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#1 macrosan

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Posted 28 June 2004 - 11:36 AM

Just three and a bit days in Venice, six lunches/dinners, but maybe just enough to get a feel for the style and nature of the restaurants and their menus.

Some general observations:
Pasta is pretty rare in Venetian restaurants of all levels from smart down to snack bar. Some had no pasta at all, and only one out of the seven we tried had more than two pasta dishes on the menu.

The Venetian equivalent of pasta is risotto, which is served by most middle to upper restaurants, but usually only one variety on the menu and very often served for two.

Pizza is ubiquitous in the cafes, and quite common in the smarter places; but a note for Americans --- pizza ranges from very thin crispy dough to very thin slightly softer dough, and is "lightly covered" rather than "filled" :P You will not find an "American style" pizza anywhere in Venice. Pizza size varies hugely, from 12" diameter to 20", with no reference to size on the menu.

Ice cream (whether served in smart restaurants or at roadside stalls) is without doubt the worst I've had anywhere in Italy. Ah well, I guess they were too busy painting their frescoes to worry about the ice cream :P

As elsewhere in Italy, dishes are generally smaller in size than outside Italy, due to the fundamental four-course structure of a meal --- starter, first dish, second dish and dessert. What surprised me in Venice was the relatively limited choice in each of these courses in most of the higher end restaurants --- maybe six to eight dishes in each, although it also seems that specialist fish restaurants will have six fish choices plus six meat choices.

It seems pretty much universal that prices include service charge, even at small cafes. It is clearly stated on the menu, and my credit card slips were always closed off when presented.

Some specific restaurants:
I have to start with the "best by a mile" place we tried, Kikujiro's recommendation, the superb Fiaschetterie Toscana in Fondeccho dei Tedeschi, just a few minutes from the east side of Rialto Bridge. There is the restaurant proper and facing it a small garden with tables arranged around an old well-head.

Starters were fried zucchini florets which had a light and crisp batter over delicately flavoured courgette flowers, and vegetable soup which Mrs Macro proclaimed especially fine and tasty.

My main was grilled striped sea bream (wonderfully fresh, perfectly cooked, magnificent flavour) with a mixed salad (perfect crisp lettuce, baby plum tomatoes, fennel and some other things with a classic vinaigrette dressing --- you don't realise how rare an excellent salad is until you taste one like this). Mrs Macro had fried baby sole with chips, and they were both fabulous (I couldn't resist) with again 100% perfect fresh fish, cooked perfectly in a fine and pleasant tasting batter, and perfect chips.

My dessert was caramel and apple tart with vanilla ice cream. The tart was home made and quite superb. The ice cream was Venetian ice cream :( I had a couple of glasses of Orvieto (disappointingly small portions, although at €4 a pop it was to be expected).

Altogether a fine meal for just €76 all included which had us smiling all afternoon.

Our second best meal was dinner at Rafaello's just a few minutes walk from St Marks Square. Leave the square on the west side, first canal turn left down the east side and it's right there. Most tables are right beside the canal, which smells not at all (in case you've heard the horror stories) and is much frequented by passing gondole, very often complete with musicians and singers. Nice atmosphere.

My starter was carpaccio di branzino (wafer thin slices of smoked sea bass) which was pleasant but fairly bland. Mrs M's spaghetti al pomodoro was excellent --- exactly al dente and tomato sauce of a flavour and texture that only the Italians seem to be able to produce.

I had a veal chop with chips (I just realised that patate fritte is the only potato option I ever saw on a menu in Venice :blink: ) which was good but not special, and Mrs M had a really good grilled sea bass with runner beans (overcooked and I think frozen).

No desserts, very nice house Chianti rosso and a particularly good espresso. Very pleasant meal for €85.

Sadly, we never got to try Alle Testiere which was full on the day we tried, but Kiku recommends it (so it must be good) and it certainly looked lively and pleasant. This is halfway between Rialto Bridge and St Mark's Square; walking east along Salizada San Lio, turn left where you see a supermarket on the left corner into Calle del Mondo Novo, and the restaurant is 50 yards up on the right.

We went to Robert Schonfeld's recommendation La Furatola 2870 Calle Lunga San Barnaba on Thursday evening at 7pm, and it was closed ! It seems that many Venetian restaurants close on one weekday evening, but they don't always announce which evening in advance :o So we went back at 1pm on Saturday to check it was open, and to see if we could have a later lunch. The restaurant was empty, but after a few moments a waiter appeared. I asked what time they stopped serving lunch, he looked round at the empty restaurant for a second, then said they were closed now :blink: As I walked out, he locked the door. I don't think I'll try that place again.

