Venice – Off the beaten canal

Photo by Helen Cathcart

 
Giancarlo and I spent a lot of time enjoying the bars, restaurants and foodie hang-outs of Venice while researching our book ‘Venice – Recipes Lost and Found’ and I thought it would be nice to share some of our favourite places with you. This list is in no particular order but I have separated by the various areas of the city:-
 
 al covo
Al Covo
Campiello della Pescaria
Castello 3968 Tel: 041 522 3812 www.ristorantealcovo.com
Very good food. Owner Cesare is passionate about his choice of ingredients. Do book. They have a tiny, more modern sister restaurant called Covino down the road.
 
Bistrot de Venise
San Marco, 4685 Calle dei Fabbri Venezia, Tel: (+39) 041 523 6651 www.bistrotdevenise.com
Really great traditional food but also amazing historical food recreated from the work of Renaissance cooks. Do book and have the historical menu if you can, you won’t taste anything as lovely and unusual as this elsewhere. The owner Sergio Fragiacomo is a passionate foodie, send him our regards.
 
La Cantina
Strada Nuova, Cannaregio 3689
Tel: 041 522 8258
Don’t expect to rush Francesco Zorzetto as he meticulously prepares the food for you but it is amazing and worth the wait. Go for cicchetti or lunch or dinner. Watch his knife skills for the sheer joy of seeing an expert at work. And do try his selection of wonderful cheeses and artisan beers.
 
Corte Sconta
Castello 3886, Calle del Pestrin dietro rival degli Schiavoni, 30122
Tel: 041 522 7024
Elegant restaurant, you have to book. Service and food excellent.
 
 
la-mascareta-osteria
Enoteca Mascareta
Castello, 5183
Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa
Tel: 041 523 0744
A buzzing place open late, go for a huge variety of wines, cheeses, quality antipasti plates as well as cooked food. Lovely atmosphere.
 
Harry’s Bar
Calle Vallaresso, 1323, tel: 041 520 8822 www.harrysbarvenezia.com
Treat yourself to a Bellini or two and plate of Carpaccio in their place of origin. It will always have a buzz about this place, there is nowhere else like it in the world. 80 yr old Arrigo still regularly frequents the bar keeping an eye on the food and service.
 
Osteria alle Testiere
Calle del Mondo Novo, Castello
Tel: 041 522 7220
Tiny but busy place with great food so you need to book well in advance.
 
 
13
L’osteria di Santa Marina run by Danilo and his partner Agostino. It is elegant, food and service is outstanding. Agostino’s food is traditional with a twist. It is best to book especially in the evenings Tel: 041 52 85 239.
 
Trattoria Antiche Carampane
San Polo 1911, Tel: 041 524 0165 www.antichecarampane.com
Tucked away next to the Ponte delle Tette in a less busy area behind the Rialto bridge. Really traditional but ‘cool’ feel and warm hospitality. Food is delicious, try a Gianduja semifreddo and a Sgroppino after dinner.
 
Taverna La Fenice
San Marco 1939
Tel: 041 52 23 856
Just near the Fenice opera house.
What a romantic, warm and elegant place to eat. The wood paneling and warm lighting draws you in. We loved it. You have to try the potato spuma on secoe on a traditional Venetian stew served in a martini glass.
 
 
alla_madonna_insegna 
Trattoria La Madonna
Calle della Madonna, San Polo 594 Tel: 041 522 3824 www.ristoranteallamadonna.com
Near Rialto bridge and all the locals know it. Big and bustling, the waiters wear white tuxedos and work a long day including cleaning the spider crabs and all the other shellfish freshly every morning. Have the seafood risotto and black cuttlefish. Don’t wear white.
 
Vini da Gigio
Cannaregio, 3628/A Tel: 041 528 5140 www.vinidagigio.com
Venetian wine bar and restaurant run by a brother and sister. Traditional food but updated by this young couple. He can’t eat wheat so there are lots of alternatives for those like him. Try the borlotti bean and pasta soup – it makes you sigh with comfort. Wash it down with Prosecco in the style of the Contadino (peasant farmer), cloudy and light but full of flavour and dry. They also have gluten-free food.
 
On the pretty island of Burano – Go for lunch and have a walk around this colourful toy-town like island; the two best places are:-
 
Il Gatto Nero
Fondamenta della Guidecca, 88 Tel: 041 730 120, www.gattonero.com
Run by father and son team. Massimo is the son and charms the visitors speaking English with a Scottish accent while Dad works furiously in the kitchen making just delicious food. Sit outside and watch the world go by.
 
 
trattoria-da-romano
Trattoria Da Romano
Via Galuppi, 221
30012 Burano
Tel: 041 73 00 30, www.daromano.it
The oldest restaurant on the island, full of charm and run by the original family. Grandma and mum cook in the kitchen while Dad serves the customers. They are busy and bustling and serve simple, traditional food. The fritto misto and risotto are their specialties, ask to watch Mirko throw toss the risotto in the pan.
 
On the glass making island of Murano
busa-alla-torre-da-lele
Busa alla la Torre da Lele
Tel: 041 739 662 – you don’t need an address just ask when you get off the boat.
Flame haired Viking-like Lele shops, cooks and breathes Venetian food. Very traditional and good cooking from a passionate man.
 
Bacari – bars that sell cichetti and drinks
These are great often stand up bars where the locals go for a snack like little fried meatballs or tiny filled panini. You can sit down in some but they are often small. Drink Proseco or order an Aperol or Campari Spritz. No need to book unless you want to sit down. There are so many bars but these are our favourites.
 
