A sensitive, observant English writer in love with La Serenissima takes us out for dinner in a neighbourhood trattoria.
“…a certain humble tavern on the Zattere. It is a quaint, low-built, unpretending little place, near a bridge, with a garden hard by which sends a cataract of honeysuckles sunward over a too-jealous wall… Our way lies under yonder arch, and up the narrow alley into a paved court. Here are oleanders in pots, and plants of Japanese spindle-wood in tubs; and from the walls beneath the window hang cages of all sorts of birds—a talking parrot, a whistling blackbird, goldfinches, canaries, linnets… At the end of the court we walk into the kitchen, where the black-capped little padrone and the gigantic white-capped chef are in close consultation. Here we have the privilege of inspecting the larder—fish of various sorts, meat, vegetables, several kinds of birds, pigeons, tordi, beccafichi, geese, wild ducks, chickens, woodcock, &c., according to the season. We select our dinner, and retire to eat it either in the court among the birds beneath the vines, or in the low dark room which occupies one side of it. Artists of many nationalities and divers ages frequent this house; and the talk arising from the several little tables turns upon points of interest and beauty in the life and landscape of Venice. There can be no difference of opinion about the excellence of the cuisine, or about the reasonable charges of this trattoria. A soup of lentils, followed by boiled turbot or fried soles, beef-steak or mutton cutlets, tordi or beccafichi, with a salad, the whole enlivened with good red wine or Florio’s Sicilian Marsala from the cask, costs about four francs. Gas is unknown in the establishment. There is no noise, no bustle, no brutality of waiters, no ahurissement of tourists. And when dinner is done, we can sit awhile over our cigarette and coffee, talking until the night invites us to a stroll along the Zattere or a giro in the gondola.
John Addington Symonds A Venetian Restaurant, from Italian Sketches: A Venetian Medley, 8 Leipzig, 1884 pp207-208
John Addington Symonds (1840-1893) was a prolific author, and early advocate of gay rights, who spent most of his life in Italy and Switzerland. This book from which this extract is taken can be found on Project Gutenberg.