Monday, September 26, 2016

La Zucca

Finding La Zucca in the dark is quite an experience, so take a flashlight, then take warning that if you miss it and cross a small bridge to Calle Larga, and are standing in Front of Trattoria ai Ponte, you have gone a bridge too far.

Even with wood paneling, this restaurant looked homey rather than somber or moody, as so many Venetian restaurants seem to appear.

The bread basket will always tell you about the quality of a restaurant and La Zucca got a decent grade on the variety and taste of its selection of pane. Since you are obliged to pay for it, it may as well be enjoyable. The lentil soup was also decent with carrots and squash added to vary the texture and add a bit of sweetness, but it's difficult to make a bad version. Adding the grated cheese is so very Italian and it does create a greater depth of flavor.

When at La Zucca, it only seems fitting to order something made of the squash, so my selection for a starter was a flan of it with grated Ricotta Salata, sprinkled with roasted squash seeds. It was filling, but not heavy and one of their specialties.

Although they serve a great number of vegetable dishes, this restaurant is neither vegetarian nor vegan, however, it makes a good choice of restaurant for anyone in your party who might be either. For a main dish we went with the fettuccine served with duck sauce. Never have I found one of these offered in Venice that wasn't good.

Another specialty that we sampled was the potato cake, very similar to a French recipe using cream and cheese between layers of thinly sliced potatoes. It was very rich and delicious. 

I'm sorry to report that the carrots in a curried yogurt sauce were a complete fail. Nothing about it seemed to work and it was difficult to finish, but at least it was a big leap for an Italian restaurant to think out of the box.

Osteria La Zucca Website 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

San Jalisco

Not being a drama queen by nature, it was shocking that I felt heart palpitations and a lump in my throat the minute I walked into Los Jarritos and was handed the menu. The name of the restaurant had been changed to San Jalisco. Could my long beloved Los Jarritos be gone forever, having been sold by the family with the wonderful mole recipe? Where could I ever find another Enchiladas Deanna, or goat, for that matter? It was my fault for not going there more often.

Shortly after reading the menu, I calmed down a bit seeing that they still had the nopale quesadilla, so I ordered it. Enchiladas Deanna was nowhere to be seen, but after inquiring, the waitress assured me that it could be made as a special order, but more importantly told me that the original family still owned the restaurant. The presentation on the quesadilla was nicer and they had added a side of guacamole that I dipped into with the quesadilla in hand.

My culinary partner in crime ordered the Milanesa, not surprising, since we had recently returned from a trip to Austria, where he consumed schnitzel as often as possible. As usual, the plate was generously loaded with food and there were actually two large pieces of the breadcrumb encrusted meat. Rather than chicken or pork, this was made with beef.

Never before had I noticed burritos on the menu, but then, I had never before seen this menu. I noticed them this time as I perused the list looking for the word mole. For an extra $3 you could have any burrito smothered in mole sauce, which makes it a Wet Burrito. They can also be made with a Colorado or tomatillo sauce. I selected the Grande that included guacamole, but not cheese. It was magical. Since my first time at San Jalisco, I have tried both chicken and carnitas and still can't decide which is best. I have yet to revisit the Enchiladas Deanna, so my new "favorite" choice has been established.
San Jalisco Website 

901 South Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco CA 94110

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Cantine del Vino gia Schiavi, Cichetti at Its Best

San Trovaso is an area in the south east section of Dorsoduro in Venice, bordered by Fondamenta Nani, the canal closest to the church of San Trovaso. Another famous landmark in the area is the artisan quarter where gondola repair is undertaken. It's very small but highly recognizable by the timber clad buildings, a rarity in Venice. Most timber was turned into  pilings for supporting buildings and lining the canals.

If you walk down the right hand side of the Academia for 2 blocks, then make a right turn on Calle del Pistor and continue walking toward the canal, you will be at Fondamenta Nani. Cantine Schiavi is to the left just alongside a small bridge. It's hard to miss with the crowd that usually surrounds it.


This family operated wine business has kept their  neighbors satisfied and loyal for generations, now they exemplify the "real" Venice for tourists. Both their white and red Fragolino wines are worthy of a purchase, if only for sampling this grape that mimics the taste of fresh strawberries. You may also find fresh Fragolino grapes to taste while you're in the Veneto.

Whether made of meat or seafood, many of the cichetti are priced at one euro and the examples here are all made with bread as are many Basque pintxos, other European, great small bites.

Garnishes may be as simple as using nuts, capers or pickles, but can be more exotic such as shredded, smoked, red pepper to the left.

