Sleeping and Dining in Venice

Dates Visited: May 22-26, 2013

Hotel Al Ponte Mocenigo

This smallish hotel in a quieter section of Venice makes an ideal base for exploring the city, just a 2 minute walk to the San Stae vaporetto stop.  While the location is out of the hustle and bustle of St Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge, it’s a short 10-20 minute walk to the action when you’re in the mood for it, with quaint nearby canal ways and quiet squares to explore when you are not.

Venice - Hotel Al Ponte Mocenigo

Rooms are large and comfortable with high ceilings and traditional decorations including a Venetian chandelier.

Service is top notch and has earned the hotel a top rated position on tripadvisor.

Breakfast leans towards the simple starches and sweet end of the spectrum with not much to offer for those looking for healthier options. They do however have a great fruit bowl.

The tasting menu at L’Osteria di Santa Marina

While the service at this upscale osteria is more formal, the dining room has a quaint homey atmosphere – whitewashed brick walls and dark paneling with kitschy hearts hanging from the ceiling. The tasting menu is a refined selection of fun and innovative dishes that delight the eyes as well as the palate. Every one of the 7 courses on the mostly fish based Spring Tasting Menu hit its mark. Some of our favorites included –

Tuna Tartar with Egg and Cheese Fondu

Tuna Tartar with Egg and Cheese Fondu

Octopus with Mashed Potato and Bacon

Octopus with Mashed Potato and Bacon

King Prawns Coated with Angel Hair Pasta

King Prawns Coated with Angel Hair Pasta

Trattoria Antiche Carampane

On a warmish spring evening we dined outside at the small Trattoria Antiche Carampane. Known for its excellent fish we started with the antipasto seafood plate – an incredible selection of sweet, fresh shellfish, most of which I cannot name.

Seafood Starter

Seafood Starter

For the second course we shared the spider crab in a flavorful tomato based sauce served with a delicate tagliarini pasta.

Spider Crab with Tagliarini

Spider Crab with Tagliarini

However, the high light of the evening was the seasonal soft shell crab – a gorgeous plate of fresh, hot, sweet, fried soft shell crab.  The Venetian squid in a squid ink sauce, normally one of my favorite dishes, left me wanting – good but not wonderful.

Soft Shell Crab

Soft Shell Crab

Service was a hodge-podge of different servers who took their turns chatting with the couple seated in front of us. Must have been long lost friends of the house who had just come back from some glorious adventure. We ended up with a long gap between the antipasto and the pasta dish and a very short delay between the pasta and the mains. Service inside seemed to zip right along with couples that had arrived before us settling up the bill before we had been served our mains. Although we weren’t in any rush and enjoyed the evening air, it would have been nice to have a more balanced pacing of the meal.

Osteria Antico Giardinetto

The atmosphere in the cozy dining room, with paneled walls, white lace over the light fixtures, and  food served on brightly colored plates, feels like dining at your somewhat out-of-date elderly aunt’s house. However, this is where the resemblance ends unless your elderly aunt happens to be a fantastic Italian cook. From the exquisite homemade pastas and desserts to the perfectly cooked fish, everything we tasted was simply divine.

We started with the mushroom gnocchi and tagliatelle with asparagus and scallops – tiny asparagus not bigger around than a thin pencil and scallops as sweet and fresh as we have ever tasted.

Tagliatelle with Asparagus and Scallops

Tagliatelle with Asparagus and Scallops

For mains – the dorado in an orange sauce (the only thing I didn’t love about the meal, but this is more a matter of taste rather than of execution) and an amazing plate of mix grilled seafood – all beautifully cooked and served with mustard sauce and a balsamic vinaigrette.

Mix Grilled Seafood

Mix Grilled Seafood

The chocolate mousse – unlike any chocolate mousse presentation I’ve ever seen, was pure chocolate decadence.

Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate Mousse

Alguibagio

We had high hopes for this contemporary restaurant just off of the Fondamenta Nove, where the vaporetti leave for Murano and Burano. The dining room was smartly decorated in black with elegant splashes of color from an eclectic collection of edgy art. However even an alluring space can’t save mediocre food.

We started with a plate of selected tastes including the scallops with asparagus and mint – served tepid and no hint of mint; cod fish paté;  small octopus; and sweet and sour sardines and scampi. For mains we tried the spiced bigoli with tuna fish and black olives – while this was the main as part of the 50 € set menu it was a rather skimpy pasta dish with not much tuna; and the beef filet with artichokes – steak nicely cooked, but artichoke is a difficult ingredient to work with and can leave an off taste, a terrible thing to do to a steak. Alguibagio is highly rated on Trip Advisor, so our experience could be an off night or poor ordering on our part.

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