Oh dear... just below my house there is Ruga di Jaffa, an osteria I tried to avoid for a long time. The reason for my avoidance was not due to anything negative, quite the contrary: I know the boys behind the counter (I even worked with one of them years ago) and how nice they are, it's just that having the "local" bar not even a bridge away from my house is extremely dangerous!!!
Ruga di Jaffa, located -as you may have imagined- in Ruga Giuffa, is another one of those osterie that may not seem so appealing to visitors but that is always full of locals, one of those places where Venetians are a constant presence and our ongoing grumbling is the main background noise. The ambience is dark, the furniture very basic and the design consists in bottles of wine and liquors and a couple of Saint Mark's gonfalons on the walls. The managers are called Alvise -a very very Venetian name...- and Robert, a friend, whom I nicknamed the man from the mountains.
Well... let's start with a little bit of history: first of all the word Ruga refers to an extremely narrow street with buildings on both sides while, with regard to the word Giuffa, there are a couple of theories. One of them is that it derives from the city of Jaffa, in Israel, because in this street the people from Jaffa living in Venice used to sell lemons, oranges and grapefruits and lived in the upper floors of the same building where they had the shop (from this, the local saying "casa e bottega", literally meaning home and shop). Another theory is that the word Giuffa derives from the Armenian city of Julfa, in fact many Armenians had moved to Venice after the Persian King Schiah Abas ransacked their city, obtaining full Venetian citizenship in 1253. If we look at Tassini's "Curiosità Veneziane", he says it may also derive from the Dalmatian word gejupka, meaning gipsies and he also mentions a document dated 1283 with a complaint against such people, who lived in this area.
To be honest with you, I don't know which version is the real one... what's for sure is that Ruga Giuffa is where I live and where the famous Venetian web-series is set (Click over to watch Ruga Giuffa's videos) and, by the way, the side street you see in the photograph above is exactly where they shot their theme! Anyway, going back to our topic, Ruga di Jaffa is a friendly osteria, ideal for people who enjoy a nice vibe and a chat.
Here you can either have just a drink and a cicheto standing or a proper meal seated and served. I went for the first option, mainly because I wanted to chat and have something easy, plus I always enjoy trying different things. The selection of wine offered by the glass was good and I chose a red wine, precisely a Recantina by Serafini e Vidotto, one of my favourite producers located in the area of Treviso. Then I looked at the window displaying all the cicheti and took some time to decide.
Besides the alluring crostini topped with a wide variety of yummy things, I could recognise all our traditional nibbles: boiled eggs sliced in half, either with or without anchovy, calamari salad, octopus salad, different fish prepared in saor (fried, then marinated with sautéed onion and vinegar), boiled spienza (the spleen of the beef) dressed with oil and pepper, nervetti ( boiled veal cartilage), fried meatballs and other fritters, cured meats and cheese. How nice!
I had a taste of octopus salad and tried the gamberoni in saor, which were so good I asked for a second portion. While there I sat down on a small un-set table, which I shared with two other girls that work close by and had come for their lunch break. The atmosphere was very nice, everyone was friendly and I could see that Ruga di Jaffa has already become the reference place for all those who work in the area, which is a good sign! You could recognise us because we were having the nibbles!
The restaurant is more pricey, to give you an idea the starters range between 12 and 18 euros and the second courses are around 20 euros, but please consider that fresh fish -in general- is more expensive than meat, that the quality of the produce is good and that in Venice, bar and restaurant managers pay rents that could not even be conceived in other cities. This is so true that sometimes I think that today restaurateurs are men on a mission... really! Anyway, I looked at the menu and it was inviting and if I had to choose I would have gone for the linguine with bottarga and the seppie (squid) with polenta... yum!
Ruga di Jaffa is a place that gathers all, locals, workers and foreigners. Personally I always enjoy my breaks here and would recommend stopping by to anyone looking for a friendly atmosphere, a traditional cicheto and some good wine! If you are the sort of person that is more interested in the food and the company and less in interior design, I am sure you will like it too.
Address: Castello, Ruga Giuffa, 4864, 30122 Venezia VE
Phone: +39 041 241 1062
Opening hours: everyday 11:00 am 12:00 am
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