I was in Venice the second week of November . Please excuse the lack of specific names of wines/cheeses etc. and my cursory review - I really was interested in relaxing and enjoying myself this time - everything written is recollected from my grappa soaked memory.
Campo SS. Filippo e Giacom, Castello
I stood at the bar and had something like 15 cicheti. I especially like the tuna wrapped in pancetta. Also good were (I think) cigale - looks like a small lobster without claws, the flesh was white with almost a blush of lavender, very sweet meat. I was surprised that a majority of the cicheti were served slightly warmed. I had 3 glasses of wine - tried a Veneto, Fruili and Tokay white - all pleasent and quaffable. An espresso and a grappa to finish off my meal. The bill came to 25 E. (I was the only one standing at the bar - I think I was hoping for a Seville tapas bar type experience but that scene seems to happen later and not as close to San Marco)
After wandering around a bit - stopped in at the Hotel Londra to confirm my dinner reservation and have a couple Campari spritzes - 2 spritzes, 14E (at other cafes and fewer starred hotel bars, a spritz cost around 4E).
Riva degli Schiavoni, Castello
Started with a glass of prosecco. An amuse of basil soup (foam?) with a small wedge of mozzerella and tomato followed - light , flavourful. Started with thinly sliced beef on white polenta followed with pumpkin tagliatelli with black truffles - both dishes were somewhat restrained , quiet. For my secondo , veal with roasted vegatables - perfectly prepared. For dessert - I cannot remember if I had cheeses or something sweet. The bottle of red suggested by the waiter was a good recommendation - medium bodied - I remember it opened up nicely. Bill came to 136E. Afterwards retreated to their bar for a couple grappas - one was amber colored and very smooth. Not a bad meal - not great for the price - but a nice first meal in Venice. Service was very attentive and kind.
Campo S. Giacomo da l'Orlo, Santa Croce
A wonderful assortment of meats and local cheeses with a small salad - all delicate and quiet. I tried 3 recommended red wines from the Vento area - medium bodied with, once again, peppery over(under?)tones - nice nose. I pulled out my book and read for awhile - nibbeling and sipping wines. Afterwards had a grappa and espresso at the bar. The bill came to 22.50E. I noticed they had paninni for like 1.50E at the bar. There is also seating outside on the campo - unfortunately it was a tad chilly to sit outside. I was the only tourist in the place - ahh if I had only worn black they would have never guessed, right?
Al Fontego dei Pescaori
Set on a canal just off Strada Novo. Started with a plate of cicheti. For primi - grilled scallops - could have been a bit firmer. For my secondo, the owner recommended fresh grilled dorada (I'm pretty sure) - which he deboned for me - it was fine. (I realize I have become somewhat spoiled by the dorada in Croatia) The owner recommended a pleasent white. For dessert , local cheeses, espresso then a couple grappas ( beginning to recognize a pattern?) I think the bill came to about 90E.
Ai 4 Feri
Calle Lunga San Barnaba, Dorsoduro
I had to ask a Venetian directions - who proceeded to take me in arm and walk me to the restaurant (" I was going this way," he said as he deposited me at the door, "enjoy.") A small trattatoria (osteria?) on a quiet walkway. On the counter beautiful dishes of prepared seafood and such. Huge shrimp with those delicate antenna all lined up neatly - roasted cipolines - sardines. I started with gamberni in soar - a traditional Venitian dish. Then spaghetti frutti de mare ( not the exact term she used but you get the idea) - shrimps, mussles, clams with pasta and a couple glass of house red rounded out the meal - the bill, rounded up, came to 20E. ( I passed this place one night later in the week and it was packed with locals)
Calle del Mondo Novo, Castello
The restaurant is fairly easy to find - just head for S. Maria Formosa - just off the square across a small bridge. It is very small, probably 10 tables at most - there are two seatings every night they're open. After an apertif, started with soft shelled crabs - these were great. Very small (one could easily fit on a Ritz cracker, now there's a thought) - just pop the whole crab, claws and all, into to your mouth. The crabs had been dressed with something that gave them just a little acidic bite - very fresh. For my primi - gnocci with prawns and mushrooms. The gnocci were so light and they melted in my mouth - the brown sauce was delicious - the prawns were ever so tiny, slightly crunchy. My secondo was red mullet in a mint sauce - this dish was a let down. For dessert local cheeses, followed by espresso and grappa. The waiter had suggested a nice bottle of white. Bill came to around 90E.
via Liguria 1, 35030
Sarmeola di Rubano, Padova
If you're looking for a truely unique eating experience (and somewhat expensive) you may want to try Calandre. I did the menu degustacion with local wine pairings - the entire meal lasted for about 4 hours. A playful experience - I have never eaten so many dishes with my fingers in such a high caliber restaurant - and i liked that while the food was serious it wasn't an uptight dining experience (dinner might be a bit more formal). They serve updated contemporary Italian cuisine but not as far out there as el Bulli, in Spain. The wines were interesting - the service and dishware superlative. My favorite dish was the beef tartar rolled in black truffles served on a white truffle egg cream sauce - I was hesitant at first to eat this with my finger but then got into it to the point of licking my fingers at the end - it was really good - the cream sauce was divine. The cheese carts were so redolent and fragrant. One hard cheese with specs of black truffles was very interesting and unique in flavor. Here's a quick rundown:
*amuse - pastry filled cone with tomato foam
*amuse - salad with a beer sorbet, spec and chicken
*a large prawn, stuck on a stick like a lollipop, wrapped in a potato string, with a green dipping sauce
*pastry rolls filled with cheeses and herbs with a robust fresh plum tomato sauce for dipping
*potato soup with cuttle fish and black ink
*saffron risotto with a dusting of licorice powder
*beef tartar with black truffles on a egg truffle cream sauce
*pig with a dusting of powdered espresso and mustard sauce
*various sheep and cow cheeses - especially liked a hard cheese with black truffles
*dessert course was in 2 parts - a fun playful experience - chocolate covered mint leaf, eggplant dipped in chocolate was surprisingly good, banana sorbet dropped into a the thick chocolate soup just to mention a couple experiments
How many glasses of wine - they were very generous - 11? 12?. Would I do it again? Yes. Was it expensive - yes (not as expensive as Daniel NYC and a much more satisfying experience) Did I leave feeling bloated? No - but very sated.
Vini da Gigio
Fondamenta de la Chiesa, Cannaregio 3628/a
Located across the canal from Al Fontego dei Pescaori - just off Strada Novo. I had some cicheti, ravioli and cheeses. There was a wonderful elderly American couple dining here who's southern accent I could not place - it wasn't Carolinian, nor Texan or Georgian - I finally introduced myself and learned they were form Norfolk Virginia - it was like there 6th time to Venice and oh how they love Venice - sweet couple. I would like to come back to this restaurant another time - mainly because it has a very good reputation among Venetians.
Santa Croce 1762 (S. Gaicomo dall'Orio)
La Zucca is located next to a small canal (and one of the owners is mentioned in City of Falling Angels). Linda recomended one exceptional dish - the pumpkin flan, which is so rich that two people could share it. This is dish is amazingly rich and dense - she was correct, 2 people can share it - for one person it would be too much richness (and I who believe in 'more is more, and less is less') I ordered pasta with gorgonzola and pine nuts and a zuchinni and tomato gratin - Linda ordered (I believe) a veal dish. For dessert I order a chocolate semi freddo with cardamon and ginger. Linda had something chocolate. We order a carafe of both red and white - we split the bill, 30E each. A wonderful and pleasent afternoon lunch - thanks Linda.
La Corte Sconta
Castello 3886, Calle del Pestrin
Rita, who runs the front of the restaurant very efficiently, allowed me to order the seafood antipasta - though normally it's for two people and for my primi, pasta with white truffles. I was about to order a secondo but she said i should wait and see how feel. My handsome waiter recommended a good Vento red. Within a hour the photo taking dining groups had left and a quiet mood settled over the room. The seafood antipasti was fresh and varied - the white truffles were so fragrant. I decided to order a secondo - much to Rita's surprise - soft shelled crabs. A couple from Arlington,sitting next to me, struck up a converstion with me regardng 'City of Falling Angels' - after my soft shelled crabs were served, Rita walked up a couple minutes later - "are you going to keep talking or are you going to eat? the soft shelled crabs are going to lose their texture if you wait any longer". Like I said - Rita runs a tight ship. Also - as a side, a fragrant grilled square of polenta - mixed by hand for 45 minutes according to Rita, no mixer used. For dessert - some cheese and a couple dulce vinos - followed by espresso and grappa. Total came to 115E. I will defintely come back here next time.
