Greetings from the road! That's right people I am in Venice, Italy of all places and I've decided to try this blogging from the road thing while on vacation. Though it's a double edged sword since I'm supposed to be relaxing and taking in the sites not staring blankly at a computer screen (with an achingly slow download speed--curse you vodafone!) working my brain around what food I should write about. But happily and both sadly at the same time, while sitting in a trattoria watching people go by, me and the SO (yes he's here too) were enjoying our glasses of wine al fresco looking over the remnants of our so-called dinner with disappoint only moments after musing "can you really get a bad meal in Italy?" And sadly we found out--YES, YES YOU CAN.

It all started as we neared the dinner hour and had been walking around the city all day. There are any number of cafes, ristorantes, trattorias, you name it, that dot the narrow sidewalks of the town. The all pretty much look the same and also all offer pretty much the same. Most of the variation we had seen was in prices. Closer to the tourist areas the higher the prices, of course. We were headed to catch the Vaporetto (that's their version of BART but on the water) back to our hotel but decided to stop and get a bite to eat before hand. Since we were both hungry we went with the first place we saw and this is how it all started.

You can see the name of the place in the picture but to be honest it didn't really matter. When we sat down they were good about getting us some drinks pretty quickly, but I'll chalk that up to the fact that pretty much everyone drinks who lives here and who visits here. I think it's actually required before they will even let you sit down. The SO got a spritz (that's a mix of white wine, soda, Campari and bitter aperol--the forerunner of modern day spritzers--because it hot here) and I got the house white white which was cold and drinkable.

From here it was all downhill as we go. The menu was a book and loaded with pictures, though it's hard to tell if that was for the benefit of the diners or the waiters who spoke little English and it just made it all easier to point and order. Let's face it though, any menu that is mostly pictures is usually a bad sign--yes I'm talking about you Applebee's, Chili's, Denny's, whatever. But we were tired and hungry and did our part by pointing and ordering anyway.

It's fritto misto di mare (basically fried seafood or fried mix of the sea to be exact) and spaghetti al vongole (with clams). Lovely isn't it. For the most part it didn't look bad, but that's about it.

The noodles weren't so much al dente as they were just downright chewy. Sure pasta is supposed to be a tad undercooked but it still remains soft, sadly they didn't quite manage to pull that off here. But at least they weren't alone as the clams, what few we got, were also on the rubbery side. Point of fact there were more shells than actual clams. I haven't seen that many shells on a plate since I used to pick them up off the beach when I was a kid. Those didn't have any clams in them either by the way. And what should have been a light garlic, butter and white wine was more a heavy and dense garlic and olive oil which didn't so much add flavor as just make it all seem greasy.

The mixed fried seafood plate include one large langoustine, some calamari rings, a couple shrimp, a few things we thing were clams but couldn't tell, 2 anchovies and a handful of sardines--all battered and deep fried and served with two slices of grilled polenta. Normally if something if fried I'm all on board with it, but here things were just a bit off. I've always heard that if fish smells fishy then it's probably not good and most of this stank of fishy. The sardines and anchovies--two things you see as pizza toppings most times---were fried whole, bones and all, but there smell and taste was distinctly fish. I won't go near these when I see them on a menu but in the interest of "I'm on vacation let's give it a try" I did oily is the flavor profile I got. The calamari I actually came across 3 rings cooked just right, the rest, not so much. A little chewy and the reason most folks don't like squid. The langoustine I thought would have at least the tail to enjoy but they had miraculously fried out any flavor that had too. Had it even been offered or available I doubt a whole bowl of melted butter would have helped any of these fried creatures.

Then there was the polenta. I had small hopes for this as they serve it as a side with seemingly everything on their menu. Sadly, while it looked correct, it had been charred on a gas grill and somehow had taken on the flavor of the gas. Almost as if they set it on the grill, turned on the gas, then waited a few minutes so it could soak up the flavor before lighting the pilot light. I thought maybe if I just cut off the grill marks it would help, but seems that taste had permeated the whole slice. Normally when things like this go down in the states I'll bring it up with the waiter or whoever, here things work differently, if you mention it to them they just sort of shrug their shoulders like "eh, these things happen" or "oh well, better luck next time" all the while probably muttering stupid tourist under their breath.

I also want to note one thing we've found rather amazing here is that once you ask for the check it usually take 20 minutes or so to actually get it. In the US they'll bring it right away so they can clear the table for more diners. Here, not so much. Kind of funny, they just want you to relax and let your crappy meal settle. Fun times.

Over the years I've travelled many places and to be honest a meal like this is pretty par for the course, you are always going to have something that isn't quite good. They won't all be bad, but some will, just the law of averages and something that is all part of the travel learning experience no matter what country you go to. Ultimately I've found the best way to deal with it is just to drink more. If nothing else you'll end up not really tasting the food and if luck and enough booze is on your side, it will all come up in the morning! Till then happy trails people.