I was busy in the run up to our trip to Venice and Z got together a list of things and places to see and do and, unsurprisingly there were eateries of some sort on the list. We made it to four of them over the course of the week and to say I'm becoming a rapid convert to Italian food, after years of resistance due to what I now see as UK restaurant mediocrity, is potentially an understatement.
I plan to post about nice places we've been in the UK but really, no matter how much we've enjoyed eating in the UK, nothing comes close to this.
First up was Anitco Forno a small pizza place right in the center near Ponte di Rialto.
This is an unassuming walk-in, buy and eat place that does a range of pizza to be eaten by the slice and it is the most pleasant surprise. Flavours were rich and fresh, the dough is amazingly light for its thickness. I remember the good pizza I had in Venice years ago, and similar in Rome last year, but after tasting how good quality pizza can be I'll not be buying pizza in the UK again in the foreseeable future.
So that was the lunch snack. We went there twice during the holiday and so sampled four different types of pizza. In all honesty it doesn't matter what you choose; it's all good.
We tried to get a reservation at Osteria alle Testiere for dinner but it was fully booked. We managed to get one for the following night but in the meantime got a place at:
Bistrot de Venise
This is a fancy place, no doubt about it. We could have sat outside but opted to go in and were glad we did.. Service was excellent, the wine was expensive but worth every glass.
The food. Well, we weren't disappointed; 5 courses, not including coffee, of delight.
A plump and tender piece of grilled octopus in saffron sauce made up the amuse-bouche.
The sauce was light and musky but the octopus didn't need it; neither of us had had octopus so tender and meaty before. Naturally, we hadn't ordered this - it came as part of service.
One of the quirks of this place is it's old recipes and since we were there it would have been rude not partake.
A: Scampi & sole in “Saor” with sweet and sour onions, almonds, Turkish raisins and spices...14th-century.
Z: Sautéd scallops with peach sauce, citrus cream.
I don't like sole. Or plaice. There are some fish I just find too... fishy. I loved this. There was nothing wrong with it. The onions were just tart enough, the spices floated in the background, the fish and scampi were cooked and marinated for 48 hours and accompanied the onion and sauce well. I'll try sole again after that.
Z's scallops were just done, just how we like them. I enjoyed the citrus cream, which had a subtle zestiness to it, but less so the peach sauce which I found a little too sweet. Z likes sweet whereas I favour savoury and her starter got two thumbs up. I think she closed her eyes after a mouthful at one point.
Z: Homemade ravioli stuffed with cheese, aromatic herbs and a sweet spice sauce. Unknown Venetian Chef 14th-century
A: Old-fashioned duck "Sauce Pevarada" with wild apple & red onion pudding. Recipe Bartolomeo Scappi, 16th century Chef
Let me say this, at the risk of sounding obvious; Italians really know how to cook ravioli. It was al dente, it was spot on al dente, the cheese was gentle and relaxing, the herbs only hinted at and the sauce balanced and just mmmmmm. Z likes ravioli anyway and just nodded and chewed when I asked if it was good.
This Scappi fellow knew a thing or two about duck. It was a little better done than I'd expected but still two good chunks of pink succulence that are amongst the best I've had. I had onion again but I like onion, and I really liked this.
We just had to and we got pre-desserts with it; small blocks of dense and luxurious chocolate pudding. Z doesn't ordinarily like chocolate (perversely, for a dessert lover) and I'm a savoury man. This was rich and satisfying and didn't spoil our appetites for the "main" dessert.
A: Traditional orange Crème Brulée (Rosada) with rosemary sherbet.
Z: Chocolate fondant
Between this Crème Brulée and the orange caramel sauce from Fiesta del Asado I'm a convert to orange in desserts. Even Z, connoisseur and consumer grande of desserts, was taken aback by it. It was light and creamy without being too wet or runny and melted in ones mouth releasing a sweet mix of richness and a light orange. This was the dessert of the trip, no doubt, and I highly recommend it.
Z's doesn't usually go for chocolate. The fondant was as rich as you'd expect and came with some nice ice cream. It didn't compare for a moment to the Crème Brulée though.
We finished up with an espresso which was smoother and less bitter than the usual and left a hefty tip. This wasn't Gold Standard fare but by God it was almost there.