Unexpected Flavors: Lost and Found in Venice

I don’t need a paddle, I need pasta.

Upon returning to Venice for a day trip with my brother I had set my heart on finding the little patio restaurant I discovered on my last trip into town. Only problem was I couldn’t remember the name… or where it was…or what the dish was called. Only that we decided to find an authentic meal in Venice on a Friday night, and that was going to take some reconnaissance. We waited till around 8:30 near one of the piazzas, and watched for the most Venetian looking group of adults speaking Italian and walking with purpose…and followed them.. Down the maze of winding streets and bridges we walked a few feet behind until finally they darted down an alley. This was either exactly what we were looking for or we were about to get yelled at in Italian.

There is pistachio ravioli here somewhere, and I intend to find it.

A charming courtyard of winding green foliage and hanging lights, like a quaint garden party. They spoke little English and we spoke just enough Italian to order and It was perfect. Out of everything that was memorable about that meal the pistachio shrimp ravioli with cream sauce was otherworldly. It has haunted my dreams and was the kind of course you return to a place just so you can try to recreate a moment of perfection….and find what else they can blow your mind with.

So with this in mind I racked my brain on the flight, checked Google keywords  as we checked in at the hotel, read through hundreds of restaurant reviews and as we wandered the winding streets and shops and asked strangers while the regatta boats partied on by, still it eluded me. Tired, cranky and hungry, I opted for a quick nap before venturing out for replacement dinner. When I opened my eyes as if delivered by dream, “Al Profeta” was magically on my tongue! It came up in Google Maps! It was mine!

I poured over the menu again and again,  searching in vain through the menu for my long lost pistachio love. When I still came up empty my Italian still proved insufficient in my attempt to ask If it might still exist. The waiter pointed out another dish with pistachio, but it seemed a little strange.. But I had come this far. So I picked the entree with pistachio even if the other ingredients didn’t entirely make sense to me.

And a believer was born.

Pistachios, Ricotta, bacon “jumps” and… Cocoa pasta? I admit, I doubted it’s power. God help me I doubted.

I wasn’t sure what to expect,  but dammit I was on an adventure and not stopping now. When it arrived, I was intimidated by the inky color and silky black noodles. But if anything ever inspired me to soldier on it was the happy little bacon squiggles on top that dared me to dive in. The biggest shock in the first bite?  IT WAS NOT SWEET AT ALL. The predominant flavor was the bacon “jumps” throughout, which I at first somewhat unappealingly  mistook at first sight for onion. But the cocoa pasta had no sweetness in the flavor but rather added depth to the savory tones (not unlike a good buckwheat noodle) but with a lighter texture. The ricotta was smooth and fluffy and carried the lightly nutty flavor of the pistachios. Never before had I really considered cocoa as a savory ingredient, even knowing it wasn’t always sweet. But hello darkness my old friend, I will never underestimate you again.

And Al Profeta…we will dance again soon.

Restaurant Golem

Restaurant Golem is on the Piazza San Martino named after, surprise, San Martino Cathedral which was built in 1217. Its a short walk away from the Finistrella di Via Pella (The Secret Window) and also near the Jewish Ghetto district in Bologna.

The menu was varied with both traditional offerings from the Emilia Rogmagna region and some asian inspired dishes. The atmosphere was very cool. It was one of the few places that actually

had a bar with chairs at it. And there were paintings and sculptures by local artists decorating the restaurant. Apparently they do art shows and events on occasion.

 

 

 

 

Beef Carpaccio

So the food. I started out with beef  carpaccio topped with lots of caramelized onions and big slivers of parmigiano reggiano, seasoned with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

 

 

 

 

Tortellini En Brodo

I also ordered tortellini en brodo. I had been ordering this at almost every place that I went where it was available. This was my second favorite bowl of soup. The broth was thick and peppery. The filling seemed to have more nutmeg than most and was really warming and filling. Keep in mind it was also in the 30s outside so this soup was just what I needed to mentally and phsycially prepare myself to continue exploring the city.

 

 

 

Gramigna with Sausage

And so because while in Emilia Rogmana one pasta course per meal is not quite enough I also order the Gramigna with sausage and cream sauce. I wasnt familiar with gramigna (which is a local pasta) and tried researching a little history about it but alas the internets failed me and I only know that is “most often paired with light sauces”.

 

 

 

 

If I went back to this place I would definitely try some of the asian inspired dishes, not that the regional food wasn’t great but I think Id like the Bolognese twist on asian flavors.

By the time I was done the place started filling up with what appeared to be University students and hip italians. The restaurant apparently has a good nightlife scene since it is close to some dance clubs. Disclosure: I do not know where they are but the service staff informed me that it was a spot people gathered before going out. The place stays open until 1am.

 

 

I Found The Love Of My Life…

I have never fallen for a person the way I have for a place. Human relationships are so…political. You forever seek the perfect balance between caring enough to be there and being the person that cares too much, upsetting the delicate balance that’s holding it all together. If and when the see-saw once again slams to the pavement with a skull rattling crash, you get to start all over again, and frankly It’s exhausting.

Sometimes I have no choice but to seek the solace of a hammock beneath a pear tree in Amalfi with a watermelon gin and tonic. Because life is hard!

Sometimes I have no choice but to seek the solace of a hammock beneath a pear tree in Amalfi with a watermelon gin and tonic. Does this count as “outdoorsy?”

A new city let’s you hear it’s heart beat almost instantly. It welcomes you with a wink and a smile like an irresistibly charming stranger and the more time you spend the deeper you fall in love with its possibilities and imperfections. The good will always outweigh the bad if you’re looking for it. For every alley that smells like piss and BO there’s a bakery with the smell of hot French bread baking or a Belgian waffle press with Nutella warming, waiting to be poured over vanilla waffles just around the corner. There are always, always more amazing things to discover. You can search your whole life and never find them all.

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That’s the thing with discovering a new destination. No matter how infatuated you may become and no matter how completely you surrender all you have to give, it will meet you there and surpass even your wildest expectations. And when the next adventure calls, it will implore you to follow without jealousy; forever knowing the place in your heart in which it resides is both everlasting, and yours alone.