Eating delicious fish and cicchetti on the Lido of Venice | Osteria al Merca'
Autumn days in Venice can be absolutely delightful and today, after two full days of lashing rain, it was exactly the case: the sun was warm, the sky clear and the air fresh. Having a free morning I decided to go to the Lido to enjoy a walk along the shore and get the most of the hottest hours.
The Lido is the place to escape when all you need is to relax and free your mind; the beach is amazing in every season and right now the light is at its best and the shimmering of the sea looks like gold. Less people, a few locals with their dogs, a couple of tourists, and myself, sitting on the sun chairs, reading a book (today's was Murakami's Desire) and unwinding.
After a long walk I started to feel a bit hungry and thought I could try something new, so I headed towards the Gran Viale, the main street, turned in via Lepanto, crossed the bridge and reached Osteria al Merca'. I had never been, it was a friend of my mother's who suggested me to go and I am happy I have remembered! As the name suggests, Al Merca' is located in the covered market area, in fact, next to it there is a fishmonger stall (the only stall, greengrocers have their own little shops here in Lido and there are 2 weekly markets).
As soon as I got closer I recognised one of the boys that used to work in the fish stall in Via Garibaldi, in front of the vegetable boat, so I learned that they moved to Lido and started a business here. The vicinity with the Osteria is definitely a guarantee of freshness, plus, the nice buzz of the people shopping positively livens the morning atmosphere.
The managers of the Osteria are from Castello too! And when I glanced at the cicchetti window I felt an immediate understanding. Seeing such a rich assortment made me really happy. I have to admit that, although I love crostini, these are becoming a sort of synonym of cicchetto now (because they are easier and cheaper to make), while this array of different fish in front of my eyes represented exactly my idea of cicchetti: fresh local fish cooked and dressed simply with olive oil and parsley and white polenta! Yes, polenta should be white because in Venice it was white (the yellow one was used in the country, which is another story) ...
Oh my, what a variety: grilled scampi, grilled baby squids ( OMG !!!!), boiled baby octopus, creamed stockfish -here called baccalà mantecato- octopus salad, scallops, sarde in saor, fish and veg fritters, a couple of grilled vegetables and a fantastic looking peperonata.
Everything looked so very tasty. You could clearly see that the fish was good and I would have eaten everything... in the end I chose the boiled octopus with some polenta and a glass of house wine, red. The folpetti were more than lovely and I will go as far as to say that they were among the best I had this year, soft without being overcooked and nice and meaty. I sat outside, where there is a horseshoe counter with a couple of stools, in the company of a group of "boys" (the local pensioners), who were chatting away before their lunch.
The overall feeling of Osteria al Merca' was positive and when I told my mum I had been there she replied that all her friends consider it the best fish restaurant in Lido. So we'll have to try!
In the evening the covered area of the market becomes crowded with locals and, if you decide to go, don't forget to look at the three marble tables only a few metres from the bar, which in the past used to display greens and other foods. The restaurant menu looked delicious, featuring dishes like spaghetti with seafood, bigoi in salsa (a thick type of holed whole wheat spaghetto with an onion and anchovy sauce), and baked, grilled and fried second courses; the price for a first course are around 12 euros, while the second range between 15 and 20, not bad for this type of quality.
Anyway, it was time for me to go so I left, finished some shopping and headed back to the vaporetto. As some of you know well, I adore the Lido and will never get tired of repeating how nice it is to spend a day here. The sea on one side, the lagoon on the other, bicycles, small shops and an extremely relaxed pace of life. Also food wise there have been great improvements: the above mentioned Osteria al Merca' opened only a couple of years ago, but with regard to the more "historical" places I definitely recommend the Trattoria al Ponte di Borgo in Malamocco, where Hugo Pratt used to eat, then, close to the centre and the vaporetto hub I also like Giardinetto Grill, for Tuscan meat and pizza, and L'Essentiale Restaurant inside the Hotel Villa Laguna (my wedding venue!), which despite the fancy look has very reasonable prices, really (look at their lunch menu here) and is the ideal place to enjoy a glass of wine at sunset!
So, do try to find some time to explore this happy island, it will be regenerating and I'm sure it's a part of Venice that will amaze you. Today it was fantastic also because the rain had cleared the sky and, if you notice, we could dee the mountains behind Venice...and isn't this a good reason alone to come here?!
In case you were looking for other ideas on where to eat and how to spend a day in this fantastic island, you can refer to my Lido page. Anyway, what I suggest doing is either renting a bike and cycling the place far and wide or simply enjoying a walk with a view and then a nice nibble with a glass of wine! Relax and enjoy, you deserve it!
Address: Via E. Dandolo, 17B, 30100 Lido di Venezia VE
Phone: +39 041 243 1663
Opening hours: 12–2:30PM, 6:30–9:30PM
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