My wife and I returned last night from our 10-day 25th Anniversary trip to Italy: two days in Venice, four in Florence, and four in Rome. I’ll submit my trip report in three parts, one for each location . . . beginning with “Part 1: Venice.”
We arrived at our hotel in San Polo (not far from the Rialto Bridge) late Thursday morning, freshened up, then strolled toward the Frari Church (on the way toward the train station to pick up a vaporetto for a cruise along the Grand canal). We planned to stop for a light lunch at Caffe dei Frari at about 1:00pm but somehow missed it entirely – likely walked right past it in a fog of jet lag – and ended up eating at the Frari branch of Muro Venezia (they have two other branches, including one by the Rialto markets). Our selection criteria: the weather was gorgeous, they had nice-looking outside seating, and our tired and hungry bodies refused to search on. It proved a very decent little spot, with a good selection of salads, pizzas, and other fare. My wife and I shared a large bottle of mineral water, half a carafe of the house white, and a salad (with good greens and bits of cheese and salami). We then each ordered a pizza and finished with espresso. Total bill: 53 Euros. (Yes, Venice is expensive!) Perhaps not a “foodie” spot but it certainly hit the spot.
It being our first day, we planned an earlyish evening dinner of cicchetti at baccari west of the Rialto Bridge. We started at Bancogiro, grabbing a table in their outside seating area in a little campo by the Grand Canal. They didn’t seem to have the typical rows of various cicchetti under a glass counter from which to choose, perhaps we missed them inside the restaurant proper. Instead, we ordered their Misti di Pesce antipasto – a selection of six small portions of traditional Venetian seafood dishes, including a delicious Sarde in Saor (the traditional Venetian dish of sardines cooked with onions, raisins, and pine nuts) and an equally delicious Bacala Mantecato (a sort of whipped salt cod spread) – and their Seleccione Formaggi – a tasting of six different cheeses with two confitures. Loved the location and the food; looked like it would make a good spot for a full dinner. With a large bottle of mineral water and two Spritz aperitivos each, the bill came to 54 Euros. (This was more expensive than the traditional ciccheti spots we visited later that evening but it also seemed to be a bit more of a “classy,” sit-down type of restaurant.) We then hit All’ Arco, Do Mori, and Do Spade. We chose two to four different cicchetti to share – simply pointed – and an ombra of the house red at each location. Some of the cicchetti included delicious bits on bread (primarily at All’ Arco) – including cheeses, sardines, salumi, etc. – as well as marinated artichoke hearts, whole tiny octopi, ham-wrapped spicy peppers, and fried rice and seafood balls. Total cost: 10 to 13 Euro at each spot. As noted by a number of Chowhound posters, it’s important to hit these spots early before their cicchetti selection runs low . . . or before they close entirely (Do Spade was winding down a few minutes before 8:00pm).
Friday, following a morning of touring in Piazza San Marco, we walked a few minutes away to the relative calm of the Campo Santo Gilipo e Giacomo for a lunch sitting outside at L’Acciugheta. I started with the Bacala Mantecato and then moved on to the Burrata, Insalata, e Acciughe (anchovies). My wife chose the Sarde in Saor to start and then the Insalata di Farro con Mozzarella Fiordilatte (spelt salad with tomatoes, fresh basil, and mozzarella). We very much enjoyed it all. With mineral water, two glasses of the house white, one large beer (on tap), and one espresso, the bill came to 74 Euros. (Did I mention that Venice is expensive?)
For our second, and final, dinner in Venice we wandered the maze of small streets and canals in San Polo in search of Trattoria Antiche Carampane (Rio Tera delle Carampane, by the Ponte delle Tette). It was well worth the search; indeed my wife and I agreed that – based on location, ambiance, service, and food – it was the favorite meal of our entire Italy trip. We ordered two glasses of a very good Verdicchio and were then each promptly presented with a paper cone filled with extraordinarily tasty, delicately flash-fried, whole tiny shrimp (“schie”). I could’ve munched away on an entire bucket of them . . . and will never again be able to face what we Americans call “popcorn shrimp!” We split the seafood antipasti and a primi, the pasta with spider crab sauce. For secondi, my wife chose the John Dory with zucchini and mushrooms and I chose the “Moeche” soft-shell crab. Everything was incredibly fresh, well prepared, and delicious. I particularly enjoyed the Moeche and, when my plate arrived, I realized that they were the very small (1¼ to 1½ inch wide) dark green crabs I’d seen squirming by the score in a bucket at the Rialto seafood market early that morning. We enjoyed a bottle of Custoza Superiore (for 25 Euros), a white wine from Verona in Veneto recommended by our waiter. With a bottle of mineral water and two dolci, the total bill, including wine, came to 145 Euros . . . and was worth every cent.
My thanks to all of the Chowhound posters, particularly PBSF, for directing us so well to the culinary delights of Venice. “Part 2: Florence” and “Part 3: Rome” to follow shortly.
Calle de la Carampane, 1911,San Polo, Venice, Veneto 30125, IT
Campo San Giacomo di Rialto, San Polo 122,, Venice, Veneto 30125, IT
Sestiere San Polo, 860, 30125 Venezia, Italy, Venice, Veneto , IT