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veneto trip report

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veneto trip report

Mark | Jun 20, 2003 05:52 AM

I've never posted a trip report before. We spent three days in Venice at the biannale, and then two nights in Asolo, a night in Vicenza, and a night in Padua.

The culinary highlight of the trip was surely Le Calandre restaurant, located in Rubano, an unpreposessing commercial suburb of Padua. The atmosphere is stylishly elegant but low-key, with jazz playing in the background. There are two tasting menus, one of the chef's classical repertoire, and the other his more recent, daring creations. We had the former, and were bowled over. Among other things, a cappucino of potato soup and squid ink approached the divine. Likewise a pasta dish drizzled with smoked butter (!), alternated with sips of a smoked chicken broth. Also memorable was a saffron rissoto with licorice and the pigeon main course, as well as the amuse guele of grapefruit sorbet in a vegetable gazpacho. I splurged and ordered the 96 amarone of Dal Forno (selling at a lower price than I found in the wine shops in Venice). A once in a lifetime experience- heady and decadent, the aroma practically fills the room. As usual, my wife nursed her glass all evening, leaving me to swill the rest of the bottle, with the result that my memory of the second half of the meal is foggy, and I became excessively friendly with the wait staff and taxi driver, who all bore it with good grace. The price of the tasting menu was 115 euro- not cheap, but much less than you would pay in a three star restaurant in France. Anyone travelling in the Venice area should definitely try to plan their itinerary to take in this wonderful restaurant.

In Venice, the highlight was Alla Testiere, a small, lively restaurant with delicious food and friendly, helpful, English-speaking wait staff. Reservations are tight, but do your best to get in, even if it means taking the earlier seating at 7:00. We also ate at Da Fiore, which I found pleasant but unremarkable.

If your Palladian-villa-hopping, we had a delicious lunch at the Barbesin restaurant outside Castelfranco Veneto, and a terrible dinner at Da Bastian in Maser.

At the risk of being flamed (I've been taken to task on this site before for knocking popular places) I thought Asolo and the Hotel Villa Cipriani were both a zip, and the latter an overpriced rip-off. For the same beautiful countryside I would recommend staying in or around the far less touristy and more picturesque hamlet of Marostica. The restaurant in the upper castle had a great-looking menu. Or in the beautiful Euganean hills area, where the countryside is more accessible, and for the same price you can stay in the Abano Terme hotel, and enjoy the treatments, if you have a mind.

Last tip, if you enjoy wineries, a visit to the Maculan winery in Bregenze is a must.

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