• Nicoletta Fornaro

Venetian Wanderings | Episode 26: Promessi Sposi


I know, I know... I had promised I would have written about restaurants and eateries in the Biennale area, and I will! But not today! I'm in the Cannaregio district again and this time I am taking you to a cozy osteria called Ai Promessi Sposi.

In case you didn't know, I Promessi Sposi is the title of one of the most important Italian novels of the XIX century, the sort of book we Italians all hated at school and rediscovered only in adulthood. I'm not sure why this place is named like the book, but what I can tell you is that you will like it!

The owner is called Nicola and is originally from Portogruaro, a cute town in the mainland; he and my husband have known each other for ages and we started coming here about 10 years ago. I think it had just opened at the time, in fact before that, both the owner and the cook used to work at Trattoria Alla Vedova.

The atmosphere is lovely and incredibly friendly, the two dining rooms are small and intimate, all in wood and with beautiful black and white pictures of movie stars and artists, courtesy of the renown Camera Photo Archive. My favorite is the one depicting Claudia Cardinale dancing, the one chosen as official poster for the Cannes Film Festival this year.

From late spring to late autumn it's possible to eat outdoors in their small courtyard!

Really cute! Just be aware that this place is very popular, especially in the evening, so I suggest booking.

Don't worry if you see big groups of people standing outside, they're not waiting for a table but simply enjoying their long aperitif! In fact, Ai Promessi Sposi has some delicious treats that can be savored standing, the typical Venetian cicchetti. I recommend trying the fried meatballs (3 small meatballs served on a barbecue stick for 1,50€) and the sarde alla beccafico (rolled sardines stuffed with breadcrumbs, pine nuts, raisins, Parmesan and parsley, which is actually a Sicilian recipe) with a nice glass of wine.

Take courage and be brave, pass through the crowd and ask for a table. Once seated, have a look at their menu and be ready to dive into a traditional and comforting Venetian meal. Vittorio and I went for lunch, our usual break from work! Vito was busy on the phone so, just to keep myself entertained, I had two saltimbocca (meatballs cooked in a spicy tomato sauce) and a glass of red wine.

When he finally managed to sit down we ordered our meal: Vito opted for a first course -as usual- while I had seafood! His pasta was a dish of paccheri with a tuna, tomato, rocket salad and olive condiment, really yummy and creamy. I particularly appreciate paccheri as type of pasta because they are thick and stay al dente longer.

I chose a saltata di mare, sautéed clams, mussels and queen scallops. You know, whenever I eat queen scallops I can't help thinking of a Venetian stadium song that goes like this "No ghe xe ostreghe ne canestrei, semo i più bei, semo i più bei!", which basically means that we (the Veneziasoccer team supporters -the black and green one, nothing to do with the new orange team...I mean, real Venetians say that such a thing like Venezia-Mestre does not exist ) are better than the other team, the typical silly stadium song!

Please excuse me for this digression... returning to more serious topics, my dish was mouthwatering!!! So tasty and satisfying that I would have eaten a whole pan of these gorgeous shells! You can see that the clams are local because of their size. These are small, thus native, while the bigger clams, although grown in the lagoon, come from the Philippines. I don't know exactly when, I think it was 1983 when these foreign clams were voluntarily introduced in the lagoon; it had been observed that these clams found an ideal habitat in our hot Adriatic sea and reproduced easily, plus they are quite big in size -thus heavier when weighed at the market...- so they became object of economic interests! Now that you know, don't let yourself be tricked by the looks, although smaller and uglier, our native clams are much richer in flavour!

Unfortunately we didn't have much time, so we had to skip dessert and run back to work. Anyway, we were pleased with our lunch break! In case you are wondering, for our meal, half a litre of house wine and a bottle of water we spent about 40 €, which I consider a very good value for money.

Ai Promessi Sposi is a lovely place for all kinds of people: couples, families and groups of friends. The atmosphere is easy going and sometimes chaotic, and the food is good! Perfect if you want to get a taste of local cuisine without spending too much and enjoy buzzing places! Highly recommended!

Ai Promessi Sposi

Address: Cannaregio, 30121 Venezia

Phone: +39 041 241 2747

#Venicewheretoeat #Venicetraditionalrestaurants

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