Thursday, July 17, 2014

Trattoria Cea in Venice: Go Where the Locals Go

We spot Trattoria Cea beneath a vine-covered trellis in a small piazza near the Grand Canal. In the front window, perched against wine bottles, a hand-printed menu offers a variety of Venetian specialties.

We eagerly enter. The dining room is small but inviting with only a few tables brightly covered in buttery yellow tablecloths. A lone Corinthian column stands in the center of the room, supporting the low ceiling while two enormous wine jugs filled with the local Bardolino sit on the front counter. We begin with a carafe of this luscious red—light in bouquet and slightly fruity—a favorite in this region.

Our waiter approaches with a sheet of green paper he just ripped from a roll hidden in the corner, and covers our table with it. It's just past 7, and we're his first customers for the evening, but it isn't long before the locals arrive for dinner.

We start with fusilli al tonno e piselli, pasta in a luscious cream sauce accented with flakes of freshly-grilled tuna, and Veneto's beloved sweet peas. Other stand-out choices include risotto di funghi e di pesce, a soothing trio of rice, porcini mushrooms and fish all simmered in tomato sauce. Try the homemade gnocchi with crab, or go truly native and opt for the spaghetti al nero, a classic Venetian dish made with the ink of squid!

As we eat, six men dressed in blue uniforms walk in and yell "ciao" to the signora busy cooking in the kitchen. We quickly realize that they operate the vaporetti, the canals' water buses. Three liters of wine are brought to their table, as the men roll up their sleeves in preparation for their pasta.

For our secondi, or main entrĂ©e, I select another regional favorite—sarde in saor, fresh sardines from the Adriatic, lightly fried then marinated in a tart bath of red-wine vinegar, and served with pine nuts and herbs. My husband tries the costicine al vino bianco, small veal chops simmered in white wine with a smack of garlic—a simple but delicious choice. There's a selection of fresh fish as well as frittura di pesce—a platter of light and crunchy calamari, clams, and scallops—plus a wonderful oven-roasted pork.

Dessert and two cups of Italian coffee follow. Zabaione con le fragole, a creamy custard with fresh strawberries is a sweet accompaniment to the strong, espresso.

It's after 9 pm now. We finish at the same time as the vaporetti drivers and walk behind them as they slowly traverse the hushed, dark alleyways, softly singing operettas. It will become a memory as sweet as the meal we just enjoyed.

map to Trattoria Cea, Venice Italy
A map to Trattoria Cea, Venice

Trattoria Cea
Campiello del Pestrin
Calle Varisco, 5422
Telephone: 5237450
Closed Saturday dinner and all day Sunday

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