So the tourists start to get to me. This is Venice, where it’s tourists galore. (I know I am kinda a tourist, but I am talking about the traditional tourists, the ones who love sightseeing, tacky postcards and taking pictures of non-food/wine objects). So I head away from Piazza San Marco towards the inner part of Venice to seek a refuge from the crowds.
I end up walking through tiny canal lined streets, side alleys, across bridges and I see the people who live here doing their daily thing; washing, going to markets, walking their dogs. Living a normally life, albeit under the backdrop of beautiful canals, boat moorings and stone paths.
I decide to try some traditional wine bars, authentic Venetian style. There are no menus, nothing in English you just pick what you want at the counter (each “crostini” – a tasting canape is only €1.50 and pasta is €5) and they offer glasses of quality wine (Chianti are only €4 per glass) at the counter. This is heavenly, I try three different bars and sample items from anchovy and tuna crostini, authentic meatballs, balls of italian cheese, salted cod, braised octopus, prawns from the Adriatic and amazing bruscetta. It takes a whole afternoon. This is quite the life, beautiful canapes, sipping on wine from the vento region and casting an innocent idyllic gaze at the cute Italian bar maids serving me. I can go into detail on each dish, but I will let the pictures do the talking.
I then move on back to San Marco, feeling relaxed, rejuvenated, ready to deal with the crowds. I find a seat at the bar in my hotel where I enjoy an aperol and campari spritz.
I have to decide on the location of my final dinner in Venice. I choose Harry’s again (see my previous blog for further information on Harry’s). I walk in and ask for a table, I choose the downstairs table next to Mr Cipriani’s traditional table. The menu is brought to me and the lovely waiters (in their white coats) commence fawning over me. I start with a Campari soda, it’s amazing! The bread for the table are brought out, I am also provided with Cipriani’s own olive oil to taste.
Then I look at the menu, I opt for the set menu. I ask if they can change the starter on one of the menu’s to a fish soup. Of course we can, is the response. Here is a place which knows service. At any other restaurant, there would be 101 reasons given to you as to why a set menu can’t be changed, but not at Harry’s.
The fish soup arrives, beautiful creamy soup with succulent pieces of fish from the Adriatic. I try to savour every sip, I rub the fish and the soup on the roof of my mouth and across every tastebud. This is too good to drink it quickly.
Then the Veal Milanese is brought out; a fried cutlet of crumbed veal. The veal is beautiful, although from a health perspective, I prefer the veal I had the other day. The cutlet is oily as you would expect, the but inside the crumbed coating the veal was soft and succulent. I pair it with a carafe of wine from the Vento region.
Then a very old man walks in behind the bar. I recognise him, he looks very much like Mr Giuseppe Cipriani himself (it couldn’t be as Giuseppe is unfortunately no longer with us). The gentleman walks around the bar greeting customers. My waiter confirms it is Mr Cipriani’s son. He approaches me and shakes my hand. I tell him how much I loved this place and about my write-up in the food blog. I tell him it’s the best bar in the world. He says “I agree with you but unfortunately I am not allowed to say it”. I guess it would seem a little biased if he blew his own trumpet.
I then opt for the zaglibone cake for dessert. Simply delightful, moist and creamy. Pure goodness. I finish with a Bellini and another Campari soda. The night rolls on…
I start chatting to the guests sitting beside me, there is one lady (who is in her 60s but looks like she is 40) tells me the place is very special to her. She and her husband live in Switzerland and visit Venice often and she had her 40th birthday in this bar, it’s very special to her. I tell she still looks 40, she is touched and her husband very pleased with the compliment. We continue to chat, we are not fellow customers, we’re a family at Harry’s. When they leave an American couple sit next to me and I tell them the story of Harry’s and my experience here. Then Mr Cipriani approaches them to say hello and they tell him that I had already told them the story of Harry’s and how great it is. A very very modest man, Arrigo tells them what I have said about the history of Harry’s is true, but he tells them don’t listen to part about it being the best bar in the world. I guess I didn’t need to tell them that, they will figure it out for themselves.
I finally decide to call it a night, I get the bill and then make my way to the exit. I bid farewell to Harry’s with tear, a smile, memories and reminder in life that there is no greater way to a customer’s heart than through great service. We are all here to serve one another!
Wow… where is the wine bar at the top with all the great food? looks amazing
Matt. I am actually not sure, most of these bars were nondescript and found in hidden alleyways and side streets.
If I recall correctly the first one you refer to (bit more touristy) is near Il Ridotto restaurant.