Debt in Venice

Sun, 07/24/2005 - 00:00
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This looks like a good place to sit...
photo by Alan C. Robles

Now the slices are large triangles and cost anywhere between 1 and 3 Euros depending on where you buy them and the toppings. The variety is alluring and dizzying: my favorites are Margherita (tomatoes) farcita (ham, mushrooms, olives and artichokes) and tonno e cipolle (tuna and roasted onions).

One or two slices, washed down one with a canned soda or bottled fruit juice while sitting on the steps of some church, should see you through lunch -- and you'll find other thrifty tourists doing the same. There are three pizzerie I like: one is behind the Frari cathedral on the Salizada San Roco; the second is the hole in the wall on the Sacca Toletta near the Accademia (it's done so well it's now actually got tables), the third is right in the market near the Rialto bridge. Cross over from the San Marco side, keep walking straight down Parangon street and it will be that place to your right where hungry customers are clustered, pointing at slices.

If you feel you can devour a whole pizza, the best place to get them boxed for take-out is at Campo San Margherita, a huge open air space where the Venetians actually outnumber the tourists. This is a place popular with students; it has lots of restaurants, shops, a market and a grocery tucked away around the corner. Near the music academy across the bridge from the Accademia the Snack Bar San Stefano is a sit-down pizzeria, but one pizza with a soda and espresso could cost you 16 Euros.

And try the cuttlefish spaghetti
photo by Alan C. Robles

One big plus for a sit-down lunch is you can pick your scenery. There are several "floating restaurants" along the Zattere where you can eat and stay as long as you want. Conveniently, Gelateria Nico, which has good ice cream, is right nearby. Take a seat, admire the view, order Spaghetti al nero di seppie -- pasta blackened with cuttlefish ink.

That plus a beer, espresso and gelato can set you back almost 30 Euros. But the food is good, the view spectacular, the waiters friendly. Just watch it: after one lunch, I asked for an espresso but one of the scoundrels artfully misunderstood me and brought me a tiramisu instead. It was just 2 Euros more, so I forgave him. And I stayed until 4 pm, sitting with one of those stupid, happy looks Venice can bring out in a tourist. The women at the other table were being coaxed by one of the waiters to have a cappucino and I was secretly saying, "go on, do it, it's Venice."

And if you really want a nice splurge? Close your eyes, buck up your courage and go for lunch at the Birraria La Corte on the Campo San Polo across from the church. Its al fresco tables are set underneath shady trees. Order a pizza, or pasta, or lamb, take a glass of wine. Shoot the works, have dessert and an espresso. Take your time, enjoy yourself, you'll be at least 40 Euros lighter at the end of everything.

Pay up, walk away contented and, if you had the vino, happily suitably tipsy. What the heck, you could even lurch off and take that 5 Euro vaporetto ride down the Grand Canal. It's late afternoon anyway, the time when sunlight works its magic on Venice. Stick your happy, addled face against the thick plastic window of the vaporetto station just before you board. Is it the alcohol or is Venice really this beautiful? Does it matter?

photo by Alan C. Robles


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