Thank you to all who advised me on Venice restaurants. This is how it worked out:
Vini da Gigio
I had been trying to find something similar to Alla Madonna, which was closed on the day we were there, but there was nothing I could find in that price range that seemed to fit what I wanted. This turned out to be a perfect choice.
The atmosphere is charming, with windows facing onto a quiet canal, and service was friendly and efficient. I started with Sarde in Saor, marinated sardines with pickled onions, pine nuts and raisins. It was the best rendition of this dish that I have ever had, and an enormous portion. Stanley opted for a Caprese salad, a hunk of fresh mozzarella with cherry tomatoes, simple and delicious. Next I went with fegato alla Veneziana, the famous calf’s liver dish, which was textbook perfect. He had turbot with mushrooms and roasted potatoes. Lovely. With a very nice bottle of Rosso Costiera from the Veneto (21 euros, cheapest on the list), coffees and water, the bill was 117 euros.
I chose this one because we had never been there before, but in hindsight I think Alle Testiere would have been a better pick.
I had written the directions down in excruciating detail from Google maps. It was supposed to be a 14 minute walk, but after a few blocks the instructions became meaningless, and we proceeded to get completely lost, finally arriving at the restaurant an hour later, after asking at least a dozen people for directions, with only half of them having any idea where any street was (and these were all locals). Arriving 40 minutes late for our reservation, we were told they had given our table away (don’t they know how difficult it is to find?) but luckily they had outdoor tables available, and we were actually quite happy to sit there.
The food was very good, but perhaps just a notch below Vini da Gigio. We began with a shared plate of tagliolini with spider crab, then I had grilled sole with zucchini, and Stanley had braised veal cheek with pureed potatoes. Both were very tasty. Wines here are very expensive by the bottle, so we opted for a ¾ liter carafe of tocai, which was quite acceptable for 16 euros. For dessert we shared a pavlova with yogurt and mixed berries. Light and refreshing. With water, the bill came to 106 euros.
For a more complete report on Venice, with photos and commentary, see my blog post: