Castello may be known as a poor area, with public housing and simple shops, but today this neighbourhood hides treasures of all sorts, especially with regard to food. Over the last 10 years a couple of really nice gourmet restaurants opened, enriching the Venice food scene with a very high quality offer, focusing on ingredient sourcing and local products and, consequently, attracting crowds of international foodies. Among them, there is one of my favourite places, which I like to define as the friendliest slow food restaurant in Venice: CoVino.
Located in the narrow Calle del Pestrin, CoVino is a real pearl. There are so many things that could be said about this restaurant that I don't know where to start, so let's begin by saying that it's extremely tiny, in fact I think it can seat only up to 20 people (but I'm not sure), so my first suggestion is: book in advance!
I suppose that now I should delve into food talking, but first I really want to say that what makes CoVino special is its owner: Andrea Lorenzon. Whenever I go I cannot help but remain impressed by what he has been able to create in such a small place -literally one room- and by his personality; just to give you an idea, today he was wearing a checked flannel shirt with fleece inserts and the way he speaks and moves totally mirrors his neatly messy creativity.
The ambience, in fact, is stylish and friendly, with red brick walls and a soft illumination, the decor consists mainly of bottles of wine and liquors and jars containing marvellous specialty foods like sweets and sour onions, specialty olives, chutneys and more and the special touch is the open kitchen, so you can actually see the chef preparing your dinner. Nice! As soon as we went in, we were greeted with a glass of bubbles and a small raw appetiser with tardive radicchio, pineapple, tangerine and fennel in a super fresh olive oil dip.
The menu is short, seasonal and all ingredients are from slow food presidia and the wine list is more than interesting, even if I would suggest to trust Andrea and let him do the pairings for you. We started with some crostini with butter and Cantabrian anchovies which were mouthwatering as usual and two excellent glasses of Gutturnio Superiore Cresta del Sole, a round red produced in the hills of Piacenza.
Then, as proper starter, we order squill fish with radicchietto, pomegranate seeds, white grapes and a touch of bergamot scent, sprayed on the dish the moment it was brought to the table. Beautiful to see and delicious to eat, fresh and with a wonderful perfume.
As main course I chose a pasta. Consider that I rarely order a first course at a restaurant, usually I go for a starter and a second course, but when I read sugo di go (goby fish sauce) I knew I had to have it. Go (ghiozzi in Italian) are small lagoon goby fish with a very strong flavour which were widely used in the past, but that today aren't used anymore, probably because -in general- people are not used to such strong tastes now and, besides, they have a lot of bones and are a little tricky to clean. Anyway, I found the pasta absolutely mouthwatering and was so happy that the portion was generous that I ate it slowly to make it last longer.
When I told Andrea that it was delicious he replied saying "a real Venetian flavour" and, yes, it's true, the strong taste of the sea. The menu changes all the time, so I don't know if you'll find it when you go, but in case you do: try it!
Vito, instead, had meat, roasted capon served with a pumpkin puree and some small sautéed cardoons, which were surprisingly sweet. Lovely, a real Christmas time meal, warm, comforting and soothing. The capon was cooked very well, in fact it was neither too fat nor too dry, it was just right: with a golden, slightly crisp skin and a tender and nice and moist heart. Yum! We needed more wine, so we continued with a Primitivo Antica Enotria.
For dessert I had an apple and cinnamon tart served with buffalo yogurt and some very thin slices of refreshing green apple. I loved it: simple, healthy and fresh. The yogurt was excellent and provided that touch of acidity necessary to wash down this small piece of cake after my generous lunch. This is the sort of dessert I could easily make at home, something easy but that gives great results, plus, replacing the traditional whipped cream with the lighter yogurt really makes it perfect.
Vito had some slices of seasoned cheese (please forgive us...we have forgotten the name!) with mustard and, after that, a very bitter spirit called Amaro dell'Erborio produced by the Varnelli Distillery. It was funny because when Giorgia, one of the team, asked him if he liked it and if it was bitter enough, Vito replied "oh yes, it is as bitter as I wanted..but it has half of the degrees I was hoping for!" and we laughed. The spirit, in fact, although good, had only 21% alcohol... Oh my!
Anyway, with regard to the price, I would say that CoVino is medium high range, but the quality of what you eat and drink are definitely worth the bill. Personally, I thought that the value for money was very very good, especially the lunch offer. For lunch you can order starter, one main course and dessert for 27 euros or starter, two main courses and dessert for 36 euros, which I think is a very good offer and I can guarantee that you won't be hungry when you get up!
At that point, we were ready to go, so we thanked the staff, nibbled some coconut and chocolate chip biscuits and said goodbye, hoping to return soon.
CoVino is definitely one of the best restaurants in Venice if you are looking for high quality wine, gourmet combinations and an intimate atmosphere. Remember to book in advance and just enjoy its vibe. Highly recommended!
Address: Calle del Pestrin, Castello 3829a-3829, 30122 Venezia
Phone: +39 2414705