Friday was the 8th of December, feast of the Immaculate Conception and first day of holiday of the traditional long weekend. The weather was freezing, the city crowded with Italians and we were feeling happy about the idea of having 3 full days off work. To do something in line with the feast, we decided to go to the Frari church to see the Assumption of the Virgin by Titian. Until some time ago it was possible to visit the church only in the afternoon, while now they allow visitors between services.
This church is absolutely amazing, one of the highest examples (together with Ss. Giovanni e Paolo) of gothic architecture in Venice and I highly recommend visiting. This is not the place to discuss all the historical and artistic details of the Frari, but a great book that unfolds the local history behind the Saints and figures of the different paintings is Piety and Patronage in renaissance Venice: Bellini, Titian and the Franciscans by Rona Goffen. Anyway, we only had about 30 minutes, so we went straight to the painting and then stopped in front of Canova's tomb to admire the sleepy lion, so innocent looking with his paw over the book.
As soon as we stepped out of the church the wind hit us hard, so we quickly crossed the bridge and repaired inside Il Mercante for a drink. We hadn't really planned anything, so I suggested going to the nearby Frary's for lunch, a cosy Mediterranean restaurant where I had been ages ago. Mum had recently reminded me about it because the owner's son is in the same class as my brother, plus I love this type of cuisine, simple and genuine. This, in fact, has been a family run restaurant for over 30 years, Federica's father opened it when this type of place didn't even exist in Venice and Federica has continued the tradition while adding her own.
The moment we stepped in we immediately felt the positive and calm vibe that I find typical of this sort of place. Arabesque writings and drawings on the walls, books untidily placed on the shelves, beautiful chandeliers covered in wax and brass objects shaped as moons and sun, definitely a lovely and warm welcome. Federica, the owner, is really nice and from what I understood at Frary's there's only female staff. Even the -organic- vegetables are produced by women, precisely by the prisoners of the female prison on the island of Giudecca, in the so-called "garden of wonders" (see my post on Giudecca hosted on Monica Cesarato's blog).
We sat next to the window overlooking the canal with the intention of taking it easy. The menu offers a wide range of Mediterranean dishes and has plenty of options for vegetarians. While drinking my green tea aromatised with rose petals (so good), we nibbled on fried kale -copying this recipe-, flatbread and two spicy sauces (the green one spicier than the red one!!!).
Then we both opted for meat. My dish was superb: rice with mutton marinated with pomegranate, almonds and radicchio, so tasty I was hoping it would never end. The meat was nice, tender and juicy, the pomegranate seeds added at the same time acidity and sweetness, while the raw radicchio and the almonds a bit of crispness. I though it looked beautiful, with the red and purple tones over the already colourful Mediterranean ceramic bowl. I was also served a fresh tomato, zucchini, carrot and pomegranate salad; needless to say I loved it and am going to start using more pomegranate juice and seeds in my home cooking starting from tomorrow!
Vito had mutton too, but served with a couscous soup. He was brought two bowls, one with the couscous and the mutton cooked with different vegetables like carrots, cauliflowers, broccoli, onions, celery and chickpeas and a second bowl with a vegetable broth, made with the addition of tomato and chilly. The perfume was so inviting that I had to taste some and it was lovely.
I find that, in general, Mediterranean food is always a certainty: plenty of vegetables, legumes, fish, dairy, lean meats and grains, simple preparations with fresh ingredients and an explosion of flavours. At Frary's, then, Federica also pays great attention to ingredient sourcing, opting for organic and local produce and tries to support virtuous realities like nearby farms and farmers markets, something that for me is very important.
Around us the restaurant had become busy, but the service was still very friendly and attentive. In general the mood was positive, there were couples, families and university students and everyone wanted to enjoy their holiday lunch. I couldn't stop eating that super spicy, yet fresh, green sauce and had to ask for more tea to help me sip down all that bread.
We stayed there another while, not even chatting, just doing nothing really; I will confess that I find great that with the people one knows well (or at least thinks to know well) it is not necessary to talk at all times, sometimes it's nice to detach completely and just absorb. Unfortunately, though, these moments don't last very long, in fact, I was soon brought back to reality by my husband who wanted to go to a pub to see a match. Oh well, I suppose that's life! So we drank something final -a Greek spirit- and left. With regard to the prices, I found that the value for money is very good. Depending on what you order, the mains in the menu range from 8 to 18 euros (for example for the fish couscous), the portions are generous and the food delicious.
If you ask me, I find it great: good, healthy and tasty food at affordable prices, served in a lovely and friendly place. The sort of restaurant I'd like more of!
So, if you are visiting the Basilica di Santa Gloriosa dei Frari (and you should!), Frary's is a great option for lunch and dinner: Mediterranean cuisine, lots of options for vegetarians, excellent value for money and easy-going and relaxed atmosphere, highly recommended!
Address: Fondamenta Frari, 2558, 30125 Venezia VE
Phone: +39 041 720050
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