I first stumbled upon Cantinone Storico on a trip to Venice with Bud to experience Carnival. One night while meandering back towards our apartment after taking in all the sumptuous Carnival costumes people were donning throughout the city, we came upon Cantinone Storico.
Located on a side canal off of the Grand, it was peak dining hour so we peered into the restaurant through their ancient wavy glass windows and a waiter from inside encouraged us to come in. We entered into a glass vestibule and I could see that the restaurant was full except for one table for two. Tentatively, I opened the inner door so as not to disturb the diners and suddenly there was a very loud and startling crash. I had made my inconspicuous entrance. The head waiter rushed to my side and assured me all was fine. A stack of heavy leatherbound menus had been placed on a table next to the door haphazardly and I clearly knocked them over by opening the door. The restaurant, once realizing what had happened cheered. That’s one way of breaking the ice.
We were greeted with open arms, sat down and were immediately offered an amuse bouche of deep fried tangy olives served on a stick. We ordered the house white wine, which was crisp and refreshing. and then decided to share an order of the appetizer of mixed grilled vegetables. What appeared was a gorgeous platter of the freshest local ingredients. It was a feast unto itself!
For entrées Bud ordered the fish of the day, which was a gorgeous red snapper served with vegetables and scallops, and I had lobster with spaghetti and red sauce. The pasta was al dente so it had just enough bite while the lobster was cooked to perfection and had such a sweet, buttery quality. To top off the meal, the restaurant offered us glasses of limoncello on the house.
The food was delightful, the owners and waiters were warm and friendly; it felt like we were welcomed into a friend’s home. Fondamenta Bragadin 661. Tel: +39-041- 523-9577. www.cantinonestorico.it
BAR RISTORANTE DA GINO
When museum hopping between the Peggy Guggenheim and the Accademia, be sure to stop by Bar Ristorante Da Gino. Equidistant to both museums as well as the Santa Maria Della Salute Church, it’s a fantastic bar and restaurant to rest your tired feet and regain your sightseeing stamina.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, they are self-proclaimed “Champions of Bruschetta” and trust me…they are. Light and scrumptious with endless combinations, my favorite is the fresh local artichokes and asiago cheese.
But don’t let the bruschetta overshadow their pasta dishes and sandwiches. If you allow yourself to start the day off with a sweet beginning, you must try their buttery croissants overflowing with custard filling.
For an afternoon delight, try any of the various flavored macarons, muffins, cannoli, or their tortino ai mirtilli (blueberry pie). One of my favorites is their sweet palmiers (elephant ears). Add to this an espresso or an Aperol spritz, and Da Gino is a great culinary retreat between museums. Dorsoduro 853/a. Tel: +39-041-528-5276. www.facebook.com/daGinoVenezia
Caffè Centrale is located in the Palazzo Cocco Molin. It was once a palace owned by the Cocco family built in the early 1500s. Prior to being the restaurant, the space was an old cinema. Nicolò Santuri is the owner and manager of Caffè Centrale and has done a magnificent job of renovating the historic space, creating a hip and modern atmosphere while still acknowledging it’s revered history.
There’s a very comfortable lounge area next to the main dining room, and through a passageway there is access to their private dock if you happen to arrive by gondola or a water taxi. Located in the San Marco district, the restaurant is just steps away from Teatro La Fenice as well as Piazza San Marco.
The menu is artisanal and features both meat and fish dishes, raw and cooked. They even make their own ice creams and fruit juices.
The crispy egg with delice de bourgogne cheese, porcini mushrooms, and black truffle was a work of art both visually and gastronomically. One of my favorite pasta dishes is their linguine di gragnano with yellow cherry tomatoes, stracciatella cheese, and basil. On other visits I’ve had the beef tenderloin in Amarone wine sauce with potato pie with spinach. It was seriously melt in your mouth gourmet comfort food.
According to Nicolò Santuri, “In the kitchen there is a very young team of chefs, but very prepared and with a great desire to create new dishes.”
You can understand why I make at least one trip to Caffè Central every time I visit Venice. This is elegant and refined dining without being fussy or pretentious. Also, a major plus for a city that surprisingly closes up rather early, is that they are open late (Saturdays until 1 A. M.) Piscina de Frezzaria 1659/B, Tel: +39-041-887-6642. www.caffecentralevenezia.com.