Eating in the human labyrinth that is Venice
Greetings from Italy! I am here for the wedding of one of my best friends that is happening in less than a week, but since this country is epically far from Sydney, I’ve taken a few extra days to reunite with my mother in Venice and explore it to its maximum potential. As many of you may already know, travel is essentially my religion. It is one of the few things in my life that I feel I can always rely on, never lets me down, and always provides me with a sense of exhilaration, adventure, and utter content. I can’t emphasize enough how important I think it is for people my age to travel, and it’s one of the main reasons I just up and left the states to live extremely far away. I recently read an article from Converge magazine that actually sums up my feelings quite eloquently. I’ve learned more about the world and myself as a person from travelling than I have from absolutely anything else. And what better time is there to do it than when you aren’t tied down by other obligations? It’s hard to explain just how strongly I feel about the importance of travel (especially for Americans, who tend to think the country is the center of the world….which it really isn’t). Let’s just suffice it to say that if you ever want an
over-enthusiastic travel buddy who will ensure you are extremely well fed (and ok, maybe a little exhausted – but happy!) at the end of every day, get in touch.
Anyway, enough waxing poetic on my religious travel views and onto the food. Obviously, pretty much my favourite thing to do while traveling is explore a city through its food culture and edible delights. And Italy is sort of the food mecca of the world, so you can imagine how fervently I have been researching food activities in preparation for this trip. I would venture to say that Venice is actually potentially the most touristy city in all of Italy, and thus the hardest to find Italian food of high quality. Challenge accepted. After hours of research on Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor, Time Out, New York Times, Telegraph, etc. I had compiled a list of my top choices, sorted by dinner, lunch, pizza, and gelato categories. Yes, I’m serious about eating well in Italy.
I’m pleased to report that my choices have been a resounding success so far, and it’s been quite the adventure to find most of them. This is my second time in Venice, and I am only realizing now just how much I missed the first time I was here! I was only here for two days at that point, so just saw the touristy sights. This time, we have ventured FAR off the beaten path, and I literally feel like Alice in my own private Wonderland. The city is like a human maze – although there are street names, no map has all of them, and often addresses just name a particular neighborhood area and a random number. Good luck finding the tiny restaurant in the hidden alleyway! Deprived of my typical iPhone GPS, I’m amazed and delighted at just how much more fun exploring a city like Venice becomes. And then when I find the specific restaurant I’m looking for the feeling of accomplishment is fantastic. Hunting for your meal makes it all the better.
Day 1 consisted of a fabulous buffet breakfast in the hotel I collapsed in after my 40 hour trip from Australia (only that long due to my awkward 8 hour layover in Beijing…long story). Italian buffet breakfasts typically include the following: fruit, cereal, yogurt, cake, nutella, rolls, crunchy breadsticks, cold cuts, hard boiled eggs, jam, toast, etc. I admit I forgot to take pictures because I was too busy eating everything…oops, temporary blogging fail. Lunch was pizza at Antico Forna, a tiny and delightfully cheap stand-up only joint near the Rialto bridge (San Polo district) with fantastic thin crust pizza.
Mushroom and spinach, feta, and tomato…doesn’t get better than that. Also I literally haven’t had pizza in probably 3 months. Best possible way to break my pizza fast for sure.
I then of course forced my mother to walk the streets with me for at least an additional hour to find a hidden gelato place. Our routine is to share everything (obviously the best way to eat all food), and we’ve found that 3 scoops between the two of us is the perfect amount to not make us feel like total pigs but also get maximum amount of flavour variety.
Cherry, pistachio, and chocolate. The chocolate wasn’t dark enough for me, but the cherry and pistachio were divine and the flavours combined so well! Yes, I realize this gelato is half eaten. What can I say, half the time I am just too excited to take a photo before diving in.
Dinner was at Trattoria Alla Madonna, also in the San Polo area, and was utterly fantastic. They had plentiful displays at the front of the restaurant of numerous antipasti and fresh fish, so we knew it was going to be great.
Oh, antipasti, how I love you. With a jug of prosecco and a basket of rolls. My personal heaven in a start to a meal.
Gnocchi with meat ragu. These were pillowy and light and amazing.
Seafood risotto. Risotto never looks like much on a plate in terms of fancy appearance, but wow was this amazing – probably the best risotto I’ve ever had. Perfect consistency and creamy without being overwhelmingly filling.
Authentic Venetian food actually is more about seafood than pizza and pasta, so getting this grilled sea bass was a must. Very simple and perfectly prepared with just a touch of butter and lemon, this did make me feel like I was ending my meal the correct way.
More to come on other food adventures in Venice and Umbria soon!