Al Vecio Forno: Neapolitan pizza and quality Italian food in Venice
I don't know if you remember, but last year in July Vito and I went to Naples (click here to read my Brief guide on how to spend 5 days in Naples) and loved it so much that we promised ourselves to return soon. Unfortunately (or luckily, depending on the point of view) work has been keeping us busy and we still haven't had the time, so we decided to make up at least for what concerns the food, so on Saturday we went to Al Vecio Forno in Calle della Donna Onesta.
Al Vecio Forno used to be a small bakery, then it closed a couple of years ago and two young Neapolitan brothers took over. The premises needed restoration works and I have to admit that the project presented by these two fellows was pretty stunning: a style completely new to Venice that totally mirrors their southern origins, contemporary, minimal and very bright. They wanted to maintain the original details of the architecture, like the wooden beams and the red brick walls, but they also wanted to add a touch of contemporaneity and convey their own style. Personally, I really like it.
I find that the design is elegant and authentic and that it definitely conveys a sense of cleanliness and care. By the way, they have an open kitchen, thus you even get to see the chef at work, which is something I don't mind at all! Of the two brothers, I met Alessandro, only 29 years of age and a lot of enthusiasm. I should also tell you that, in general, people from the south (particularly from Naples) are a lot more talkative and attentive than us northern souls, in fact Alessandro constantly kept an eye on all the tables to make sure everything would run smoothly.
It was our first time at Al Vecio Forno and we didn't know exactly what to expect, but as soon as we glanced at the menu we understood we were going to get a taste of the south: an alluring list of pizzas, rigorously in Neapolitan style (thus with a soft and higher dough), and gourmet dishes with high quality Italian ingredients. Great!!! Vito just looked at the pizzas, so rare the times we eat it that as soon as he has the occasion... well, he grabs it! I was undecided between fish or fresh cheese... but in the end I opted for fish. With regard to drinks, again I have to say that we were really happy: Vito had a Birra Antoniana, produced in Campania and with a lovely label design depicting pulcinella on a bee sky background, while I had a glass of Aglianico, a great Italian wine that has been recently "rediscovered" and finally given the right importance. I had one produced in Benevento by Corteregia and it was lovely.
Starting from Vito's dish, he had a pizza with anchovies, capers and bell peppers which seemed delicious. He really enjoyed it and even took the time to show me that the crust was soft but that, if he held the slice over the plate, it would stay straight, which means it is well cooked! He also added that it was super tasty but didn't make him feel heavy at all, in fact when we asked Alessandro we found out that the dough is yeasted for 36/42 hours! These are the small details that make all the difference, a good quality pizza made with healthy quality ingredients that doesn't bloat you... fantastic!
I ordered a dish called "polipetti alla luciana", with baby octopus and escarole and a side of boiled potatoes. Yum!!!! The baby octopus were delicious, really! Initially I was thinking of ordering the normal octopus in Neapolitan style (next time I'll try it), but I followed Alessandro's suggestion (a confession: I never did this, until last year I would just order what I wanted...but since I've started the blog this whole thing has become a sort of game and if someone suggests something, now I'm going to follow them and see what happens). Well, I thought it was lovely and I also appreciated the fact that the potatoes were simply boiled and dressed with some -excellent- extra virgin olive oil (from Calabria) and parsley.
What both Vito and I agreed on was that, compared to the type of heavy cuisine we ate in Naples, at Al Vecio Forno the food is revisited in a lighter and much healthier version. Consider that we are used to eating lots of veg, fish, grains and fresh cheese, so eating heavy fried foods or traditional preparations that require hours or days of work is not always easy for us and after 2 days in Naples, Vito asked me if we could go to a vegetarian restaurant (hahaha, I'll never forget it), while here everything was flavoursome and well cooked. Thumbs up!
We complimented Alessandro and started chatting, so at that point he wanted us to try one of his favourite dishes and offered us a mozzarella in crosta (mozzarella in crust), which is basically a fried mozzarella served with a special tomato sauce and basil. The two words fried and mozzarella should on their own let you imagine the type of succulent experience we had... my friends, it was superb!!! You know I'm not good with fried food, but it wasn't greasy at all, it was just crispy on the outside and -OMG- so soft and milky in the inside that we didn't want it to finish... a must have, believe me!
We were quite satisfied and, as usual, skipped the dessert and went straight for a spirit. We tried their two homemade specialties: limoncello and meloncello, the first one made with lemon, thus fresh and not excessively sweet, and the second made with melon, much sweeter and denser. Vito preferred the limoncello, but this is just personal taste, they were both quite nice. With regard to the price, we spent less than 30 each (the mozzarella was offered) and left happy; now we have a new place to add to out to-go list and next time I will surely try the pizza!
So, if you are in the Dorsoduro district, Al Vecio Forno is an excellent option for a quality pizza and a Mediterranean style lunch. It's located not even 5 minutes walk from the Frari's basilica and the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, thus you could easily plan a cool activity to do either before or after your meal and really get the most of your time in Venice.
Al Vecio Forno Address: Dorsoduro, Calle della Donna Onesta 3924, 30123 Venezia VE
Phone: +39 041 564 7774