Al Covo is my favorite restaurant in Venice and no trip is complete for me without at least one meal there. Handsome, chef-owner Cesare Benelli from Venice is excited about cooking local ingredients, his wife Diane Rankin from Texas are hyper-enthusiastic professionals. Cesare is my maestro of Venetian seafood, pointing out local check out Venetian seafood and learned about local ingredients and traditions. I've peeled schie with the staff, Cesare is excited about cooking and it shows. He works with super-fresh fish, Latini pasta, fantastic extra virgin which, he correctly insists, is better suited to seafood than butter.
Start your meal with a selection of appetizers like mantis shrimp or schie, grey shrimplets that are simply dressed with extra virgin to understand the unadorned grace of Venetian seafood preparations--no sauce or lemon to interfere with the sweet fresh flavors. Boned sarde in saor, ethereal whipped cod, and stuffed mussels are usually part of the course. Pasta with carpet shell clams, light fish soup, potato gnocchi sauced with tomato, and pasticcio baked pasta with a creamy cream-less fish filling are among the fantastic starters. Deep-fried crispy, greaseless bites of Dublin bay prawns, soft-shelled crabs, tiny cuttlefish are first-rate. Monk-fish is baked with mushrooms, radicchio or artichokes, depending on the season. Diane's desserts, chocolate cake, pear tart with grappa sauce and cookies are worth saving room for. The wine list is spectacular, well-price, studded with bargains that invite enophiles to drink big. Check out the lesser-known wineries that Cesare discovers at the VinItaly wine fair.
At lunchtime there's a short menu of cicchetti tid-bits, a wonderful option for those who don't want 2 full meals a day but want to sit down for something tasty.
Ristorante Al Covo, campiello della Pescaria, Castello 3968,tel. 041-522-3812,
closed Wednesday, Thursday
September 27, 1996