Trattoria al Gatto Nero
By Franz Scheurer
Venice has many faces: trampled tourist Mecca; relic of a grand past; cold, wet, windy winter town; hot and smelly old city in summer; reminder of where we came from and how ingenious mankind can be; and, for some, itís simply the most romantic place on Earth. For us Venice is a peaceful haven free of tourists in early January and if youíre very lucky and the weather is good itís a marvellous place to be. We spent three glorious sun-filled days there this January and on the last day we hired a speedboat and visited Burano. This island is about 45 minutesí boat-ride away and, at this time of the year, it is totally devoid of tourists. What makes the island different is that the locals love colour. Every house is painted in the brightest technicolours imaginable: red or purple is next to electric blue or pink, which might be next to olive green or iridescent yellow. White or black is not to be seen anywhere. Washing hangs out of many of the colourful windows, completing the picture and competing with the maze of colours. It is a quiet fishing village (apart from the colour) and lace is its claim to fame.
Although you can get there by commuter transport I suggest you hire a water taxi and enjoy the ride. Although a little more expensive itís well worth the extra. Once you arrive, explore on foot, try a coffee here and a grappa there and if youíre worried that the clock tower is suddenly leaning a lot then rest assured itís not that last grappa; it really leans. Shannon Bennet from Vue de Monde waxed lyrical about the Trattoria al Gatto Nero located just past the leaning clock tower in the quiet side of town. A small sign out the front tells you youíre at the right place and once inside your nose tells you to stay and eat.
The menu is comprehensive, as is the wine list, but I suggest you listen to Max, the owner, who knows his business and instantly assesses his clientele and their needs. His language skills are remarkable and he speaks English with a heavy Scottish brogue (being married to a lassie from Edinburgh). Let him surprise you and you will be rewarded with terrific food and very agreeable wine.
The salame (mainly prosciutto and one salami) was great, the seafood antipasti superb (octopus salad, octopus braised in seawater, octopus white roe, sea scallop in tomato sauce, clams and mussels with parsley butter, steamed mantis prawn and tiny peeled harbour prawns served on white polenta). We drink an excellent bottle of Soave (chosen by, and especially bottled for, Max). They know how to cook fish, excel with pasta and serve perfectly rested meats. Desserts are competent and simple and the ambience is terrific. This is the place for lunch on a lazy, sunny Sunday!
Once youíre suitably sated call your speedboat driver back for the return trip rather than wait for the vaporetto; sometimes a little extra goes a long way towards making an experience perfect.
Trattoria al Gatto Nero (da Ruggero)
Via Giuadecca 88
Tel.: 041 730120
Erik Tommasini (speedboat driver)
Noleggio in Venezia centro e Lagune