Postcards From Venice - Mamma Mia

From a culinary standpoint, during previous trips to Venice, Italy, I contented myself with taking the easy road - that is, leave my hotel and start walking until I am lost - that would take on average about 10 seconds.  Then find a restaurant that looks bereft of tourists, the sort of place that only true Venetians would know about.  Enter, order a simple plate of pasta and a bottle of wine, and find oneself in Venetian heaven.  So much for the easy road - now that I am penning - can one pen anything online? - a restaurant blog, my standards have risen and during my late January trip, I arrived at Marco Polo airport fully armed with a list of go-to venues.

A short walk from my hotel near the Piazalle Roma on the diminutive Gaffaro canal was number one on my list - Ristorante Ribot.  When I asked for advice at my hotel, Ribot was the first spot they mentioned - all the confirmation I needed.  I was psyched.  Despite no answer when I called to reserve, I was certain this was just some sort of Italian thing - they were too busy preparing in the kitchen to bother answering the phone, of course.  After a tasty glass of vodka in my hotel room, I traveled solo to Ribot - no relation to the fine guitarist Marc Ribot, by the way - and what I found was a shuttered, closed restaurant. So much for that idea.   When I inquired at the desk of the business next door, I was informed that the owners were on vacation all week, but were open for lunch.  Okay, maybe that's another Italian thing - you only go on vacation at night, but you're home during the day.  So I returned for lunch the next day, and this is what I found:

Ristorante Ribot when it's not opened

Yep, closed again.  Closed, and no cigar.  So no, apparently that is not an Italian thing that I mentioned before, and when Italians go on vacation during a week, you can count on their being away day and night.  At least that makes more sense.  But I was still out a couple meals.

So here's what I did.  For dinner, I walked half a block down and on the other side of the street was one of those little trattorias that I used to stumble into blindly and hope I could get an authentic Italian meal.  This turned out to be a pretty good choice, and the next day I read quite a lot good about Osteria Ae Cravate.

Osteria Ae Cravate
Address: Salizada san pantalon - santa croce, 36, 30135 Venezia, Italy
Phone:+39 041 528 7912

Some of the actual cravates hanging from the Osteria's ceiling

Only a few tables were taken when I entered around 8 pm, with a few more filling up during the course of the evening.  The next day, however, they seemed to be doing a pretty brisk lunch business.  The padrone in chief did a pretty good job of lending a warm, traditional atmosphere to the place, and we bantered a little in his broken English and my non-Italian.  After a mise en bouche offering of white fish on toast  I started off with an excellent primo platto of risotto in black ink with sepia, one of my favorites.

White fish on toast to get things started
Risotto in black ink, with sepia

I must admit, with a couple glasses of wine, the bread, and the risotto, I was good to go - that is, sated.  But I had ordered a secondo, a grilled fish platter.  This was a real miss - the seafood was excellent - succulent and sweet - but the fish was dry and all tasted the same.  I couldn't finish it.

Grilled fish/seafood platter - should have been better

My guess is that Osteria does pasta and rice plates right - stick with those, go for lunch, and you should be pretty satisfied.  Sorry, I have no idea what is the origin of the tie/cravate motif - I can only guess.

Speaking of lunch, my second strike at Ribot was no big deal - I expected them to be closed for lunch, being the astute professor of vacations myself, I figured if you're on vacation the night before, there's a good chance you'll be on vacation the afternoon after.  As mentioned, this assumption proved correct.  So I was armed with some alternatives.

The first was recommended by my hotel, Al Vecio Pozzo.  The directions seemed simple - a 5 - 10 minute walk from the hotel.  Well, maybe it's me, but it is bloody near impossible to find anything in Venice, directions, GPS, free-roaming satellite, or not.  By the time I found Al Vecio it may have been lunch time the next day for all I know.  I would not be deterred, I found it, and it was closed (and it was still lunch time, by the way).

Al Vecio Pozzo when it's not open

 Don't ask me, I tell you what I know, and what I know is that it seems that a lot of Italian restaurateurs take their vacations around the end of January.  And by the looks of Al Vecio, that vacation had started a few decades earlier.  Fortunately, my next choices panned out.

To be continued...

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