Spent a few days in Venice last week and here's what I found.
Cip's club at the Hotel Cipriani. Venice is an expensive city to be sure, but I have never minded paying for quality. Cip's club takes this to a whole new level though, charging some of the highest prices in Venice for what turned out to be mediocre food at best. I will not waste my time writing about it all, or your time reading it, but suffice it to say that it was the only meal we had in Italy where we regretted every euro spent. Also, unless you are a long term hotel guest, you cannot get a waterside table (and we reserved well in advance) so even the view was not fantastic.
Ai Gondolieri close to the Academia bridge. We both had the menu degustazione, shared two good bottles of wine and overtipped and spent less than we did at Cip's. Not that it was cheap at over 250 euro, but we left sooo much happier. This I will detail.
The tasting menu had eight courses! We started with an almost greaseless plate of mixed fried vegetables, perfectly done and seasoned with just a hint of salt. The fresh cheese, the salad, and cold tomato soup that followed were all light and bright and as near perfect as is possible.
The next course was my favorite dish - a veal lasagne with funghi and a light white sauce. If I could learn to make one thing I ate in Italy, this would be it and believe me I will try. It was light, yet satisfying at the same time and sublime as anything I have ever eaten.
The beef risotto that followed was hearty and deeply beefy. Toothsome rice studded with tiny bits of tender beef and a rich brown stock had us wiping the plate with some of the bread. As full as we were getting we both couldn't stop.
The only minor disappointment came afterwards in the form of braised veal cheeks. Perhaps it was because we were both verging on fullness, but I suspect that the transcendant veal cheeks at Eleven Madison Park in NYC have spoiled me for any other version of this dish forever. Not a clunker by any means, and the polenta and funghi with the veal were yummy, but not up to the impossible standard set by the rest of the meal.
Dessert was vanilla gelato with a drizzle of what had to be at least 50 year old balsalmic and some espresso. As we rolled ourselves back over the bridge to our hotel we couldn't stop talking about our meal.
The second best:
Trattoria da Remigio, Castello. Our last night we wanted to eat as the locals do and we were lucky enough to get a last minute table here. It was the only meal we had in Venice where I heard only italian spoken all night.
If you go, you must start with the crab. They were fresh and perfectly cooked and it looked like everyone was ordering them.
The seafood risotto that followed was perhaps the best I've ever had. The only visual hints of seafood were teeny bits here and there, but the flavor was amazing. Upon looking back I remember thinking it tasted like the sea.
For secundo we shared a nice sized plate of fried shrimp so we could have room for what we had seen to be a huge and beautiful bowl of fruit that we had seen many patrons order. The shrimp were wonderful and that fruit was as good as it looked.
With one bottle of wine our bill was only about 100 euro too.
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