Saturday, May 28, 2011

From the oven

Campiello della Pazienza, May 27, 2011 —
ANOTHER TRIP TO a restaurant recalled from ten years ago. Maybe it would be fun to compare notes.

@’ alla Fontana , canale di Cannaregio: Here I had cozze, mussels from the Venice lagoon, that were so sweet, pungent, savory, rich, subtle, delicate, deep, that I couldn’t help exclaiming when the first one entered my mouth; I almost had tears in my eyes with pleasure. This was truly one of the most memorable things I’ve ever tasted. And afterward, coda di rospo, another fish found only here in the Lagoon, and simply cooked, poached or more likely just steamed, the fish having found its own flavor. This cuisine is extraordinarily delicate: perhaps this has contributed to the myth of the lack of good food in Venice. You don’t get hit on the tongue with beef, garlic, pepper, sharp olive oil. The food runs more to long-sweated onions, rice, white fish. It’s food for chessplayers, not footballers, I’m tempted to say; and the more you’ve read or thought about the near East, carpets, complexity, slowness — even if you’ve never been to any of that — the more likely you are to like it, and the more you’ll find.
2011: No longer listed in Slow Food's Osterie d'Italia, Alla Fontana has perhaps undergone a change in management. The place looks inviting from the street, though, and the woman who mops the floor at noon (it is open only in the evening) is the one who (having changed clothes) waits tables at night; there seems to be only one man in the kitchen.

Tonight, an eye on the budget, I had only this caprese to begin with: soft delicate mozzarella, good little tomatoes, fresh basil. The girls had mixed green salads, and they seemed very nice too, but I was hungry for tomatoes.
Then this fettuccini al forno, from the oven, with bits of white asparagus, and cream, and cheese, soft yet manly, beautifully browned on top, with exactly the right touch of nutmeg. Netherlands gone on holiday to Italy: I love it.

Dessert was a slice of tiramisù and it was good enough, but the zabaglione the girls ordered was better.

Conclusion: I over-wrote somewhat in 2001. Wonder if I'll feel the same way about 2011, ten years hence?

white wine in carafe
• Alla Fontana, Fondamenta di Cannaregio 1102, Venezia; 041 71 50 77


Curtis Faville said...

It's odd that--in a place such as Venice--whose existence seems to totter uncertainly, and exclusively, on the tourist dollar--one should expect the best in vernacular/indigenous cooking. In America, heavily touristed locations tend to become tawdry, as much of the Eastern coast of Spain is said to have become--maybe like Sausalito (with its $5.00 per hour parking meters, etc.)--and so "genuine" local fare should by rights become compromised. After all, if your only customers are unsophisticated foreigners looking for excitement, it's unlikely you'll aspire to the highest standards of excellence, or even the familiar fare that's considered desirable by the locals. How many locals actually eat out in Venice??

I recall we had both so-so meals, and couple of very nice ones when we where there. The best one, oddly, was under grape arbors on Torcello. Do you know that one? The only problem was that nearly everyone around us was smoking like chimneys, making the taste experience somewhat compromised.

You've not mentioned the plumbing and electricity. Is it as weird as we remember it?

Charles Shere said...

I don't think we really expect the best in cooking; we do hope for characteristic Venetian (as opposed to Veneto) fare: in general, cichetti — tapas with an Italian twist: salt cod, little fried things, savories. Those and of course sea food from the lagoon, which I dearly love (except for the sea food with legs, shrimp and crabs and the like, which I do not eat).

It's looked to me like the places we've patronized so far do in fact see their share of locals: retired old-timers, kids, workers, even gondoliers; though there are of course lots of tourists too.

Yes, we recall Al Ponte di Diavolo on Torcello very fondly, and look forward to going there in a week or two. I hear it too is under new management: we'll see. I'll let you know, of course…

Plumbing and electricity in our apartment have been reliable and convenient. Everything's up to date in Kansas City, and here in Venice, too.