Da Jonny: excellent traditional food in Castello, Venice
All of Venice is beautiful, but of course each one of us has a favourite district or campo or spot and for me, in general, it has always been Castello. There are many reasons why my heart is so rooted in this neighbourhood that I cannot list them all, what I can say is that I find it the most diverse area, where you can pass from a fancy and extremely noble palace to a much "poorer" but livelier campiello or calle in a few seconds, plus, this residential area is where you'll still find families with lots of kids and super friendly, simple and kind-hearted people.
So, today, I'm taking you to one of my favourite restaurants that totally mirrors this Castello attitude: this is Trattoria da Jonny in Campiello del le Gatte. The owner, Jonatan (with no h!), is a native Venetian who has been well able to combine elegance, simplicity, quality and friendliness in one go. His restaurant is perfect for families (he loves kids, he has two boys for now, but he told us he wouldn't mind to enlarge his family more), couples and groups of friends alike and you can tell that the food is good because it's always full of locals.
The location is wonderful: Campiello de le Gatte is an off-the-beaten-path spot, where the famous Italian poet Ugo Foscolo resided for a while, a lovely small square with little passage, a few minutes from the heart of the city but slightly hidden. Da Jonny has both indoor and outdoor seating, the restaurant is quite spacious for Venice and inside it has a beautiful red-brick wall adorned with black and white photos and outside...well, if you ask me, it's just fantastic! In fact...we sat outside!
The service was excellent, the young waiter that served us knew exactly when and with who he could joke and was very attentive and kind. This is very important for me, I like going to places where not only the food is good, but also the "innkeeper" tries to communicate and satisfy the client's desires (and not explain or teach them something...) and from this point of view, Da Jonny is flawless. Another plus...the portions! Real Castello style, no risk of leaving the restaurant hungry, believe me. Now let's get down to what really matters: wine and food.
I'm not a big drinker, so we ordered wine by glass. I had a very good Refosco while Vito had a Cabernet Sauvignon, both from our region. To begin, we shared a started and I am telling you now that I am brutally stealing this recipe! Too good... wild smoked salmon served with marinated sardines and a frisée salad with orange, finely sliced hazelnuts and a purple edible flower. So simple...so good! The salmon was excellent (don't forget that I'm half Irish, therefore I am fussy about my salmon!), really, and the salad was perfect. We loved it. They were so kind that they even plated the one starter in two separate plates... come on, that is so nice!
Then Vito had grilled duck breast with mustard, which was mouthwatering! Look at the portion...for me it's a lot! Vito too isn't used to eating so much, but again, the quality was incredible so he left nothing on his plate!
I opted for fish and I was so very happy about my choice: baked umbrine with pistachios and potato puree. Oh my gosh...first of all, note the portion size, very generous! It was absolutely fantastic, the puree was like butter in the mouth, a drug containing a seriously addictive ingredient, and the fish too was superb. I even ate the skin... so soft and tender, real pleasure.Sometimes restaurants choose to focus either on quality or on quantity, but Jonny no, he has it all! His two sons and a friend of theirs were dining behind us and I was surprised by their appetite (hey, they were having a fish frittura each and they're not even 10 years old!)...
Anyway, we ended with a glass of Scottish whiskey and sat down for another while just to enjoy the peace of the small square and the positive vibrations coming from all the other guests. I love this place, where old and young, locals and tourists, omnivorous and vegetarians can all be happy and feel at ease. Personally, I think that the winning/key factor is Jonny's personality and his -and his staff's- attention to customer satisfaction. The choice of using local ingredients, the beauty of the dishes that come out from that kitchen, the incredible selection of wine (when I'll be rich, I'll have the Amarone Dal Forno...promise!), the combination of modernity and tradition...are all aspects that make this restaurant a perfect option for anyone.
Price-wise, I'd say it's mid range. We spent a little bit more than 40 each (with the tip) and I was very happy. I can't say it's a budget eat, but if I think of what we had the price for value is excellent. I'll repeat it again, the portions are very very generous and consider that Vittorio chose the most expensive wines on the list (we'll never be rich, as soon as we have something we spend it on food and travel, so...). We had come here a while ago, then last week a friend of mine had a business meeting in the Biennale area and asked me for advice and I told her to try this place. When she had finished, she texted me because she was enthusiastic about her lunch, so I felt envious and decided to go back!
After lunch, I suggest walking towards San Francesco della Vigna and visiting the church with the same name. They might charge you 2 euros for the church, but the cloisters are free of charge and definitely worth seeing. I will write a specific posts on Castello soon, just to give you an idea of the best things to do (or, at least, what I consider the best things to do...).
I highly recommend Trattoria da Jonny to anyone looking for traditional, local, fresh and seasonal food, great service and a cozy and warm atmosphere. Eating is believing...
Closed on Monday
Address: Castello, Campiello de le Gatte, 3210, 30122 Venice
Phone: +39 041 296 0065
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For more info on where to eat in Venice, visit My Venice Food Guide