Santa Croce 2262, Calle della Regina
Tucked on a sottoportego, Vecio Fritolin, is a restaurant one could pass by very easily. The chill in the air was becoming more pronounced and the warm glow of Fritolin was inviting and comforting. After ordering a Campari spritz, Irina asked me how had I known about her osteria. To be honest I had read and cross referenced so many restaurant reviews I couldn't remember specifically which review had piqued my interest - all I could do was show her my tattered 1 page condensed cheat sheet/itenerary for my week in Venice. I started with a plate of cicheti - delicate and fresh, the white polenta just warm enough. For my primi - pasta with tuna and radicchio - generous and plentiful, in a reduction sauce of some sort. For my secondo - I was uncertain about a certain Italian word, Irina informed me it was eel - local to be specific, in a tomato sauce, a very traditional local dish. On the side a fragrant grilled square of yellow polenta. Irina recommended a beautiful pinot nero from the region. There were a couple people in the back room but I had the front room to myself - an opportunity to just relax, read, nibble, imbibe. For dessert a flourless type choclate cake with a red wine sauce - once again, delicate even graceful. Followed with an espresso and grappa - the bill came to like 90E, maybe even a little less. I will defintely come back here again and recommend this highly.
Dorsoduro 3062, Rio Terra Canal
For dinner I had reservations at L'Incontro - a restaurant that specializes in Sardinian cuisine. I hopped on the #1 vaporetto to Ca' Rezzonica - it was a pretty straight forward shot to the restaurant - in fact I arrived about 15 minutes early. As I walked around I found MondoNovo (the guy who made the masks for the boring orgy in Eyes Wide Shut). Just around the corner, on campo Santa Margherita, numerous bars were beginning to fill up. I was still feeling pretty full from lunch - so I ate lightly (surprise). A plate of really thin crisp broken bread drizzled with fresh olive oil and sprinkled with fresh herbs was brought to the table. I ordered a half carafe of house red, the antipasti plate of Sardinian salamis, proscuitto and sausage and for my primi, pasta with pesto and pine nuts - a fairly straightforward italian meal and a nice change from all the seafood I had all week. What made the evening charming was watching the owner's young son reading a book to his grandfather, sitting next to the kitchen - there was something so heart warming about witnessing such a simple act. The meats were flavorful - the pesto intense - and the red wine robust. The bill came to a little less than 20E.
I needed to grab a quick lunch so I settled for Mascaron. Ordered a plate of cicheti (15E) and a half liter of house white (6E) - the surprises with the standard selection of cicheti were razor clams, artichoke hearts and roasted vegetables - cash only - total came to 22.50E
Fondamenta de la Sensa, Cannaregio 3272
I had dinner reservations at Anice Stellato - located in Cannaregio - a quick vaporetto ride to San Marcuola - the Grand Canal was misty, the palazzos lit up like chinese lantern boxes. I was able to find the restaurant fairly easily. From the top of a small bridge canal, Anice's warm glow was like a beacon. "Traditional dishes enlivened by the odd creative twist." Started with cicheti - for a primi, rasatta (sp? - like a risotto but with pasta instead of rice) with prawns and zuchiinni blossoms and for my secondo, lamb rolled in green pitashcios (fantastic). Everything about this meal was modern but still drew inspiration from traditional flavors. For dessert, cheeses and a couple dulce vinos, espresso and grappa. Including a bottle of wine, the meal came to somehting like 70E - really reasonable prices - and flavors - wow. I will definitely come back here - highly recommended.
Prices were not as bad as i thought they were going to be - of course, I didn't eat at Harry's Bar or Da Fiore. A plate of 15 cicheti was not that expensive - I think the most was 15E and could easily be split by 2 people. You could also order just one or two - they're really inexpensive individually. I saw glasses of wine ranging from 2E to 9E (for a Barolo, still a bargain compared to NYC) - spritzes ranged from 4E to 7E - paninni (sp?) were 1.50E. The weather for November was perfect for most of the week - blue skies and mild temps. Unofrtuantely - no acqua alta which would have made the trip even more interesting. Any questions, feel free to ask.