Feb 11 Barry
Tagged in: Venice
Tratoria da'a Marisa
Quite often, when stuffy restaurant reviewer types come to Venice, they will pick someplace like the restaurant at Hotel Danieli, Cipriani's, or Da Fiore as the “best” restaurant in Venice. While the last two are certainly wonderful restaurants, and deserve their worldwide acclaim, I was in search of something more Venetian.
Years ago, I started asking the locals about good, truly Venetian restaurants. Ignoring many of the recommendations of restaurants owned my members of their family (everyone here has a cousin who owns the “best” restaurant in Venice), one name kept appearing: “Dalla Marisa”.
Arriving at Rio Cannaregio promptly at eight, we passed through a small door with barely a sign outside. There was a total of 24 seats inside the restaurant, and we were seated promptly. Within five minutes all seats were filled, wine and water appeared on the table, and the food started coming. Shrimp, crab (in varied preparations), octopus, calamari, sarde, fish lasagna, a fresh fish filet, and we closed out with a marsala zabaglione with fresh strawberries, biscotti and coffee. Everything was fresh, the flavors balanced, I am certain than no one left hungry.
This year, I returned for lunch. Arriving at 11:45 (They open at noon but allowed me in to get out of the rain), I watched the four ladies of at least three generations cutting it up in the kitchen. This restaurant is obviously their passion, and cooking together is their life. The phone rang, with someone wanting reservations for Saturday evening. “Sorry, we are full on Saturday”, came the reply. Today is Wednesday.
By 12:05 all seats were taken, and one of the ladies stood in the center of the small room and explained the menu to all of us at the same time. The menu was explained using very little Italian. She spoke Venetian dialect, which was very easy for everyone but me in the room to understand. You see, I speak Italian. My wife, Dolce Debbie, is the one who speaks Venetian, and she had not joined me on this trip. First our choice of pasta: with ragu (meat) sauce, or zucchine pecorino. Next, we could choose between bistecca, sarde in saor (sardines in sweet and sour sauce), or pette di pollo. One of the young Venetians at my table ordered the steak, another ordered the sardines, so I order the chicken breast. Chicken breast is most frequently prepared for tourists, so I wanted to see how this Venetian restaurant would make it.
The ziti with ragu sauce appeared, and the aroma of the pork and beef picked up the flavor of the parmeggiano reggiano cheese as it wafted in my direction. Then a song (obviously a favorite) came on the radio, and one of the ladies cranked up the volume to an ear-splitting level, and danced in place. She told a story of how she used to crank up the volume when she was young, much to her parent's dismay. The Venetians all laughed, the volume returned to a normal level, and the second plate arrived.
This chicken breast was cut (not pounded) almost paper thin, lightly grilled, salt and pepper added, then drizzled with a very high quality olive oil. The meat was moist, and the flavors exceptional. The pan-fried greens, also drizzled with olive oil, rounded out the meal. Not a single plate from any table returned to the kitchen with even a scrap left over. Once the espresso was finished, the Venetians wished me a good day, and headed back to work. For 15 euro, I had wine, bottled water, pasta, meat, vegetables, coffee, and a great experience eating with the locals.
Open for lunch 7 days (arrive promptly at noon), Closed for dinner Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday. Reservations required for dinner.
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written by Roy, February 22, 2011