Anice Stellato: excellent wine and food in Cannaregio
I had wanted to go to Anice Stellato for a long time but whenever I tried it was always full, so this week I booked a couple of days in advance and finally managed to try it out. I went with Vito on Saturday for lunch, the weather was dull and foggy and the air chilly, but there was a nice peaceful atmosphere and we were both feeling relaxed.
Anice Stellato is located in the quiet Fondamenta de la Sensa, just behind the more crowded F.ta della Misericordia, so we spent the morning in the area, stopping at the nearby Madonna dell'Orto church first and reaching the almost metaphysical campo Sant'Alvise. We arrived quite early and were welcomed with a nice smile and a glass of natural Garganega by Menti. Perfect start!
The general mood was friendly and warm, yet very professional and attentive. The design is only apparently simple, all the small details like the vintage pieces of kitchenware, the original wooden bedheads and window shutters, the plants, the bottles and the ceramics... well, make clear that there is a lot of research and a lot of passion behind this small kitchen. A restaurant that mirrors a project and life philosophy, the one of slow living. And I like it.
We sat next to the window and eventually shared the table with two women. The menu was short and showcasing only seasonal and very well designed dishes, with creative and inviting combinations and a special section for vegetarians. While we took some time to decide we ordered a red by Foradori and enjoyed the outside view. The restaurant was starting to get busy!
As soon as we ordered, the kitchen sent a small "amuse bouche", one of the most delicious things I have had lately: a carrot cream with dill and toasted hazelnuts, a powder of black olives and coffee. Oh my, it was superb, an excellent way to increase appetite. I loved the presentation, with bright and happy colours, minimal and elegant and the coffee powder seriously impressed us. The bread too was very good, in particular the multi-grain, bought from a nearby bakery.
Now we were seriously curious. To start we shared a cream of Jerusalem artichoke and black cabbage with squill fish, pomegranate and crunchy puffed rice. Just look at the presentation: so beautiful we were almost afraid to spoil it. The contrast of flavours and textures worked out perfectly and enhanced all ingredients, the crunchy puffed rice and pomegranate added both a touch of crispness and acidity, while the cream gave all the softness and a lot of flavour without covering the delicate and really delicious squill fish.
So far, so good and, as you know, when the game gets tough, the tough gets going and we couldn't wait to see what was coming next. I was observing the staff and I must say they were all very nice and really cared about conveying the quality of the food and drinks; especially with regard to wine, I thought they were all very well prepared.
Anyway, at that point our mains arrived. Vito, greedy as usual, had ordered a frittura mista, what he usually gets when he wants to test a place. Fried fish is, in fact, something that most places do but only a few do well and, according to my husband, Anice prepared it with mastery! The portion seemed huge to me, with small fish from the lagoon and some sliced vegetables. The lemon was aside, but we never add it; if you ask any Venetian, lemon serves only to mask flavours in case the fish isn't that good...but trust us, the fish here was amazing! Well presented, dry and crunchy, with no traces of oil in excess. Perfetto!
I asked for a turbot fillet with bitter wild herbs and a pumpkin cream and was served one of the tastiest fillets I've had recently. Plated magnificently, I ate it with my eyes first and started tearing it apart delicately and slowly. Like the small welcome, I loved the bright and contrasting colours. The taste was lovely. This dish was actually slightly different from how the chef had imagined it because I had asked to have it without butter, so he sent someone from the kitchen to let me know it was going to be different ("not exactly the same as we had thought")... still, it was incredible!!!!
The pumpkin cream was made extra flavourful by the addition of rosemary and star anise and I will probably copy this idea straight away (got a beautiful pumpkin at the Rio Tera' dei Pensieri market on Thursday...)! The fish was tender and soft, it simply melted in the mouth and the herbs very good and not that bitter at all. Overall, a very well balanced combination of textures and tastes, everything was at the same time delicate but enhanced with great mastery. Thumbs up, both Vito and I felt enthusiastic and want to go back.
When I go to a restaurant I like to observe the people around me and I noticed that when the food exceeds expectations, clients become happier and chattier than usual and, in fact, after about half an hour the background noise consisted in small laughs and witty sounds, which have the capacity of putting everyone in a good mood.
To conclude our meal, we skipped the dessert and drank a beer distillate by Capovilla. I know the English don't use the word distillate a lot, but honestly the word spirit is too generic for this type of product. I think I told you before that Capovilla is by far my favourite grappa and distillate producer in Bassano del Grappa and I am planning a visit to his distillery soon!!!! If you are curious to try his products, the CallMeWine website has very good offers.
With regard to the price, I thought it was very good value for money. The bill was 88 euros, thus not cheap but right for that type of quality and service. I worked in restaurants for many years, before and during my university years, and then -as you know- I've been involved in the industry ever since, so I recognise the hard work and am happy to pay for an experience.
One does not dine in a place like this just because he feels hungry, filling the tummy is not the priority. Here, you undertake a culinary experience and I think that if that is what you are looking for, Anice Stellato will satisfy your desires.
Well then, if you are a gourmet and enjoy great wine and a creative -but filling- cuisine, Anice Stellato is undoubtedly one of the best options in Venice. Lovely and peaceful location, friendly and knowledgeable staff, seasonal ingredients and a more than passionate chef. In other words, everything you could ever ask for!
Address: Cannaregio, Fondamenta de la Sensa, 3272, 30100 Venezia VE
Phone: +39 041 720744