Friday, October 26. For our first week in Venice we had been blessed with unusually warm, dry and sunny weather – but that was about to change. Colder weather and rain was on the way, we knew, not just in Venice but back in the States as well. We were starting to hear news about a so-called “Frankenstorm” that could be heading toward our home in New Jersey.
But there wasn’t much we could do about that and no need yet (or so we thought) to worry. Bundling up for the colder, misty weather outside, we decided to head back to Torcello for the day so we could go on the Secret Itineraries Tour of the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta. On a grey and cloudy day, the vaporetto ride through the northern lagoon is especially haunting, passing many old ruined structures and abandoned small islands.
We made it to Torcello about 12:30 and were able to begin on a tour immediately – just the two of us and our excellent guide, who explained much about the history of the beautiful basilica and granted us access to the crypt and the sacristy, both otherwise inaccessible to visitors today. We learned a great deal about the symbolism and story behind the church’s incredible mosaic of The Last Judgement.
We lingered in the basilica after the tour for a while before deciding a late lunch was definitely in order. A friend had recommended Osteria Al Ponte del Diavolo as a restaurant on Torcello worth visiting, so we decided to give it a try. What a good choice as we ended up enjoying one of the most elegant – and excellent – meals of our entire trip.
Because of the cold and wet weather it was not advisable to eat outdoors in their covered patio area. However, the inside dining rooms were comfortable and inviting, with a warm atmosphere that made one feel like you were dining in someone’s rustic home, not a typical restaurant. The menu was not lengthy but focused on many seasonal elements and ingredients that sounded wonderful for a cool autumn day. But before our ordered meal, we were treated to some outstanding homemade bread and an “amuse bouche” of octopus and pine nuts in balsamic vinegar.
For my first course, I’d decided to try the Borlotti Bean Soup with Fresh Radicchio di Treviso. This was everything I was hoping for in a soothing autumn soup: warm and creamy, with a nice bite from the bitter radicchio. David had the Pasta with Quail and fresh Fava Beans – and here I thought he didn’t like fava beans! But how could one not like such a lovely bowl of pasta, with tender quail and bright green beans. Much of the produce served at Osteria Al Ponte del Diavolo comes from their own gardens on Torcello and the freshness absolutely shines through.
For our secondi, I chose the Smoked Pork with Molokai Salt and Grilled Vegetables while David had the Baked Cod with a Potato Cake and Black Basil. I’m not sure it’s necessary to say much about either…just enjoy the gorgeous photographs and yes, they both tasted as good as they look.
Everything had been so wonderful so far we had to get a dessert to share. We decided on the Cat’s Tongue Cookies with Honey-Marscapone and Blackberries. The perfect light ending to the rich meal we had, and we also received a lovely plate of cookies to go with our ending espresso.
Our total with a bottle of wine was just under $170 – honestly quite reasonable for the outstanding quality of every element of the meal. I’d have no hesitation recommending Osteria Al Ponte del Diavolo to anyone traveling to Venice – it’s worth the trip to Torcello just to eat there (but of course there are plenty of other reasons to go to Torcello anyway…)
We made it back to Fondamente Nuove around 5pm and debated what to do with the rest of the day and evening. The weather was starting to turn worse, we had very full bellies and thought perhaps a short rest back at our apartment would be a good idea. We then decided to go back to Chiesa San Vidal for another concert by Interpreti Veneziani, which was a lovely way to spend the evening enjoying wonderful music. During the mid-concert intermission, I spoke briefly with an English expat next to us who liked my ankle-high Chooka boots. “They’re lovely, but they’ll be no good come the Acqua Alta tomorrow.”
Little did I know how correct she was!
The concert let out around 10:30pm and we couldn’t quite decide whether and what to eat. We knew we should have a light bite before bed but most of the restaurants nearby were closing up for the night, and the one bacareto was packed solid (and it was too cold to linger in the street with a glass of wine and plate of food). We ended up scooting into Osteria Doge Morosini which was open and fine with serving us even at this late hour, even as we only wished to share a pizza and a small assortment of their mixed seafood antipasti.
The pizza was quite good, generously topped with artichokes, pork, mushrooms, cheese and greens. Also good and just perfect for the night was the simple plate of marinated anchovies, octopus and salmon. If we’d been hungrier it would have been worth ordering more, for sure, and this is a restaurant we’d keep in mind to revisit on another trip because what little we tasted was quite tasty.
It was probably close to midnight when we packed it in for the day, without any real plans for what we’d do tomorrow. That ended up being a very good thing indeed, as we were totally unprepared for what the next morning would bring us and the city of Venice…but that’s the story for my next blog entry!
Osteria Al Ponte del Diavolo
Address: Fondamenta dei Borgognoni, 10/11, 30100 Torcello, Italy
Phone: 041 730401
Osteria Doge Morosini
Address: Calle Botteghe Dorsoduro, 30124 Venice, Italy
Phone: 041 5226922