Relaxing in Malamocco: al Ponte di Borgo
For a long time one of the most sold Venice guides (and quite a good one I must say) was Corto Sconto: La guida di Corto Maltese alla Venezia nascosta, inspired by Corto Maltese, the protagonist of a comic by Hugo Pratt, Venetian comic book creator who lived in Malamocco, where we went today.
Malamocco is located on the Lido and its name derives from the ancient Metamauco, a vast territory where the people escaping from the barbaric invasions that were taking place on the mainland settled first. Thanks to its strategic position, Metamauco became the centre of Venetian power, in 742 the Venetian dukedom took seat here and it was only around the years 808-810, following the attacks of the Franks, that the Venetian community moved to the more protected islands of Rivo Alto and the Venice we know today was born.
Today Malamocco is a lovely small town, where the houses and the general atmosphere is like the one of central Venice, except that today Venice has more tourists than inhabitants, while here life runs smoothly and pacifically. To reach Malamocco from Venice take a vaporetto directed to Lido, then take an A or B bus directed to Alberoni and ask the driver to tell you when to get off. The whole journey takes, over all, 35/40 minutes. Once off, in front of you, the lagoon. Pure beauty.
I love coming to the Lido and Malamocco is one of my favourite places, but if I have to be totally honest, the reason we came here today is a trattoria called Al Ponte di Borgo. This restaurant is just fabulous, it's the only osteria on the Lido where it actually seems to be in Venice, or at least in the Venice I had known for a long time.
Al Ponte di Borgo is an old style trattoria, serving locally sourced fish (they buy directly from the Pellestrina fishermen: excellent!!!) prepared in the traditional way. No frills, the real stuff. There are two wooden tables on the street - not a via, but a real calle-, where you can just have drinks and cicchetti, while if you want to have a proper meal you can sit indoor or in their back garden, under the shade. We chose the garden! The combination of shade, breeze and flowers was irresistible.
We met a friend who had come by boat so he joined us for a glass of wine -el vecio frizzantin macchinetta (draft fizzy white wine, the easy and light house wine that gives a slight headache if you drink too much of it)- and a chat. Then the waiter came, our man, and started listing all the delicacies on the menu. Oh my, it was difficult to choose and I had to ask him to repeat more than once, but then I heard the magic word seppioline and immediately knew what to order. Seppioline are baby squids, one of the most exquisite foods on earth, (quite expensive too).
Vittorio behaved as usual when we come to places like this (like a baby) and started ordering everything, so we began with a mixed boiled fish starter, a must have. And when we saw the plate we agreed that this is what we mean when we talk about tradition and seasonality: our plate had only fresh and local fish and it was mouthwatering. It included: boiled baby octopus, squill fish, garusoi (a type of periwinkle), latti di seppia (squid eggs), gamberoni and baccalà in umido (stewed stockfish). I accompanied everything with bussolai, the roundish breadsticks typical from Chioggia.
So far, so good.
Before the main course, we also had a plate of homemade giardiniera (relish of pickled vegetables in vinegar, I'll make it next week) and boiled fennels. Simple, fresh and good, especially the giardiniera.
But we hadn't come this far just to eat veggies, we were ready for more. Vittorio had spaghetti alla malamocchina (spaghetti in Malamocco style), with a clam, mussel and tomato sauce typical of the Borgo. Delicious, really. The spaghetti were perfectly enveloped in this super flavoursome condiment and in the mouth, an explosion of taste. Lightly spicy and very rich. It was so good that Vito only allowed me to have only two bites (oh don't worry, I'm his wife...I'll get back at him for this)...
Anyway, I was busy too. In front of me 4 grilled baby squids dressed with a generous amount of olive oil and parsley. Exactly what I wanted. Exquisite. You ought to try them if you are here in this period, I consider them a quintessential culinary experience. These had been caught the previous night and were soft and buttery, made even more delicious by the slight crunchiness due to the grill. They weren't exactly baby baby squids, I'd say these were small squids, still incredibly yummy and delicious, it's just for you to know that in some very brief periods you can find the tinier ones.
We drank a grappa to end our meal and left feeling happy and satisfied (by the way, we spent 30 euros each). From Malamocco we reached the Murazzi, wide walls in Istria stone on the Lido shore, obviously, overlooking the sea. We walked all the way back, relaxing and looking at what point the raspberries were (still early, they will be ready after a nice showery rain around the end of August).
Before reaching the centre, we had a drink at the Caribe by Sorriso bar and restaurant, another really lovely place, with plants and flowers everywhere, beautiful wooden tables and chairs and a terrace over the beach facing the sea. What else could we ask for?
If you ask me, in summer during the day, the islands are the best places to be: less or no crowds, breeze, beach, drinks, ice-creams, bicycles and good food. The Lido is a beautiful place and, in general, much more relaxed. I come here at least once a week to see my family (both by parents live on the Lido) or to do some food shopping (every Tuesday and Friday morning there is a market) and it is always energising. Be aware that most people go back to Venice from around 6 to 7:30 pm and trying to take a vaporetto could spoil all the beneficial effects of a relaxing day spent in Lido, so I suggest either returning before 5 or staying for a long aperitif or a pizza (see suggestions).
At that time of the day, whether you are facing the lagoon or the sea, the light is wonderful and I think that enjoying it sipping a nice gin and tonic and in good company is the best thing you could do!
Trattoria Al Ponte di Borgo
Address: Calle Merceria, 30100 Venezia VE
Phone: 041 770090