Al Merca
213 San Polo – as its name suggests it is near the old market at Rialto and sells really good cichetti. You have to stand outside as the bar is miniscule. Go at 6pm and mix with the locals drinking Spritz and eating meatballs.
 
cicchetti
Cantina Do Spade
859 San Polo
Tel: 041 521 0583 – serves risotto to the locals at 12 noon, cichetti and simple plates, good for lunch or light supper. Its snug, warm and busy so good on a cold day.
 
Il Cantinone già Schiavi
Fondamenta Nani, 30123 in the Dorsodoro area. A really lovely wine shop, bar and caffe all in one serving cichetti made by the owner Allesandra de Respinis. She has written a book about her recipes which you can buy. Lovely atmosphere and choice.
 
 IMG_1723BoatBurano_hi copy

Photo by Helen Cathcart

 
Things to do
Take a rowing lesson with Row Venice or better still a Cichetti Row when you are shown how to row a gondola and you stop off at bars along the way! Our guide was Nan and she is really knowledgeable about wines as well as rowing. http://rowvenice.org
 
Take an authentic and informative cooking lesson with two fun local ladies; Monica and Arianna or let Monica take you for a tour of her favourite cicchetti bars, see www.cookinvenice.com
 
See all our recipes and recommendations for Venice in our book ‘Venice -Recipes Lost and Found’ which you can be purchased here.

Not just for Halloween..

Pumpkins are in season, so in the spirit of making hay while the sun shines… or is that making soup while the fog surrounds? Here’s our family favourite recipe for warming pumpkin soup that features in our book ‘Venice – Recipes Lost and Found‘ :-
GH9A8302CaldesiVenice copy
Zuppa di Zucca
Pumpkin Soup
This soup was served to us at the restaurant of the same name, La Zucca, in tiny backstreet in Venice where they serve mainly vegetarian food and primarily those dishes are made with pumpkin. There are paintings of pumpkins on the walls and pumpkin-coloured paper placemats too. The food is different to the typical Venetian food and it has a really good following so if you plan to go make sure you book in advance. This soup is loosely based on their recipe and I think it does help to find the best quality pumpkin (not the Halloween type, they are too watery and have no flavour) you can. In Venice, they mainly use the mantovana pumpkin variety, which is squat, large and pale green.  Remember to save your peelings to add to other vegetable off cuts if you are making a stock.
Serves 6–8
6 tablespoons best quality extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
2 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) pumpkin (around 1/2 butternut squash), cut into 3 cm (11/4 in) cubes
1 carrot, cut into 2 cm (3/4 in) cubes
1 stick celery, cut into 2 cm cubes
2 white onions, cut into 2 cm cubes1/2 red chilli (chile), finely chopped
1.2 litres (2 pints 9 fl oz) vegetable or chicken stock (bouillon)
400 g (14 oz) tin cannellini beans, drained, or 350 g (12 oz) cooked beans from dried
handful of kale, chard or spinach
salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g feta cheese, optional
 
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the garlic, pumpkin, carrot, celery and onion. Reduce the heat, cover with the lid and sweat for 20 minutes, shaking the pan frequently. Add the chilli (you can add more or less according to your taste) and fry for 2 minutes.
making soup
Pour in the stock, increase the heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Italians tend to purée roughly a third of their soups to thicken them. This used to be done with a passetutto but you can use a stick blender instead, I did. Stir in the beans and kale. Cook for 2–3 minutes until the kale is soft. Season to taste and serve with a swirl of your best olive oil, a little black pepper and (though not strictly Italian) a crumble of feta cheese.
soup made 2
You can buy ‘Venice – Recipes Lost and Found’, which includes a whole range of Venetian recipes both historic and modern day, online here.

Beautiful Venice


I have just come back from Venice where we had the scariest white knuckle ride in a water taxi to the airport through the aqua-alta – the all too common flooding that occurs.  However it didn’t mar the experience of being there though.  Surely Venice is the prettiest city in the world.  Winter is a great time of year to go, we had two days of sunshine and blue skies and only one of rain and there were hardly any tourists.  I am glad I took a pair of wellies to combat the flooding but nothing spoils the staggering charm waiting round each corner.
For breakfast we stopped at Pasticiera Rosa Salva near Piazza San Marco.  I had a strange little dome of vanilla soaked sponge with sultanas, delicious with a proper cappuccino.   At Carnevale time they have crispy doughnuts filled with Marsala custard called Fritelle allo zabaglione which at 1euro each are irresistible.

For food I would recommend Ristorante Carpaccio in Riva Schiavoni.  It is a small family run restaurant owned by Abruzzeze so the menu has Venetian classics but also a chilli-hot lamb ragù typical of Abruzzo. Then you can’t go wrong at La Madonna near the Rialto bridge.  It’s busy and bustling with loads of white coated waiters serving mainly Venetians rather than tourists.  I love it and especially the squid cooked in its ink, black, startling and so tasty I could have had thirds.  Also the risotto frutti di mare, just pure comfort food when you come inside from the wintery air.  Finish the meal with a “sgroppino” a delicious sweet drink of lemon sorbet, vodka and Prosecco.
Went to Harry’s Bar but didn’t really enjoy paying 15 Euro for a Bellini, it tasted great but is any drink worth that much especially in half-empty bar.  Better still, stand up with the locals in one of the plentiful little corner bars where made-with-love-and-care tramezzini (sandwiches) tempt you and glasses of local wines.  When are our sandwich bars going to do raddichio, speck and chopped egg or preserved chiodini mushroom and mayo?


We are going to celebrate Carnevale big time at our restaurants in February so look out for our menus, costumed staff and general sense of partying.  I am also doing a Splendours of Venice cookery class inspired by my trip and Giancarlo is throwing a Venetian Masked Dinner in Caldesi in Campagna.  For further details see www.caldesi.com.