Showing posts with label Venice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Venice. Show all posts

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

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Finding Your Way in Venice Italy is Tricky (But Not Impossible)

Unlike other Italian cities, Venice is not laid out in a typical grid system where you arrive at your chosen street and then follow the numbered buildings until you reach your destination. Instead the city is designed around a labyrinth of narrow alleyways that twist and turn and often suddenly terminate at a dead-end.

So how do you navigate the streets and alleyways of Venice?

  • First, understand the topography. Venice consists of more than 100 small islands separated by approximately 170 canals. There are six neighborhoods or districts (sestieri): Dorsodoro, Santa Croce, Cannaregio, San Paolo, San Marco, and Castello. Your destination will be in one of those neighborhoods. Knowing in which district your destination is located is good but it's only half the story.

  • Next, the Grand Canal divides the city in half. There are four bridges that connect the two together (and sometimes it can be a challenge to find one to cross over to the other side). If you don't mind spending a bit of cash, you can take one of the many water taxis (a gondola in which you stand up for the short ride) to get to the other side. For a few Euro, you can simply cut across where you want to rather than meander among the convoluted alleys trying to find one of the four bridges.

  • Having the address, "2343 Castello," only tells you the district and the building number, which by the way, are assigned randomly, 1 to 6,000. Numbers on buildings do not go in order, many are not numbered at all. Written addresses list the district followed by the building number. Street names follow in parenthesis.

  • It's also helpful to know the various street types (map abbreviations are noted in parenthesis):
    old building in Venice Italy
    • canale: canal
    • calle (c or cl): street
    • sottoportego: an alley that goes underneath a building
    • rio: narrow canal
    • rio terra: canal that has been filled in
    • campo/campiello (cpo): small piazza or square
    • ramo: connect two streets or canals
    • fondamenta (f): a street that runs along side a canal
    • corte (cte): courtyard 
    • salizzada (sal): main boulevard

  • A map is helpful in that it will lead you to the general area of your intended target but it won't get you right to the front door. For that, you'll need patience, luck, and a sympathetic local to point the way.

  • Look for the bright yellow signs with black arrows posted all around the city to help you find your way. Venice is a tourist mecca so therefore the signage will point you to all the major sites.

  • Fortunately, Venice is a pretty small city. So even if you do lose your way, after a few minutes of meandering you will eventually get back on track. Besides, getting lost in Venice is half the fun--that's where you'll come across the true city and her people.