• Nicoletta Fornaro

Vini da Pinto: fresh fish in the heart of the Rialto market

Life is a big surprise and I love it. It must have been around the mid of February when Vito and I met a dear friend called Daniele, one of the best photographers in Venice, in Rio Marin and I stopped him to ask for advice on how to improve my photography. Well, since then Daniele proved to be extremely supportive and has given me lots of advice and even offered to lend me his equipment; not just this: last week he asked me if I wanted to go with him for a service in a restaurant in Rialto. How lucky I was to have received such an invitation, not only because I saw how a professional works with all the right lights and so on, but also because I discovered an excellent restaurant, and this is Vini da Pinto.

Vini da Pinto is located in Campo delle Beccarie, thus just in front of the Pescheria in Rialto, and has been open for ages. I went there last about 4 or maybe even 5 years ago, when there was another management and then never really considered it. Well, how wrong I was!

George, the current manager, an Egyptian naturalised Venetian, is a very passionate owner and did a great job both for what concerns the renovation works and the food offer. The fish is excellent, only the freshest of the freshest. Really! Not to mention the wine list...

Well, we went quite early to take some pictures of the outdoor seating and the space, thinking we would finish early. But then George arrived and he wanted to show us everything. At around 12:30 I said we were going to have a snack and come back, but George looked at me and said "No, no, no... you are eating here!". Okay... I suppose it's a tough job, but someone has to do it! We didn't want to take advantage of his generosity and asked for something little, but guys, this man is from Egypt, he's Mediterranean and generous, he had no intention of giving us just something small... so our banquet began! (we were meant to stay there from 10 to 11:30 but actually finished at 3:15 pm!!!!).

Before the actual lunch, we assisted a sort of competition between George and a fishmonger. They wanted to prepare a nice "ghiacciaia" (fresh fish exposed on ice) and each of them had his own idea. Don't tell the fishmonger, but George did a better job! So much fresh fish, a lot still alive... there was a lovely John Dory, gamberoni, scampi, mullets, oysters and more... wow! While preparing he was arranging the setting, well... all those scampi lying there on the table were begging me to eat them, so I did and boy how tasty they were! Yum! They were like candies, you could just eat one after the other...

This went on quite a bit, so I looked around and studied every detail. The place looks fantastic, compared to what I remember, now it's elegant, warm, clean and inviting, with a beautiful fireplace, Venetian floor and original wooden beams on the ceiling. Plus, the mirrors are made by contemporary Murano glass masters and are absolutely stunning; even in the bathroom there is a super fancy mirror with black glass...wow!!!! Simply lovely. At that point, we were served a glass of Chianti! Oh well...

Then they started bringing food and, although we has asked just for something small, we were served a real banquet. So let's start: super fresh French oysters, served rigorously raw and with lemon and pepper aside. Oh my, delicious! After this, we were brought a mixed fish starter with scallops, queen scallops, baccalà mantecato, boiled squid eggs, squill fish and a baby squid. So good and so fresh...

We were satisfied, but George kept offering us food and, while photographing, his staff even told us to stop and eat "otherwise it gets cold". In fact, just after having tasted the more than delicious red prawns from Mazara del Vallo (oh yes, these were orgasmic!) and scampi from the Adriatic, we were served two pastas. You know, I've been gaining weight lately and I think I should slow down on food a little, but I didn't have the courage to refuse and everything was so very tempting. Daniele had fresh pasta with swordfish, tomatoes, capers and mint, while I had a dish of spaghetti busara...

At that point we were ready to continue, but there was more coming. As if we hadn't eaten enough, the staff brought us a fillet of sea-bass served with vegetables (delicious!!!!!) and a dish of baby squids, the real ones!!!! And what portions, very generous. Obviously we were brought exactly the same things anyone can find in the menu, so what you see in my pictures is actually what you get! If you ask me, even one starter and a dish each is enough for two! Anyway, what I particularly appreciated is that, because the ingredients are so fresh, to enhance them George and the chef have decided to prepare them in the simplest way possible; in fact, if you ask me, if the food is good -and believe me, I guarantee that the quality of the fish is excellent- one doesn't need to do much!

If you are hoping we managed to get up from the table, forget it! The final touch was a mixed raw fish dish with a tuna tartare, a swordfish tartare, raw Red prawns and scampi and a raw squid (OMG!!!!!!! Heaven, I want to work like this everyday!!!!).... this, Vittorio would have died for. We both drank some red wine, a very good Chianti (I'm not one of those who thinks you necessarily have to drink white with fish). Then we assisted George's lunch... he -like me- is on a diet...in fact he had a frittura mista (mixed fried fish)! Ha ha, I should ask him for his dietitian number ;-)

By the way, my mother will love this guy. I know....

We were starting to feel tired and needed to take some pics, so we tried getting up, but we couldn't leave without trying at least one of their desserts, so we opted for the king of classics and asked for a tiramisù. Needless to say it was really nice, like everything else. I didn't have anymore space, not even for a coffee... the other customers, like us, were all very happy and -even if I had gone there with a photographer and not for my blog- I liked Vini da Pinto so much I decided to write a post about it!

I looked at the menu and the prices are very good. There is no cover charge (you don't pay for the "coperto")and the dishes range between 12 to 26/28 euros (but for really special foods), so I think the value for money is more than excellent. I will be totally honest with you, if Daniele hadn't asked me to go with him probable I would have never gone, while this is one of the BEST FISH RESTAURANTS I have eaten in recently and I want to go back with my mother and also with my husband. Vittorio would have been enthusiastic and when he saw the pictures he was surprised too.

George proved to be a more than passionate restaurant manager and his hospitality made my heart melt. I could see how much he cared about all the details but, mostly, about the quality of the food. So, if you are in Rialto and feel like treating yourself to a super delicious fish meal, I strongly recommend Vini da Pinto. Friendly and professional staff, a passionate owner, excellent wine and food and great value for money. A lovely surprise!

Vini da Pinto

Address: San Polo, 367, 30125 Venezia VE

Phone: +39 041 522 4599

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