Italian Cooking & Language Blog

Fare La Scarpetta means to wipe your plate clean with a piece of bread.

What else could you ask for?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Particular Plates: An Amazing Meal in Venice

My husband and I always say that we ate the best meal of our lives in Venice, summer 2008.

Having had over-priced and mediocre meals in Venice in the past, I was armed with online research, recommendations from friends and notes from guidebooks. Our plan was to get off the train from Florence, rush to check into our hotel and then go immediately to lunch. We had priorities, right? Unfortunately, when we arrived at the famed, well-researched restaurant, they said they were closing.

We were too late.

Speaking in Italian, I tried to chat with the waiter. I explained that we had our heart set on eating there. If we couldn’t, where would he recommend? Leaning against the door frame, he was quiet and stared out the door. My friendliness wasn’t taking. I was disappointed and wanted to have the perfect Italian vacation. I tried being a little flirtatious. Finally, with a few more questions about where he would eat, he casually suggested a place with “particular plates.”

His directions included going up and down some bridges and then turning on a side street for a restaurant called “la cantina.” With all of his quick hand gestures and the vague restaurant name, I was skeptical.

We followed his directions, laughing as we went up and down the many short bridges over the canals, and discovered a tiny restaurant just as he described. With brick ceilings, a long wooden bar, we were immediately taken by the casual comfort of the restaurant. We were certain we were in the right place when he showed up a bit later at the bar asking for a coffee.

Seated at a perfectly square wooden table, we were asked to choose: vegetables, fish, poultry or meat. We decided to share one vegetable and one fish plate, followed by cookies. The waitress helped us choose a complementary wine and then a sweet verduzzo wine for dessert.

We ate slowly and savored every bite. The vegetables were perfectly cooked. I remember the grilled zucchini were slightly smoky, but still retained their crispness. The seafood was the highpoint. I am a fairly casual seafood eater, but this was outstanding and set the bar for future dishes. Salty, seasoned with lemon juice and rosemary, each piece offered something new.

The final cost didn’t suggest that we were sharing two plates, but rather that we ordered four. Regardless of the high cost, we left knowing that we had treated ourselves to a perfect afternoon of eating.

Of course, we weren’t the first Americans to “discover” this restaurant. Here is a review from Travel & Leisure.

Restaurant information:

la cantina

Venezia, Strada Nuova

Cannaregio, 3689


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