We had one terrible meal at a mid-range restaurant called something like Mesuniero's in Campo San Stefano. The steak was poor, the fish was inadequately cooked (obviously from frozen!) and was sent back and exchanged for a badly cooked pasta.

And an excellent lunch at a tiny place immediately beside Chiesa San Polo. Veal Milanese for me, large pizza for her, both excellent ingredients and really well cooked and presented, plus water and half a carafe of wine for €26. The warm, helpful service was included, and I could see why a queue had formed outside. That was our last meal in Venice, and a nice note to leave on.

#2 Vanessa

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Posted 28 June 2004 - 11:51 AM

A good read, thank you. So the rule is: Kiku rules in Venice :)

v
...it actually comes down to what thrills you - Hugh Johnson

authenticity is a fog that recedes just when you think you may be getting near it - R Schonfeld

The most political act we do on a daily basis is to eat - Prof J Pretty

this city without boundaries we all share - zigzackly


#3 Kikujiro

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Posted 28 June 2004 - 12:10 PM

Really glad you liked Fiaschetteria :)

But really sorry you missed Testiere :( -- which these days I think is frankly on a different level. (Oddly, rarely if ever serves risotto, but usually has 3 or so pastas.)

Oh well, next time. You sound like you liked the city so I hope a return visit is on the cards.

ps. Icecream: best I'm aware of is Nico, on the Zattere.

Did I forget to mention Tonolo for morning coffee and pastries? (To be honest the pastries are good but not amazing, but for a still-nearly-echt Venetian experience it's great. And the coffee is good.)
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#4 macrosan

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Posted 28 June 2004 - 12:24 PM

You sound like you liked the city so I hope a return visit is on the cards.

ps. Icecream: best I'm aware of is Nico, on the Zattere.

Did I forget to mention Tonolo for morning coffee and pastries?

Venice is now my marginal second favourite, and Mrs Macro's absolutely streets-ahead (or should that be canals-ahead ?) favourite, city in the world :) We're going back for a slightly longer stay in September :cool:

Where is Tonolo, please ? And do they also serve afternoon coffee ? Thanks. ... ooops, wrong thread

#5 Miguel Gierbolini

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Posted 23 July 2004 - 12:54 AM

Which is your first?
I am going there for the first time in a few weeks. You seem to like the city but seem unimpressed about its restaurants. Did you like eating out there?
Thanks for the reports. And for your commentary elsewhere about the Links guide.
"I mispoke."

#6 macrosan

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Posted 01 August 2004 - 10:18 PM

My favorite city is New York ;)

I enjoyed eating there, Miguel, but it's clear that one needs advice to find the best restaurants. There are many that look good, and many with apparently good pedigree; but Fiaschetterie Toscana stood head and shoulders above the others, and Kiku says that Alle Testiere is better. I don't think you would happen across either of those by accident. Yvonne Johnson recommended Ai Gondolieri, and Robert S recommended L:a Furatola, and aghain both of these are well off the main tourist track.

I just hope you enjoy Venice as much as we did, and I look forward to reading of your experiences, Miguel.

#7 marcus

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Posted 02 August 2004 - 10:52 PM

Venice is my favorite city in the world, but I also don't find it to be a great restaurant city. I've never been to alla Testiere, but of the restaurant's that I've visited, da Fiore is by far the best, much better than the even more touristy Fiascheterie Toscana. I have been to Furatola, which is a simple, but excellent fish restaurant, I would not cross it off. I've never had a problem with generally determining opening times, the Michelin guide is usually quite accurate. I don't know how you feel about the Gambero Rosso guide, but I find it to be the most reliable in Italy. Based on a max food score of 60, they give Fiacheterie Toscana 45, alla Testiere 46 and da Fiore 49. Furatola is not listed.

#8 akiko

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 10:49 AM

Alle Testiere was wonderful.

We had reservations for dinner here this past Saturday. Or at least we thought we did. C had called several weeks ago but when we got to the restaurant there was no reservation. They were quite concerned and tried very seriously to figure out what happened but our name was no where.

At this point my heart was sinking, this meal was the one that I was looking forward to, more than any of our other reservations in Venice and I had already glimpsed Alba Truffles on the menu.

The host told us that the restaurant was full, he expected a party of 11 any moment and unless the party came in with less people, he really had no space.

At which point he must have seen the crestfallen look on my face because he said, "if you would like, come back in 10 - 15 minutes and we'll see if all 11 people arrive."

10 minutes later we returned but one glance at the corner told us that the 11 people hadn't arrived yet and we went to stand outside the restaurant (it's tiny, no room to wait inside!)

