PLEASE NOTE: This eatery has recently changed management and I can no longer guarantee quality. (POST UPDATED on the 19th of April 2018)
It's Christmas time, the streets are crowded with people, the shop windows are set-up with shimmering lights and alluring merchandise, the Strada Nuova is constantly busy and you are already aware that, to really enjoy Venice, you should get out of there and explore the more hidden areas, or at least the side streets. Although this is undeniable, there are some exceptions and, with regard to quality food and wine, one is undoubtedly La Cantina.
La Cantina is one of the most written about wine bars in Venice, it has had the same management for ages and it is renowned for its great quality. The managers are called Francesco and Andrea, the first a sort of artist of gourmet preparations and platings, and the second totally focused on the brewery in Morgano, in the Province of Treviso, where he follows every step of the production of their -excellent- craft beer called Morgana. Then, I really have to mention Natasha, their precious collaborator, always kind and smiling and very attentive to presenting the ingredients with care. I have to add that she's a great advisor, if you give her an idea of the sort of thing you're in the mood for, she'll know how to fix you, trust me.
I do it all the time, I ask her and she never gets it wrong. At La Cantina there are many things one can choose from; although not a restaurant, here it's possible to have a complete and really good meal and the offer satisfies all, also vegetarians. Fresh herbs, spices and vegetables are widely used, the seasonal greens are steamed perfectly and taste so good that to enhance their flavour further a few drops of extra virgin olive oil are more than enough.
This is the sort of place where you can either enjoy a meal seated or savour their cicheti standing, but beware that all the cicheti are made at the moment. Nothing is preprepared and left sitting in the fridge for the day, attention to detail is a must and the food has to be delicious. From oysters to raw scampi and queen scallops, from baby octopus to squid, mackerel, sea breams, sea bass or whatever is in season, then there are all the cured meats, the Italian and French cheese, not to mention the warm dishes like pasta, lamb, Patanegra belly and more. The assortment of vegetable too is rich and what I really like about their style of cooking is that it never makes you feel heavy. All dishes are super flavoursome and filling, highly digestible and allow you to enjoy the rest of the day/evening without falling asleep.
The passion and care can be seen in all the details, the beautiful kitchenware and bowls, the elegant and warm wooden furniture, the vintage looking pans, the copper pots, well everything. The wine offered by the glass changes regularly, so regular clients have the opportunity to try a variety of wine, mostly Italian, but also French. The list of liquors and spirits too is of great choice.
It was my husband who brought me here for the first time, to impress me. Obviously, it worked because twelve years later this is still the place I turn to whenever I need to be cuddled and nourished. In such cases I go for lunch, even on my own; anyway when you're out you are never alone, you always meet people (this is Venice), plus Natasha is so nice and friendly that always finds the time to take care of me. Today she really exceeded my expectations, with an absolutely stunning dish that seemed made especially for me.
I was about to eat a rainbow; oh my, it was so pretty I was afraid to spoil it. I knew I was going to take my time and make it last as long as possible: zucchini, bell peppers, red onions, Belgian carrots, broccoli, fresh dill, then the quail eggs and a wild Norwegian salmon that was to die for. The condiments, as usual, were placed aside on the table and the bread served warm; please note that you also get to choose whether you want it brown or white... Superb! All accompanied by a glass of Montepulciano.
This is the sort of pampering gourmet experience I would recommend to anyone. With regard to the prices, I would say La Cantina is mid/high range but that the quality is excellent. Vito and I often go just for a glass of wine or to share a bottle of Morgana, but when we can we treat ourselves to a nice meal, be it lunch or dinner.
Leaving such a relaxing place to return to the way too busy Strada Nuova could be a bit overwhelming, but don't worry, if you simply cross the bridge on the right towards Campo Santi Apostoli, consider seeking refuge inside the Ca' d'Oro museum, the so-called "golden house", with a gilded polychrome exterior and hosting the art collection gathered by Giorgio Franchetti and donated to the city in 1916.
This is really a great collection, ranging from Van Eyck to Titian, from Tullio Lombardo to Mantegna, just to mention a few. The building, a floral gothic architecture, would be a good enough reason to visit on its own, with a marvellous colonnade loggia with a mosaic pavement (sorry I couldn't take a picture today, but there was acqua alta and it was all flooded an inaccessible) and two elegant floors with Venetian windows and two balconies overlooking the Grand Canal. (PN: every first Sunday of the month admission to Ca' d'Oro, like to all other State museums, is free of charge).
This is just an idea of a slow paced and relaxed way to experience the Strada Nuova. I hope I have been able to prove that every place can become charming, it depends on how we decide to spend our time! So, if you fancy the idea of a morning/afternoon spent in a museum topped with a gourmet treat, I highly recommend to stop at La Cantina.
A presto amici!
Address: Cannaregio 3689,, Campo San Felice, 30121 Venezia
Phone: +39 041 522 8258
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