La Zucca: homemade food, cosy atmosphere and quality wine in Venice
Another long weekend to go and then the holidays will be over. On the one hand this makes me feel a bit sad, but on the other I can't wait for things to get back to normality and turn my projects into concrete facts (I'll be superstitious and won't say anything...but stay tuned!). Vito worked quite a lot over Christmas and New Year, but he was home the 1st, 2nd and 3rd so we tried to make the most of our free time and entertained ourselves with our favourite activities: visiting exhibitions and eating good food.
With regard to the exhibition, this time we went to Ca' Pesaro, the museum of modern art. The new temporary exhibition will open on the 20th of January, so right now you can see the permanent collection, finally enriched by all the other works that had been closed in the storage for years and are now being rotated. Then, on the second floor, there is the Sonnabend collection, absolutely fantastic, with works from the Pop Art, Arte Povera and more and on the top floor there is the Museum of Oriental Art. Ca' Pesaro is always worth seeing and, personally, I am very attached to this museum because it is strongly linked to the history of the XXth century Venice and has a big focus on local artists (I will remind you once more to consider purchasing the VeneziaUnica CityPass in advance).
For lunch we wanted to go to a cosy and warm place, so we phoned La Zucca and booked a table for 12:30 (booking is mandatory, otherwise chances to find a table are... nil!). La Zucca doesn't need any advertising, it opened in the 80s and has always been renowned for its quality. It is one of the few places that doesn't cook fish and, thanks to the big focus on vegetables, it has always been considered as one of the first vegetarian friendly restaurants in Venice.
The design is warm, with wooden walls and tables, soft lights, lots of paintings and drawings depicting pumpkins and squashes of all sort and small details that make you feel at ease and relaxed. The clientele, in general, is positive and definitely appreciative of good wine and food, the staff is permanent (something not so obvious in Italy...) and the owners, Adriana and Rudy, well... they are really lovely and work with a lot of passion.
We were seated in the bottom room, just next to a window overlooking the canal. Wonderful! The first thing we did was order some red wine and then we studied the menu. I know I have been saying that La Zucca is a great place for vegetarians (and it is!), but we were in the mood for meat and, aware that the portions are quite generous, we skipped the starter and went straight for the main course. Curious?
So, Vito's dish was lamb ribs with baked fennels topped with pecorino cheese... oh my, so good! The lamb was nice and moist, slightly crispy on the outside but super tender in the inside, very flavoursome, and the fennels were delicious too. If I had to choose a word to describe La Zucca's food, in general, it would be tasty, everything has a lot of flavour and they definitely know how to use garlic, spices and herbs.
Now, about my dish, it was superb: stewed beef cheeks served with grilled yellow polenta and raw radicchio. The cheeks were fat and soft, as soon as I tried one my entire palate was enveloped in a nice fatty texture that literally melted in my mouth... perfect. Obviously we shared everything and we also asked for some veg, precisely fondi di carciofo (the bottom -or heart- of the artichoke), which in this period are imported from France.
So far, so good! Then something funny happened because next to us there was a lovely couple from Faenza and when I noticed she was looking at me, probably because I was taking pictures of our lunch (sometimes I think people think of me as the crazy woman that takes photos of food), I apologised... but at that point she replied saying that they always take photos of their meals but she had forgotten her camera and asked me if I could take a few for her. Vito laughed and told her she didn't know what she had just gotten into! Ha ha, this was definitely an unexpected -but lovely- surprise, it had never happened before! So, here they are: a vegetarian lasagna with pumpkin and tardive radicchio di Treviso that seemed absolutely mouthwatering and a side dish with aubergines, cherry tomatoes and a basil emulsion.
Anyway, we started chatting and I must say they were extremely friendly and enthusiastic about everything. The meal had been so pleasant that we even made an exception and, in addition to the usual spirit (Scotch whiskey this time), we ordered a dessert: a pumpkin and orange pudding with mint and a caramel topping... do I need to add more? We all thought the presentation was beautiful, loved the colour, but mostly loved the flavour. It was sweet and refreshing at the same time and the mint added that extra touch that made it the perfect ending. What a nice day!
If you are wondering about the bill, we spent a little less than 35 euros each. In general, starters range between 8 and 12, main courses between 18 and 22 and all the vegetables between 6 and 8, thus I consider it mid range. La Zucca has become very popular (so I will remind you to book in advance) but has continued to guarantee quality. It's the sort of cosy family-run business where you feel cuddled and well looked after and where you can savour some healthy comfort food.
So, if you are looking for a warm, imaginative and intimate restaurant, possibly vegetarian oriented, I cannot but recommend La Zucca!
Divertitevi e Buon appetito.
Address: Santa Croce 1762, 1762, 30135 Venezia VE
Phone: +39 041 524 1570
Closed on Sundays