Serenissima Now!

July 25, 2004 update: Today's New York Times travel section has an essay by reporter Allen Feuer titled "Blissfully Adrift In Venice." Nice article. Just remember, you read it here first ...

In the distant past, travel writers would send their dispatches by telegram, and the words would appear on a ribbon of paper. For instance, "ARRIVED VENICE. STREETS UNDER WATER. ADVISE." Now, I home in on a Wi-Fi hotspot near the Rialto bridge to send my tasting notes from lunch in The Most Serene Republic of Venice.
Since I can only stay for a couple of days, I'm determined not to get stuck with my nose in a guidebook when it could be in a wine glass instead. One of those itty-bitty wine glasses called ombre, literally shade, because the real wine bars are found in cool arcades and dusky corners just around the corner from the tourist traps.
Cornichon at San Marco.jpg Prosecco Bitter.jpg Cechetti counter.jpg

At Florian, on the Piazza San Marco, it's $20 for a Bellini, with a $6 entertainment surcharge for the tuxedo-clad orchestra playing Viennese waltzes to an audience of Japanese school girls sipping Cokes and indigenous pigeons pecking at kernels of corn. Onward.

I get myself "lost" on purpose and find myself at a tiny bacaro, or wine bar, somewhere in the Cannaregio neighborhood. First off, a new drink, Prosecco Bitter! It starts with two or three ounces of Prosecco, northern Italy's lightly sparkling wine made from the glera grape. Add an slug of Campari, that viscous bitter aperitif beloved by Italians. (I'm not Italian but I love it, too.) Result: something akin to the ubiquitous kir royal, only less cloying. And cheaper, too, about 2 euros, under $2.50.

are Venice's contribution to the Mediterranean tradition of small plates. Choices at this bacaro include two sorts of lasagna, gnocchi, risotto, potatoes, polenta, chicken breast, chicken thighs, tomato salad, melon, calamari salad, shrimp salad, and a Venetian specialty, seppie in tecia. Strips of cuttlefish in a black sauce of anchovies, capers and garlic. An enormous portion, zapped for a couple of minutes in the convection oven and served with a side of creamy polenta, it's the most expensive item I could have picked, but $10 was ne'er so well spent. A glass of bright red refosco, another local variety, goes very nicely.

To wrap things up, a beverage I've heard about but never actually ordered: caffè coretto. "Corrected" coffee. A single shot of espresso enlivened with a shot of grappa, making a more concentrated and bitter version of Irish coffee. The volatility of the grappa enhances the rich coffee aroma, which I savor for a few seconds before draining the cup in one gulp. Now it's the coffee's turn to tame the fiery brandy, turning its flame into a gentle glow.
I pay the tab (less than $15 altogether) and head out into the warm Venetian afternoon, bouncing without a map and without a care along calle and fondamento, gliding across campo and ponte, watching the passage of a traghetto, listening to the cries of seagulls and calls of gondoliers, feeling as serene as La Serenissima herself.

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This page contains a single entry by Cornichon published on June 14, 2004 7:11 AM.

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