leading this tour but is always disappointed that while she’s in the market she can’t shop. Yup, me too.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenifer December 29, 2017 at 3:23 pm

Just back here in the States “so jelly!” Thank you for sharing your amazing adventure. Italy – in specific Venice – is very much on the list for future travel.
Happy Anniversary!!


Cheryl December 29, 2017 at 5:08 pm

Oh, what bounty! Excellent post, Deb!


Linda & John January 1, 2018 at 7:48 am

Thanks so much for the visual and culinary tour of Venice. Happy Anniversary to both of you, too
John and I love fish, pasta and Tiramasu….However….. Black fish ink pasta, liver and donkey just don’t make the spotlight for us. Love to read about them. Venice With a Guide… excellent plan! I love the surprises! Photos speak well!


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