Anima in Vacanza… Venice, August 2020

It seems strange to make an early post on a site born out of lockdown about me running away to Italy at the first opportunity, but it’s all about sharing food.

Being stuck home alone staring at the same four walls, dreaming of Italy it was inevitable that I would run away as soon as I could. I looked at a number of cities, but flights to Venice were cheapest and I do have a special love for the city.

I flew out at the start of August. The BA flight was packed but enforcing masks and handing out antibacterial protection packs. At least it was a short flight! But once I arrived you could see how seriously (understandably so) Italians are approaching anti-COVID measures.

It was only a short trip but I just wanted to flag a couple of excellent food experiences.

Cafe ArtBlu – Campo Santo Stefano

Dinner for a late arrival and a rainy evening

Campo Santo Stefano is one of the key thoroughfares between Accademia and San Marco. Consequently it has a selection of restaurants of varying levels of touristy-ness. The ArtBlu is quite touristy. It is not fancy. But they do a good value pizza and a good spritz. Having got in quite late and not eaten all day, it was exactly the quick option I needed.

Not only was it a good pepperoni pizza, thin and crisp, the staff were absolutely charming. Having just arrived, sat down and got my first spritz of the trip (the moment I had been dreaming of since March), the heavens opened. And I mean opened. The lovely staff shifted us all inside to an upstairs room where our little group of soaked waifs and strays from the Netherlands, Germany and the UK made conversation in four languages with the staff about the weather.

Sometimes it’s not what you want but what you need.

Bar Foscarini – Ponte dell’Accademia

Textbook

I’m loathed to share the Bar Foscarini with you because it is one of my most favourite places in Venice. It has the most beautiful terrace outside with one of the finest views of the Grand Canal. It is one of my happy places and I don’t want it to get busy. It is, however, smack bang at the bottom of the Accademia bridge, so if you’ve been to Venice you may well have walked past it… so it’s no secret!

This time I popped over the bridge to have breakfast and the lovely staff made my day by allowing me to order entirely in Italian. I don’t know if was because it was less busy or because I have been having proper classes but this trip people were far more willing to engage with me in Italian rather than clock I’m English and start speaking in flawless English. It was just a coffee and a croissant. But it made me feel like I could speak Italian. And that’s worth a million euros!

Al Gatto Nero – Via Giudecca, Burano

Google, how do you say “this is the best spaghetti vongole I’ve ever eaten” in Italian?

I have seen the Gatto Nero on a number of tv shows about Italian food before. I have heard they make one of the best risottos in the world. When I went to Venice for my birthday last year I looked into booking for lunch but the famed risotto was for a minimum of two people (the perils of travelling alone).

Having been out looking round some of the outer islands in 35 degree heat, I had hoped to have lunch at the Locanda Cipriani on Torcello, but it wasn’t open. A short boat ride and I was on Burano and the thought hit me to try my luck at the Gatto Nero.

Sitting in their cool dining room, I was struck how much of the menu was for a minimum of 2. However, I spied vongole! I am a fiend for a good vongole (having had a distinctly average one the day before!). It was an excellent choice. Beautiful, sweet fresh clams, and tomatoes (there’s some controversy about whether they belong there, but I am very pro). It was at this point my very basic Italian left me when I realised I don’t know how to say “this is absolutely the best spaghetti vongole I have ever eaten”

(Just for future reference, it’s: “questo è assolutamente il miglior spaghetti vongole che abbia mai mangiato”)

Between the enormous antipasti platter for starter and the spaghetti and a stoneware jug of very cold Prosecco, sadly I didn’t have room for desert. But I will definitely be going back

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