Lavish fish lunch at Ai Nevodi and Castello wanderings
'Venice, the Moon and You' was the title of a famous movie by Dino Risi, but in my case it would be more appropriate if it were called 'Venice, the Carnival and Myself', as I have a love and hate relationship with this feast. Yes, because on the one hand I love to see all the elegant costumes, the people capturing the moment and the children's eyes shimmer with amusement, but on the other... Carnival weekends scare me, as the city gets way too over crowded for its physical capacities. For example, last Sunday -while I was happily on my own admiring the sea in Alberoni- the local police tried to divide the flows and for a good ten minutes Campo Santa Maria Formosa was so studded with people it seemed almost impossible to move. I saw the pictures and it looked scary!!!
Anyway, week days are safe! Yesterday it was also lovely and sunny, so I decided to stay out all day. I had a couple of things to do and had to go towards Via Garibaldi as Daniela Levera, my ceramist, has just returned from South America and brought me two marvellous pieces made by a friend of hers I was eager to see and finally touch with my own hands (did you see the pic on my Instagram? Aren't they just beautiful?!). I should have also brought the papers to Cosima of Sunset Yogurt, as we were on the same page of the column Venetians I was telling you about in the former post, but I have my head in the clouds and I forgot!
Because I was going to Via Garibaldi, my husband suggested to go to his friend Silvio for lunch. What a good idea! I have already mentioned the osteria many times (like in the Via Garibaldi post), but I had never actually taken you inside. The place is called Ai Nevodi and I love it. It's a traditional Venetian restaurant where it's also possible to have cicheti standing and -of course- lots of wine! It's the sort of place where I feel at home, as it welcomes everyone with no distinction, from neighbourhood pensioners to Asian tourists, from the young to the elder. Besides, last Thursday this osteria was listed with some other of my favourites in the R-Food supplement of La Repubblica and I wanted to compliment them!
Ai Nevodi is managed by Silvio's son, but he wasn't there when I arrived. This detail wasn't a problem at all, on the contrary, his father took very good care of me! Silvio has been in the food business forever. I met him years ago when he used to manage another restaurant called La Valigia and I still remember his dentice mantecato (creamed snapper) and the spaghetti ai cannestrelli (spaghetti with queen scallops). The man is a real professional and sure knows how to make people at ease. Plus, he is a good friend of Vittorio's and has always proved extremely kind to him. In short, Silvio is the sort of Venetian who, when you ask him for a glass of tap water, gives you a full bottle to take away with you, so generous he is.
As soon as I saw him, I quite straightforwardly told him I wanted to take some nice photos of the food and asked if I could go a little earlier than the usual opening time and sit next to the window, so to have more natural light. Needless to say, he replied I could go whenever I wanted and do whatever I wanted, so I left for a couple of minutes to go and collect my new purchases, and returned. Immediately he served me a glass of red wine, a Cabernet Mosole (really good, round and with a full body!), then he handed me the menu and helped me study it.
I didn't know what to choose, as everything seemed so very inviting. From spider crab to sardines, from octopus to scallops... I would have eaten everything! The article on La Repubblica was about cicheti and at Ai Nevodi they had chosen the crostino with baccalà, so I wanted to try it too. But... I didn't simply get the crostino, I was actually served a proper tris di baccalà, a small taste with the three varieties: creamed, in red and alla vicentina. Oh my, was it tasty! It had been a while since I had baccalà alla vicentina and, dear friends, let me tell you I found it exquisite, soft and warm enough to feel it melt in my mouth... pure pleasure! I tough the plate looked beautiful and the red, yellow and green colours reminded me of the walls of the nearby calli.
After that I was expecting a second course, but Giovanni, one of the staff, brought me a dish of bigoli in salsa (buckwheat pasta with anchovy and onion sauce). He smiled at me and said that by mistake the chef had made an extra portion, then he asked me if I appreciated it? Of course! Well, thank you! It was delicious!!! Bigoli in salsa is one of my absolute favourites and I recommend you try it at least once in your life. Nice and creamy, with the bigoli perfectly enveloped by the sweet and savoury cream, with a pinch of black pepper and some paprika... wow!!! Amazing...
The portion, as you can see, was generous and I was starting to feel satisfied, but when I saw my octopus I understood the game had just started. You know, when the game gets tough... the tough gets going, and I was ready for it! Just look at its texture: boiled first then grilled, the octopus was tender in the inside and nice and crunchy on the outside. Surrounded by a colorful garden of vegetables, it would have been enough on its own. Let me add a little note on octopus dishes in general. I hate it when you go to a restaurant and order, let's say, grilled octopus and they serve you one nicely plated tentacle. Well, this was not the case, no risk of leaving Ai Nevodi feeling hungry because it was a lot of food I had!
It was served with a fresh salad with cherry tomatoes, a baked aubergine, zucchini, bell peppers, Brussel sprouts and some condiments on the side. Delicious! I took my time, relaxed and savoured every bite. Silvio would have liked to offer me a coffee and a dessert, but I wanted to try the new Che Bon coffee bar that had just opened (like a couple of hours earlier...) next door, so I asked him for the bill. 'What bill?' he asked, 'go away' he said 'and come back with your husband, it's been ages since I've seen him'. I was a bit embarrassed, but extremely grateful. Silvio is just like this: generous. He didn't do it for interest, but just for kindness. Anyway, just to give you an idea, the dishes range between 14 and 24 euros, the fish is fresh, the quality good and the atmosphere perfect (at least, if what you are looking for is a friendly place where locals and foreigners merge happily together)!
So, at that point I tried the new bar and ... yes, I think I ought to go back and take more pictures! I just drank an espresso and tried a mini frittella with custard. The girl behind the counter was very friendly and wanted me to try the Venetian type, at which point I asked if she could wrap it for me to take home. Perfect conclusion to a perfect lunch. From there I went back towards the centre, the city was calm and I passed by San Marco to see the elegant costumes and then went to say hi to my husband who was at the Bauer working. I brought him the pastry, had a brief chat with some of his colleagues and then proceeded on my wanderings.
A perfect day spent with nice people, eating delicious food and enjoying my city in a way I had almost forgotten. Wonderful...
Hope you enjoyed the post and highly recommend trying Ai Nevodi! Stay tuned, because there's more to come...