I know, I had said I would have written one post a week... but preparing this Venetian Wanderings series is just too much fun! And today I'm back in Venice Venice.
For many years foreigners have been fascinated by the two words "Hidden Venice" and so much has been written about it that, really, there is no secret or hidden Venice anymore (if ever there was one). Rather, I think, there is a more difficult-to-see Venice, in the sense that one needs to know how to get around this small maze to get to certain places.
No squares or blocks here, but an entanglement of bridges, canals, narrow streets, and fontamentas and salizzadas. And today I'm having lunch in Fondamenta Rio Marin, at the small and super cozy Osteria Trefanti. The restaurant is 2 minutes from the famous Scuola di San Giovanni Evangelista, in the Santa Croce neighbourhood.
At Osteria Trefanti the menu changes daily and is based on fresh seasonal ingredients, arriving straight from the Rialto market. Most recipes are centred on fish and the chef, Umberto, loves to experiment revisiting the traditional Venetian cuisine and trying more exotic combinations. And he sure knows how to do it!
Sam, his business partner, instead knows everything about wine and spirits. Before proposing a wine, he tries to understand your tastes, so he can give you something that exceeds your expectations. I think he's made it something of a mission to discover new producers, sample all sorts of wines, be them natural, biodynamic or more traditional. I know he enjoys visiting canteens and distilleries and, since he often takes part in wine tasting events, he is very knowledgeable on the topic, so don't be afraid to ask him for suggestions. Another important member of the staff is Camilla, who works behind the scenes making sure that everything runs smoothly. Plus... she is an amazing graphic designer and she is the person behind the restaurant's logo!
Since it's the 8th of March...Sam welcomed us with a glass of wine and a small bouquet of mimosa flowers! Great beginning!
Every dish listed in the menu was so very inviting that I didn't know what to choose. Two dishes caught my attention, and in the end I opted for a soup. Well, let me tell you it was the most amazing soup ever: a legume soup with sautéed calamari and raw tardive radicchio, beautifully garnished with sprouts.
Just look at my dish, I'm speechless... it is so beautiful and it tastes so good! The combination of colours and flavours is simply superb and -right now- I am the happiest person in the world.
Unfortunately you can't smell the perfume that emanates from my plate but I can give you my word that it's making me dribble. The soup is a cream of legumes, delicate and soft, and the calamari are practically butter, so soft and tender that they are literally melting in my mouth.
The raw radicchio and the sprouts add crunchiness to the soup and the herbs and spices enhance the mild flavour of the main ingredients. A great first course, from all points of view.
My friend had a pasta with clams and mussels and a glass of white wine. Of course she allowed me to taste it...and, yes ... it was more than delicious!
For Italians, what is important in a dish of pasta are two things: the first one is that it has to be al dente (firm to the bite), the second one is the way the pasta amalgamates with the sauce, something that may seem simple but that not everyone is able to do properly. The trick is actually quite easy and consists in keeping aside some cooking water and using it when combining the pasta with the sauce over medium high heat.
Anyway, Umberto's pasta was just fabulous. Al dente and viscous. And the mussels were so fat and meaty that I had to restrain myself from eating more from my friend's plate. The clams were "nostrani" (locally sourced), in fact they are a little bit smaller and whiter than other clams. Yummy! A must try!
Another thing I appreciate about Umberto's cooking is his use of herbs. He has been practicing dosing herbs and spices for years and, you know what they say: practice makes perfection. The fennel is, in fact, perfectly calibrated with the whole wheat pasta and enhances the flavour of the clams and mussels. The pinch of pepper is the perfect finish to this first course.
Now, let's talk about wines: I had a glass of Etna Rosso, a Sicilian wine with a bright ruby red colour and a warm and elegant flavour, while my friend had a glass of Slovenian white wine, a Rebula, characterised by a strong body, a firm acidity and floral notes.
Unfortunately all good things end, and our lunch was over. The only question left was: to dessert or not to dessert? I'll let you guess the answer ...
Osteria Trefanti is definitely one of my favourite places in Venice. For real foodies who are looking for a fine dining experience and want to relax. Excellent value for money, excellent ingredients and excellent service. Highly recommended!
Closed on Mondays
Address:Santa Croce, 888, 30100 Venezia
Phone: +39 041 520 1789