Trattoria da Bepi is a certainty: Loris, the owner, goes to the Rialto market every single morning in order to get the freshest fish on offer. Fish mongers know him well and always keep the finest delicacies for him...
This place opened years ago, I think it was started by Loris's father and the furniture is really vintage! Wooden walls covered with paintings, copper pots and pans hanging at the walls, an old radio from the 50s and big jars full of luscious things, like mustards and raisins soaked in grappa.
I come here when I want to eat traditional Venetian food. Trattoria da Bepi is authentic, what you see is what you get: the dishes are served on extremely simple bowls and plates, all white with a blu border, no particular garnishes are used, the food is honest, the sort of things an old Venetian grandmother would make. Simply delicious!
Every time we come here we end up banqueting with lots of different things and I love it.
At Trattoria da Bepi the products are local, so depending on the season you can find different veggies and fish. Right now it's the period of artichokes, of garusoi and of the first moeche, a Venetian delicacy, soft crabs that can be caught only for a few weeks in spring. So good...
What you see in the picture are what we call garusoi, small sea-snails dressed with (lots of) garlic, chopped parsley and olive oil. In the past, Venetian ladies used to spend afternoons together chatting and removing sea-snails from their shells. This is also true for bovoetti, but we'll talk about those tiny snails another time.
I know that many people are disgusted by the only idea of eating snails, but I like them, and these ones were soft without being overly tender. The oil was also very good.
The second starter was a dish of prawns with castraure from the island of Sant'Erasmo, mouthwatering baby artichokes, tender and crunchy at the same time. A must try.
Then...a plate with sardines marinated in three different ways: - tradizionali: plain, simply dressed with olive oil; - alla delfina: with tomato, and
- allo zenzero: with ginger, slightly spicy and fresh. My favourite ones!
Finally the queen arrived: the Moeca , this absolutely spectacular soft crab that is normally eaten in two ways: either with or without egg. I prefer it without egg, in fact at Trattoria da Bepi these crawling babies are just passed in flour and deep fried.
But just for you to know, it is also common to break an egg on a small plate and leave the crab over it for some hours, during which the crab eats the egg, so when we fry it it has a sort of frittata filling!
Not a very nice ending, I'm sure animal right-activists strongly disapprove this culinary practice, but... no Venetian will ever resist the temptation of a moeca, trust me. Oh yes, mocha are very expensive and cost about 40,00 euros a kilo...
Bites of pure delight, just add a pinch of salt and that's it. Be aware that by the time you lift it to your mouth...it'll be already gone.
Really, if there is a quintessential culinary experience one ought to have in Venice, it should include moeche.
You see, I told you... We had come here thinking of having just a first course, but we're still dealing with the starters...
What a tough life ;-)
The final starter was a plate with two big fat scallops and six queen scallops... Do I need to add more?! Just look at the colours of these gifts of nature, pink, orange, gold and brown...splendidly chargrilled and dressed with just a few drops of olive oil and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.
I do realise that the look of this plate may seem a bit retro, like something arriving straight from the 80s, but what matters here is the substance, the essence of things, no time for frills: the fish is amazing, superb. Traditional, simple and winning.
If you think we were done, well...sorry, but no! There was more food coming, two dishes of pasta: spicy spaghetti in nero ( with the squid ink) and spaghetti alla busara, with scampi and tomatoes. Yum...
The portions were more than generous and the pasta viscous and tasty. Don't ask me which one I prefer, they're two different things: the squid ink wraps itself around the whole length of the spaghetti, making every bite an almost sexual experience, while the spaghetti alla busara have a different type of appeal, more elegant, definitely sweeter and with a pleasant fresh aftertaste given by the tomatoes.
Don't be shy, since you're in the game you might as well enjoy it. Just plunge yourself into these generous portions of heavenly food and forget about your worries.
Think of us, at this point we were satisfied, our stomachs were more than content, but when Loris offered us a small grappa and a couple of Buranelli biscuits, we definitely couldn't turn him down.
When you come here, order the desserts you want, but don't forget to ask for a glass of raisins soaked in grappa, another quintessential culinary experience, one of my husband's favourite desserts (not sure whether he prefers the raisins or the grappa...)!