La Zanzara near Volano. For the first time in a few years, we were deep in the Bassa Padana. The area runs east of Ferrara, right to the coast (think Bassani's L'airone, more so than Il Giardino dei Finzi Contini) and it is marshland and nebbia and nebbia and marshland. There were two restaurants we wanted to try (in the case of one, go back to).
I don't want to get too excited about a first time experience because so many times the restaurants do not subsequently hold up, so let's just say that the meal at La Zanzara was one of the best we've had in the last dozen years and next to our first time at Da Bardon in Piemonte, the biggest surprise in the sense of what we could possibly have expected, to what it was. We figured it would be just fine. It turned out to be fantatsic.
La Zanzara is in the middle of the marshes (and it has an appropriate name although there were none the day we were there) near the hamlet of Volano. It is listed in the Gambero Rosso under Codigoro. An unimposing farmhouse structure, the interior is refined rusticity (perhaps a dozen tables and an enormous fireplace) and an oasis of spectacular fish and seafood, fish and seafood which is, of course, different from what we get here on the Tuscan coast.
Run by the Bison family, one son and daughter is in the dining room, the other son in the kitchen and parents as well. The freshest ingredients, simply cooked, well seasoned and beautifully plated (without being fussy). Very intense flavors! A simply fantastic, very reasonably priced, wine list of whites with the brother in the sala, Samuele, extremely knowledgeable about the wine (and the food).
My description really can't do justice to the food. This was every bit as good as our three favorite places on the Tuscan coast and in some ways the cooking was better. It just blew us away. Whether it was the the insalata di pesce, verdura, crostacci e molluschi to start ; the two pastas: spaghettoni con intingolo allo marinara and the agnolotti ripieni di pesce bianco salsa di zafferano; Piovra allo spiedo (we've never had octopus this tender) and the filetto di dentice con asparagi di Mesola... it was all spectacular. Desserts were excellent. And there was a lot more on the menu to try, which we intend to do.
As I said, one of the best meals in the last dozen years... and we've had a lot of great meals.
La Capanna location Ponte Vicini. As the eels swim, La Zanzara and La Capanna are not far apart. As the roads go probably 10 km. We had been here perhaps ten years ago. The next generation has taken over.
A very good meal and if we had not had La Zanzara, we would have been more than satisfied in making the trip from coast to coast. Two rooms (sit in the one farthest from the front door), seating perhaps fifty. Good casual service and an excellent menu with the freshest fish and shellfish. A decent wine list; we had a 2011 Sylvaner Strasserhof. Some tiny gamberi, deep fried, with silky white polenta to start. Then pasta with giotoli (miniscule baby octopus); and a plate of cefalo, gamberi and soft shells... the whole dish was as good as it gets. For main courses grilled and stewed eel (excellent) and a once every five years fritto misto, which again, was as good as it gets. Everything you want in a place like this. Unfortunately, it ran a somewhat distant second to La Zanzara, although they get the same rating in the Gambero Rosso.