Subject: Re: Fw: Venice recommendations
You'll probably be overcome with restaurant recommendations for wonderful Venice. Yes, it can be pricey but there is delicious food. I always find good ones by asking the concierge in a decent hotel. There is a very good one quite near the Hotel Flora and the Hotel Bisanzio (near the burnt opera house) but I can't think of its name. Another one near there is da Raffaele -- not a bargain as it has a beautiful terrace right over one of the canals, but very good and always dependable. Be sure to reserve. And if you enjoy tasty, simple shellfish, be sure to try my favorite Spaggheti della vongole -- simple spaghetti, olive oil, parley, a bit of garlic and many tiny clams still in their shells. You can't get it in this country because we don't have that tiny clam.

I'm going to follow with notes I wrote about 3 or 4 years ago for my clients when I was very active as a 20 year+ travel consultant. They are very lengthy and not really up to date now as far as specific trattorie and ristoranti, but are probably as accurate as many of the guidebooks on the general picture. I hope you find them useful; I suggest you use it not so much for specific eateries but for what to eat:

>> Venezia - in the north where rice grows - is the place to eat delicious risotto - alla frutta di mare (seafood), or nero --- with the ink of squid, or with funghi porcini -- a very special mushroom, much tastier than most of ours.

If you happen to find a pleasant, small trattoria by a side canal and order a wonderful spaghetti delle vongole (done in olive oil, garlic, parsley and tiny clams in shells); you will enjoy something simple and memorable. This with insalata mista or verde (mixed or green salad) and a mezzo-caraf (one-half) of vino bianco is my very favorite meal al mare (by the sea) in Italia. And in any antipasta display whether the restaurant be small or more important, try the tiny fish marinated with onions - I love them and can't find them here anywhere or even a recipe. If you are ever there when asparagus with parmegiano cheese grated on top...especially the white...are being served on the antipasta table, on it, be sure to have it. It can be sensational in season. You will often see polenta on the menu, especially in fall or winter. That's kind of like solid Cream of Wheat and can be very good if done in some special way. In the fall hunting season it is served frequently with uccelli, little birds. In fact, until recently it was unusual to hear songbirds in Italy but like all the Europeans, they are getting more green now. I prefer risotto, however. Oh, I suggest you don't ask for cheese on any dish made with fish or seafood around Venezia. It's not served with parmigiano properly and I've seen old fashioned waiters become insulting and stand fuming and muttering because some unfortunate tourist had asked for it (ME!).

Do you know the really beautiful brie-like taleggio cheese of northern Italy? Taleggio is tastier than brie but still delicate and rich. Matura means it is ripe and ready to eat. Order it instead of a sweet for desert, or order mixed cheese including taleggio, perhaps some gorgonzola and a bit of reggio parmigiano - like no parmigiano we have here. It's from Parma, nearby in the Po Valley, as is the wonderful prosciutto. You can buy these cheeses and meats in a shop, add fresh bread or rolls, fresh tomatoes ripened on the vine, fruit, a favorite drink and have a wonderful cheap lunch on a bench or near a canal. I always like to travel with a plastic or Swiss Army knife plus a light fork and spoon in my day pack or purse, just for picnics or snacks. Some little hand wipes go with that, too.

Small family-run trattorie a little away from areas of great tourist traffic are often very good anywhere in Italy; sometimes these are found on small streets off the large piazzas or even off by themselves. The outdoor restaurants I have tried near the Rialto Bridge were not very good - too near the tourist areas where people come in once and never again. Hotels will often give you excellent recommendations of places nearby and enjoyed by the local people - especially if you say you prefer moderate prices so they don't send you to the important, famous ristauranti.

You may have a terribly expensive caffe or vino on the piazza di San Marco, listen to the four orchestras, watch the crowd, pigeons and local artists. Or just enjoy strolling thru the piazza, listening in the everning, and watching everything. It's part of being in Venezia! While you are enjoying the scene, remember that when I was there last October (1995 or 6), each morning the square was knee deep in high water and we walked along much of the area on raised narrow catwalks! It actually stayed damp anywhere near the lagoon or Grand Canal much of the day for about two weeks. I expected all the tourists to run away but instead the town was cheerful and busy and I extended from 4 days to a week's stay at the very pleasant, overpriced, 3-star Hotel Flora which you probably will pass often.

By the way, you don't need to order wine by the named bottle in Italy; the house wines which are local may be very good. If the trattoria looks and smells good and there are Italian people present, the house wine is probably good. Sometimes this is also served in a bottle and they charge for the amount you drink. If one of you prefers white and the other red, you can order a quartino of each - just a quarter-carafe for one person which is what I do when alone. Pinot grigio, valpolicella, and bardolino all come from the region north of Venice and Verona and are a wonderful, simple white good with fish, and 2 reds. Wonderful reds comes from northwest near the Val d'Aosta mountain region. <<

Sorry, this is awfully long but maybe you'll find it useful.

Travel well! Carol

Be sure to explore the Dorsoduro area across the Accademia bridge - my favorite area of Venezia because it is much less commercial than the San Marco side. People really live normal lives, work, shop, go to church, take a walk, sit with bambini in the local piazza. Over there and not too far from the bridge is the Locanda Montin with a perennially favorite small ristorante. (1999 note: check to be sure it is still very good. I'm not sure.) It is at 1147 Fondamenta di Borgo (phone 522-7151 in '89), on a side canal. You must reserve and you must ask directions. (In your pre-travel Italian tapes or classes, learn to ask and understand very basic directions - left, right, diritto, etc. It will be very useful. Like Dov' la Locanda Montin? ) It will be fun to find it, a little off the beaten track, for a very good meal. You'll feel like you are in Don't Look Now if you do this at night (although you are on the opposite side of the Grand Canal), but it's perfectly safe - just confusing in the dark. Buona fortuna!

Buon viaggio, John -- have a wonderful time! Carol