Venice Envy

People may complain that it stinks, others that it is sinking, and still more that it is too expensive. Those who are there in the winter lament the floods that render every street and alleyway a canal. But nothing anyone will ever say can sour my love for the most romantic city of them all — Venice.

Your host on Piazza San Marco with Venetian carnival mask, a foggy morning in March, circa 199?

So it was with some degree of green that I accepted the news that our neighbors and friends, Chris and Glennis, had rented an apartment in Venice this summer. Chris added insult to injury by sending me the website for the place they were staying, complete with perfectly framed view onto the Grand Canal. In response, I did what any affronted friend would — I invited them over for a “bon voyage” Venetian dinner.

I find myself writing about Venice often — and for the purposes of this blog in particular, its food. In fact, I did yet another Venice post just two months ago. Did I really have anything more to say about it? But the food of Venice is, like the city itself, an ever-unfolding maze of endless discovery.

I’ve been to Venice five or six times, and my neighbors’ news had me missing the endless maze. But one of the wonderful things about modern technology is you can visit someplace you love virtually. So the afternoon before our Venetian dinner, as polenta was simmering and sardines marinating, I hopped onto Google Earth and spent a couple hours tucking down my favorite alleyways, crossing over my favorite bridges, tracing the Great Backward S of the Grand Canal from the train station to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum — where the famous American heiress and philanthropist lies in the garden beside the graves of her 14 dogs. I looked for my favorite gelateria on the banks of the massive Guidecca Canal, searched for places I had stayed in the past, and my favorite activity of them all — wandered aimlessly.

Chris arrived before Glennis, and we commenced drinking sparkling white Lambrusco with Campari. They had never been to Venice before, so most of the evening consisted of me sharing my excitement for the city and offering tips about how to best enjoy it. Unsolicited, of course.

The Menu

• Carpaccio
• Fritto misto of scampi, soft-shell crab and baby veggies
• Sarde in saor
• Butter lemon risotto with lobster

As a bonus, I served a few final bites of the grass-fed New York strip I’d used a third of for the carpaccio, pan-seared and finished in extra virgin olive oil and garlic. A straciatella gelato (chocolate chip ice cream) and bottle of Sauternes (a nod to Paris, where they would also be spending several days) sent us into the night.

“We may not have a meal this good while we’re in Venice!” Chris declared. And I said that was my goal, to screw up their trip before it even began. Actually, with the profusion of tourist joints in the city, it can be difficult to find a good and authentic regional restaurant in Venice. If you are willing to pay more for a meal than you are on your accommodations, you’ll do well. It’s worth allocating a portion of your budget to stop into Harry’s Bar for a plate of the original carpaccio, if for no other reason than to say you did. Otherwise, there are the bacari wine bars where you can fill up on inexpensive, delicious and authentic cicchetti. But the best option, if you’re fortunate enough to have a kitchen as Chris and Glennis do, is to purchase stuff at the markets and cook your own authentic Venetian dinner.

Although they are staying within a stone’s throw of the famous Rialto fish market — where I have spent countless heartbroken hours perusing amidst the icebeds of exotic fish and crustaceans I would not be able to cook myself — Chris and Glennis said they weren’t sure they’d be doing any cooking. I hope they change their minds that I may live vicariously through them. At the very least, I deputized Glennis with the offer of a guest post on my blog if she would take a video of the fish market. Stay tuned.

As I write, my neighbors are packing bags and tying loose ends, boarding an airplane in the morning. Like a scorned lover, I am jealous. And this will likely be my last Venice post for awhile. Although… I make no promises.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michelle
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 02:24:23

    The only thing that might rival a trip to Venice would be to have a neighbor to throw a party as nice as that! We spent a lot of time in Venice last Fall when we were staying outside Padua. We were afraid we wouldn’t like it—what with all the touristy stuff, the cruise ships, the falling into the sea, etc. But it was magical. And though we’re not dying to go back to Italy generally, we sure hope to make it back to Venice one day. Great photo, too!

    Reply

    • scolgin
      Jun 26, 2012 @ 13:40:22

      That’s right, you guys didn’t love Italy, did you. I like the north — parts of Tuscany, Venice and the Lakes region. If you do get a chance to go back, try the late winter — misty, romantic and empty of tourists. I’d like to get an apartment there and spend a couple months just hanging. Maybe write a book… 😉

      Reply

  2. mom
    Jun 26, 2012 @ 15:46:45

    Lovely post, I sighed when I heard someone say out loud that they weren’t overly fond of Italy. I just mumble when people carry on about It. Italy and live theatre are not my favorite things and I feel like a pariah if I mention it out loud.

    Reply

  3. g
    Jul 01, 2012 @ 08:28:48

    So far it’s wonderful, Sean. Including the food!

    Reply

  4. The Kat and The Falling Leaves
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 23:44:19

    I share the same sentiments about Italy’s Amalfi Coast. If I could I’d go there in a heartbeat.

    Reply

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