Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Yes, Good Restaurants Do Exist in Venice

Venice has notoriously bad restaurants.

With a constant stream of day-tripping and itinerant tourists, restaurants in this storied city can serve plenty of bad food without ever having to suffer the consequences. From uninspired, greasy pizza to bland ravioli, Venetian restaurants serve up fare better suited to an Olive Garden than the Veneto.

This sad state of affairs becomes downright dismal when you consider the wealth of incredible seafood and produce available within an hour’s gondola ride in any direction.

The good news is that there are a handful of restaurants hidden down twisting viali or on side streets that serve up fare that measures up to the city’s history, architecture and charm.

Tucked in the historic shipbuilders’ quarter which sits far from tourist-thronged Piazza San Marco, Corte Sconta serves succulent seafood in a fetching setting. So one night last summer nine of my family members and I set off in search of the spot.

“With such a large party I recommend that we bring you some of each of tonight’s specials,” our server explained. “And that way you get to try some of everything.”

Following our waiter’s suggestion meant that we avoided having to agonize over which of the fresh, seasonal dishes to order. Simply put, we got them all.

Our server also suggested a local pinot grigio. After a few bottles found their way to our table and glasses of the tasty stuff were poured, a parade of dishes began to appear from the kitchen.

For starters, there were some of the sweetest, most delicately flavored clams I’ve ever tasted. After these, platters of shellfish—shrimp, langoustines, crawfish and who-knows-what—arrived.

There was risotto. And steamed spider crabs which created quite a clamor. After that—or was it before?—platters of tender tuna carpaccio flavored with balsamic landed at either end of our table. Somewhere in the mix there was polenta, too. At least I think so. To tell the truth, I sort of lost track of all the different items that came and went.

Imagine our surprise, then—after this surfeit of seafood—when platters of freshly-roasted and sautéed fish showed up. Large platters.

We were all full, not to mention satisfied, but none of us could bear to see the beautiful fish wasted or to miss out on tasting what was meant to be the highlight of the dinner. And while it nearly hurt me, I tried each of the three different fish that were offered, and each was tender, fresh and full of flavor.

Corte Sconta would likely be popular if it served even average food. From the simple charms of the dining room to the elegantly subdued feel of the courtyard, the restaurant is as visually appealing as the city that surrounds it.

But most important, the restaurant offers food and an experience that’s as impressive and unique as the city itself.

Reservations are essential. In high season, call at least a few weeks in advance. For other restaurants in Italy with a traditional approach to dining, click here.

Trattoria Corte Sconta
Castello 3886, Calle del Pestrin (Arsenale)
Venezia, Italia
tel 0415227024 fax 0415227513


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