Mangia! Mangia!

A trip to Italy, a food-lover's dream!? Certainly, but more so if you plan ahead. Really, it is a must to plan ahead. There is nothing worse than being in a delicious paradise, but ending up at the wrong eatery. Venice, or Venezia as the Italians call it, can be like anywhere overwhelmed by tourists; there is good food, great food, and REALLY-not-so-good-food. One of my favourites for good food, is Osteria da Carla. The first time I was in Venice, I happened upon it's doorstep, but it wasn't in the cards. However, I was intrigued because there were no pushy waiters flagging you down, no menu outside, no tourist menu...nothing of the sort. As it should be! (I should probably point out that it is easy to "happen upon" da Carla's doorstep, as it is hardly a stone's throw from St. Mark's Square. Piazza San Marco = many tourists. However, if you are actually trying to find it...you will more than likely take a few wrong turns. It's just the way Venice works.) Albeit smack in the middle of tourist mecca, the food at da Carla is very good. It feels "mom-and-pop", which makes it comforting and adorable at the same time. And perhaps most importantly, the food is priced very reasonably......especially for Venice. You can imagine my excitement when planning a return trip to Venice. So I did a little research about da Carla, (I don't know how I even figured out the name!) as to whether da Carla would be somewhere I would want to spend one of my cherished Venetian meals, but it had to be somewhere I wouldn't need a reservation. Something casual, but good. Carla isn't the kind of place you would make a reservation, perhaps during Carnavale, so I knew it would be perfect for a first meal; we wouldn't miss a reservation if our flight was delayed. Luckily for Jeff and I, da Carla hit the spot. Simple, and tasty. It was unpretentious, and the all female staff was attentive and served the food very lovingly....or perhaps I was just doting on the olive oil....I know I'm in Italy when the olive oil resembles - olives! I loved the fruity appetizers, salads really; you become keenly aware of the sweetness of tuna, when plated next to endive and grapefruit. I had beef carpaccio with grapes; you can't help but love something when you can't even get it anywhere in your hometown....at least not done right. You drink locally made wines in Italy, and Valpolicella is one of my favourites. I love wines from the Veneto region. Drinking it in the region in which it is made, just made it all the more enjoyable. It is good and cheap. You eat seafood in Venice, or at least you should. It is fresh, and simply prepared. I am still craving the dory with asparagus sauce. Luckily, it is easy for me to make potatoes with balsamic at home, with a similarly rich-thick-syrupy balsamico. I love potatoes and balsamico, and this dish was a great reminder. Great dish. Too bad it wasn't mine...However, I didn't have any problem devouring the polenta and cuttlefish... in fact every last drop. It was seasoned, and I love being in Italy, if only for that fact alone. Restaurants in Italy use salt, and the food tastes really, really good. It has flavour. Even though I tried to mop up as much of the beautiful orange oil of the cuttlefish with the polenta, I still managed to finish the second serving of bread....we devoured the first serving finishing the olive oil from the salads. I did mention that this was our first meal of the trip, yes? We were cognizant that we would likely consume gelato serving number four of the day(!) shortly after dinner......so we ordered dessert to share. More often than not, crème brûlée is served in a thin flat dish to optimize the brûlée portion of the dessert. Not at da Carla. It was in a deeper bowl, which emphasized the supreme eggi-ness of the custard, with a perfect brûlée on top. A little rustic like everything else at this homey joint, and you'll soon wish this was home. Venice, Corte Contarina, 1535 (off Frezzeria) , Phone: 041 523 7855

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