Monday, August 16, 2010
Venice, Italy: Seafood Risotto, Seafood pasta, etc
Back in Venice after a week-long cruise, I was so happy to be on solid ground again, sort of.
My Italian food adventure was about to begin. First stop: Osteria al Garanghelo in Venice. Disclaimer: I was traveling in a large group so wasn't able to travel far from the hotel in search of the perfect restaurant. So I didn't get a chance to have typical Venetian dishes but for a tourist trap like Venice, it wasn't too shabby. Thanks JL for your recs!
One thing I loved about this meal was that the ingredients were all fresh and it felt like down-home cooking, no bells or whistles. It was a proud family-owned and run establishment that had been around for decades and it showed in their great service and care.
The spaghetti vongole was fantastic, laced with generous portions of fresh clams and slivers of fresh garlic, finished off with fresh tomatoes and parsley, all mixed in with quality olive oil.
The main dish of mixed grilled fish was also excellent. The fish was perfectly crispy on the outside and nice and juicy on the inside. Drizzled some lemon over it and presto! It came sprinkled with parsley that gave it a refreshing kick. I just loved the rustic presentation that didn't involve any fillets or complicated and fussy emulsions that would have distracted from the simplicity of the flavors.
The fried calamari appetizer was good but I personally prefer the ones served at Burma Super Star in San Francisco that were lighter and fluffier and came with a lemon, pepper sauce that had some kick to it. These fried morsels came with a side that I had first mistaken as a dipping sauce but later learned was polenta. Interesting combination that I'm not sure worked for me -- as much as I liked them separately.)
This dish actually came with fried baby sardines too, which were tasty but not as good as the squid.
The basic pasta pomodoro, or tomato-based sauce, was ok, but nothing to write home about. Most restaurants in Italy have a certain basic standard where they cook the pasta just al dente, the sauces aren't at all heavy and portions are manageable to save room for il secondo, or main dish such as meat or fish.
I also love the affordable house wines or wine selection that features local wines.
By the way, I did have risotto ai frutti di mare, seafood risotto, that Venice is known for. I had it in the even bigger tourist trap of Murano island, but it was actually decent. Again, a testament to the quality of Italian restaurants.
I enjoyed the funky glass sculptures in Murano but boy, was it hot. It's no wonder the glass-making factories close in the afternoon because people would just bake.