After reading about Joe H’s great experiences at Il Ridotto and Il Refolo, I vowed to try them both the next time I was in Venice. Il Refolo will have to wait because I didn't make reservations and they were full.
Il Ridotto: All in all this was my best dining experience in seven trips to Venice. If you care more about the food than when you get the food, you’ll be very pleased here. Il Ridotto wasn’t without some misses both in terms of food and service. (I am in the camp that thinks it’s hard to eat really well in Venice compared to other cities in Italy) However, the cordiality of Gianni Bonaccorsi and the server made up for it as well as the ultimate quality of the meal. I would definitely return having a better idea of the strengths and weakness of the place and I think this would lead to a better overall experience.
My wife and I split an antipasto, we each ordered a primo, split a secondo, and ordered a ½ bottle of wine from the extensive wine list. The total was 107 euro before tip (there is no service charge or coperto here).
The dishes: We were treated to an amuse bouche of cod and cream of zucchini. Basically it was like a really good snack at a bacaro.
The first was a selection of six pesce crudo from the lagoon. On the whole these plates were very fresh and flavorful, not fishy in the least and dressed with just a little olive oil. Chef Bonaccorsi brought this plate to us and explained all the fish. Unfortunately, one of the fish (I forget which one) had more than a few scales interspersed throughout. One or two is not a big deal to me but the preparation was just careless.
For primi, my wife had ravioli with gamberi and I had linguine with volgole. Under each section of the menu there is a dish at the bottom noted as “I classici.” I selected this dish from there. The gamberi dish was very distinctive and intense. It wasn’t the most pleasant on the first bite but the strong flavor grew on me. The linguine with clams was perfect.
The secondo was the best dish of the evening. It was a whole squid stuffed with vegetables. Very, very delicious. I could have ordered another. It was cooked perfectly and very tender.
As others have noted this is a very small restaurant. On the night I visited three groups dined outside in addition to the tables inside. As far as I could tell, there was one server for the entire restaurant and both he and the chef frequently ran next door to their sister restaurant for an ingredient or bottle of wine. They somehow managed to keep it on track until we were done with the primi. After that dish it took nearly 40 minutes for one stuffed squid to come out. When it did it was masterful but a wait like that is unacceptable. Having worked in food service for some time I am as a forgiving a customer as you’ll find but after that wait I was a little sour. The squid made up for it but we decided to leave on a high note and my own experience has taught me deserts are often skipped in Italy. Still, we were offered some homemade biscotti which weren’t on the menu and that was a very nice touch. After that we were also offered a watermelon sorbet which was more like the texture of very finely shaved ice and flavored with mint and sambuca. This was probably the second best dish of the evening and a wonderful finish.
During the meal Gianni Bonaccorsi visited our table three times. He really did make an effort to see that everything was okay and you can tell he is very interested in the customer experience even if he might want to spend more time in the kitchen and less time shooting the breeze. Despite some of the little mistakes, the food was excellent. As a whole dining experience, they fell down a little on front and back of the house issues but the kitchen’s output was excellent. I’d definitely go back on a weeknight, in winter, when they don’t have outdoor seating. Everyone can have a bad night and the plates carried the day in a way that I’ll give Il Ridotto the benefit of the doubt.
Just as a side note: I made a reservation online with no problems. The map on the website is really useful. I found the restaurant with no problem.