While the bread based cichetti are a bit more labor intensive, slices or chunks of cold cuts are just as popular. 

The salt from the cured pork can easily create a thirst that could easily require more drinking, only it's doubtful that anyone needs the excuse.

Here are two more bread based cichetti using fish eggs and smoked salmon, but I couldn't identify the cheese spread used on either. 

There is no word in my vocabulary to describe this item. The sliced seafood product in black and white must have been made of cuttlefish or squid in it's own ink, perhaps mixed with gelatin, then encased like sausage before it was cooked and sliced for this cichetto. Its mild taste was definitely "of the sea"  and I've finally found a word to describe it,memorable.
Another memorable cichetto is that made from pickled onion, anchovy and a caper. It always reminds me of Venice because I have never seen it anywhere else, except at home, where we recreated it for friends.


Schiavi makes a particularly good mantecato that you you might like to try before leaving.

This example of baccala mantecato was made a bit more visually appealing by adding parsley to the mix. Whatever you select here, you will not regret the choice. Not going would be the only wrong choice you could make.

Schiavi Website

Open: 8:30 - 20:30 Monday - Saturday

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

La Aciugheta

Many years ago, my spouse and I found a hole in the wall restaurant just north of the Piazza San Marco in Venice in what is now a pharmacy. It had no more than 6 tables and it was cramped at that, but the food was wholesome and authentically home style and the pizza was very good. While on my own, I decided to revisit it and see what else they had on their menu. When I saw the pharmacy my heart sank, but just west of the old site I saw their sign "La Aciughetta" and knew I had not lost an old friend, but lived to see it prosper and expand. Come to think of it, we had been asked to pay our original bill at the larger location they hold today which had a different name; it confused me at the time. Perhaps we had stumbled upon them as they were starting their expansion. Now, it has a reputation as a very good wine bar, with cichetti and pizze, but the menu offers items you will not see in other restaurants and is well worth exploring.

Their outside seating is popular with tourists and wine enthusiasts, but I really enjoyed their spare, modern dining room.

Timballo is a name of the special dish prepared in the American movie "Big Night". It was a molded pasta and meat dish, but I have come to realize that the term timballo can be applied to any dish made in a mold. The photo above shows a dish that is a case in point. It was an onion and parmigiano timballo that had a velvety custard holding it together. I would purchase an entire cookbook for that one recipe.

Bottarga is the name of an ingredient that drew me to this particular pasta dish. It is typically used in Sicilian or Sardinian dishes and punctuates the flavors the way anchovies do. It is a fish roe, usually gray mullet or tuna that is made into a paste and cured in sea salt. It was fun to try but there were other choices on the menu that seemed so authentically Venetian that I was sorry I had not tried them instead. Next time, if they are still on the menu I intend to try the corn pasta with cinnamon and anchovies or the beef stew with cinnamon, cloves and red wine. I cannot find a website to connect to this review and I wish they had one so I could look at it right now and properly identify the name of the beef stew.

Campo SS. Filippo e Giacomo
Castello 4357 Venice
041 5224292
fax 041 5208222

This original post was dated for 9/20/2008



In 2012 we went back and tried this spinach timballo with a rich Parmigiano sauce. There were none to be seen on our last trip in 2015. In fact, the selection seemed to have changed dramatically.


The menu was missing the pasta sauced with cinnamon, olive oil, and anchovies; as well as the mussel dish, a very basic offering. There was no sign of the stew I referred to earlier.

Neither were there any of the non regional pastas we had seen, such as the Penne Marinara or Pesto. We would not order those anyway, because the results are better if you eat something local.

What I truly missed were the baccala manticato and the timbali. Since the vegetables wrapped in eggplant had no custard, they may not have been considered a timballo, but it would have been a pleasure to eat that again.


There were far too many vegetables to call it a risotto, but the rice was mixed with cheese; I suspect it was Grana Padano.

The potato and fish salad was at least an interesting combination, so it was a relief to see it on the menu, but the new dishes seemed a bit middle of the road, trying to please everyone, yet pleasing no one.

Tortellini with a prosciutto cream sauce wasn't as bad or bland as it looked, even though it is not a regional specialty in the Veneto. 

The fish filled ravioli were more plausible as a local specialty, but they lacked more than they offered, and there are better versions of this dish in Venice.


What does one do when a good  restaurant fails to perform? Perhaps, enjoy the atmosphere and have a few beers. In my case, I'll give it another try in a few years, if I can read the menu before sitting down.