The waiter had seen us do this, and taking pity on us came outside with two glasses of Prosecco. It was a lovely gesture.

And then five minutes later the other table arrived. All 11 of them.

But a table who had finished their meal and was lingering over their espresso and dessert wine took came to our rescue. The waiter and the host came back outside and told us that longtime clients of theirs had seen us waiting and said to let us know that they were leaving, we could have their table. I was incredibly grateful, I could only think that wonderful restaurants often have wonderful patrons.

The couple (Germans) came out and spoke to us in German. We thanked them profusely.

And then the actual meal...

We liked the prosecco enough to order a bottle of it - Cartizze Agostinetto Valdobbiadene. And then turned our attention to the host. No printed menu, he talked us through what he believed to be the best choices in the kitchen that evening.

We started with Octopus with Gaspacho and the Antipasta Misto.

Baby Octopi were delicious and the gaspacho went perfectly with it.

Antipasta misto also wonderfully fresh - gambieri, small shrimps, very smooth whitefish on toast, and branzino carpaccio.

Then on to the pasta course, ravioli stuffed with treviso and crab, and scampi tomato sauce. Really wonderful pasta and a great combination of flavors.

But the white alba truffle tagliatellini was somethiing else. This is what a white truffle dish is all about. It was done so simply. The tagliatellini was handmade and oh so wonderful. Texture and taste, it actually reminded me of the way the perfect ramen noodle is supposed to taste. Springy and silky absolute perfection. Butter based sauce and then that wonderfully fragrant truffle thinly shaved all over the top.

We had unfortunately had a very large and late lunch. And couldn't manage a fish course. So we moved on to cheese for me and dessert for C.

Dessert was a lovely light lemon tart.

My cheese was two norhern goat cheeses and a pecorino paired with perfectly ripe pears and dried figs. I had a glass of Barbera Asti Ca' Di Pian 2002 (Piemonte) with this. A delight.

I'd say, Alle Testiere is a restaurant not to be missed in Venice. My favorite meal of the trip.

The table of 11 had what looked like a tasting menu paired with wines. That is definitely the way to go.

I'll have to post about our other meals later...

#9 cabrales

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 12:56 PM

Any thoughts on a hotel close to the water in Venice?

#10 Miguel Gierbolini

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 02:14 PM

I think everything is near the water in Venice. But if you want luxury--the Danieli looked good. Near Plaza San Marco overlooking the lagoon. Too rich for me though.

Hotel Danieli

We stayed at Locanda al León down the street. Very nice little hotel with comfortable and elegant rooms. Quiet also.
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#11 g.johnson

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 03:14 PM

Any thoughts on a hotel close to the water in Venice?

We stayed at the Hotel American which is on a small canal in the Dorsoduro, near the Accademia. Very pleasant though the rooms are over-decorated in what seems to be typical Venetian fashion.
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#12 akiko

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 03:44 PM

We stayed at the Gritti Palace. Right on the canal. Very old world.

But we saw a beautiful hotel called the Monaco. Great design, look, and feel to the interior.

#13 tanabutler

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 05:43 PM

Five-star hotels in Venice (tons of photos).

#14 ngatti

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 05:57 PM

I stayed at the Rialto. Old OLD. Right on the canal next to well, The Rialto. Not a long walk to San Marco. Three plus star. Comfortable and I recall very reasonable for Venice.
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#15 Guest_Aaron T_*

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Posted 09 December 2004 - 02:53 AM

I think everything is near the water in Venice. But if you want luxury--the Danieli looked good. Near Plaza San Marco overlooking the lagoon. Too rich for me though.

Hotel Danieli

We stayed at Locanda al León down the street. Very nice little hotel with comfortable and elegant rooms. Quiet also.

My folks cashed in a ton of Starwood points to stay at the Danieli for several days a couple of years ago. Just ahead of them in the check-in line was an obnoxious couple from New York that was very pushy. My parents were embarrased to be American next to those folks. They were polite and the manager told them their room was not ready but he had another room he could show them, if they were willing to see it.

It turned out to be the grandest suite in the hotel. There had frescoes on the cieling and a sitting room that was enormous - well over 1,000 sq. ft. There were also two balconies on the Grand Canal. They were shocked when told that they could stay in the suite, if it met their needs. :D They said of course and had a wonderful time there. They didn't have to pay a cent to stay there either. :D They brought home a brochure and their room was in it. Just goes to show you that being nice can work wonders!

From the photos I saw the Danieli certainly looks like a beautiful hotel in an excellent location.