Whenever one is in Italy they always tell you to try the pizza as it is some of the best. Of course, on our recent sojourn to Venice me and the SO have decided to put that to the test by having pizza at least once a day during the time we are here at 4 different spots and see if it is truly better and if you can tell a difference from one place to the other. Ultimately our findings are wholly unscientific and not really based on anything other than--this is the place we chose and let's get some pizza here. In the the grand scheme of things, the places we went don't really matter much as like canals in Venice all you have to do is turn a corner and voila, there's a pizza place. Be it trattoria, ristorante, cafe, whatever, they all pretty much had pizza. Some offered more toppings, some less and so on. Thus I bring you another blog from the road and the great pizza taste test--Venice edition.
Night One: We had just flown in, lost a full day and were raving hungry. We honestly had no clue where to go as we stepped out of our hotel so we headed to San Marco Square (like everyone else) then cut down some side streets and passed by a little place called San Zulian twice before deciding to try it. Concentrating on the pizzas on the menu we got an arugula and parmesan and a mushroom.
Sometimes going simple is the best way to try something, that way it's not loaded down with any fancy toppings or sauces and you can let the basic natural ingredients shine through. And for the most part that is what we got. Thin crust crisp on the outside, though typically soft toward the middle (this was a recurring theme) with a grazing of tomato sauce and a hearty helping of cheese and toppings. The cheese taste more buttery here which for me was a good thing. Earthy mushrooms, tangy parmesan, crisp arugula--who knows maybe we were just really hungry but we both enjoy these pies. Overall I'll give them a B+/A-ish.
Day Two: After a busy morning of wandering the confusing streets and getting our full bearings, we came upon Ristorante El Teatro (the TripAdvisor reviews are mostly spot on for service). It seemed a bit more upscale than we wanted to pay for lunch but looking the menu the pizza prices were decent. (Though they did charge 8 Euro table cover charge just for eating in. Cover charges are something you come across in Europe. Get it to go it's less eat in, you could be subject to it, thing is you never know quite how much it's going to be. Here, that was excessive.)
We got the salsicca (that's sausage) and the shrimp, mushroom and greens--just because it sounded different. The pizzas were larger that average and again thin, crisp on the outside, kind of soggy in the middle. All in all they were okay. The shrimp and mushroom was unusual but kind of worked and they didn't skimp on the shrimp at least. I liked the mushrooms as they tasted like they were sautéed in butter first. The sausage, as you can see, they did seem to cut back on. I get more with two frozen links than I did on this pizza. Overall I'll give them a B+.
Day Three: We had wandered to the out reaches of the city near the ferry terminals and it seemed choices were just a touch limited and we ended up at the this place called Pizzeria OKE . It was near college type school and seemed to draw locals plus some of the ferry boat drivers so we went on the locals like it vibe and gave it a try.
A salsicca, mushroom and provolone and a pesto. These things were huge, the biggest we had gotten, though they suffered the soggy middle much more than the others. The sausage I got this time was more like piles of reddish pink meat that was not all that appetizing, but the mushrooms still had that butteriness I found tasty. The pesto, as you can see, just had splotches of pesto plopped on it and I found it unappealing. The SO mostly said it was okay, which isn't exactly a ringing endorsement. Overall I'll give them a B- bordering on C+.
Day Four: Our last chance to pizza down before heading to Croatia and after killing time wandering around (as by now we'd literally seen everything the guide books had suggested and more. I mean seriously, how many more churches could we go in?) We randomly wandered down this alley and came across this place called Trattoria Aquila Nera and just went in. It was like a sauna inside that place and it must have been really affecting the lady waiting tables as she was NOT in a good mood. But since we had become accustomed to various stages of rude and blasé waiters we stuck it out and stayed.
We got the spinach and ricotta and the basic 4 formaggia (four cheese) pizzas. These were not like the others in one very specific way--the dough was different. The other pizzas seemed to be made of that yellowish semolina flour used predominately around town, but here this was straight up white dough. You could just see and taste the difference. Plus the pizzas were just undercooked, they actually tasted doughy. It had been a rainy morning in Venice and the place was more than average busy so maybe they were rushing the pies through the baking process (?) whatever it was it made for an odd taste and texture. The spinach was actually pre-cooked instead of fresh leaves like you get in SF, but I think we both liked it this way. The four cheese had more gorgonzola so it was quite pungent, not necessarily in a good way. These I will say were the least liked of the lot and overall I'm giving them a generous C. Maybe had them been cooked better they'd have tasted better, but they were what we got.
On a side note to this place. Just when we were about done some guy waltzed into the place like he owned it (which he probably did). He went behind the counter, made himself a drink, then went to the kitchen and came back out with a pizza with mushrooms, eggplant, prosciutto and french fries and proceeded to sit at the table next to us and devour it. Though not before adding his own personal touch of a drizzle of ketchup and mayo across it. As odd as it sounds it was even grosser in person to see it and watch him eat it.
I would also like to point out as I did in my previous post that getting the check at everyone of these places was like pulling teeth. Turning tables doesn't seem to be a priority in Venice, though why'd you want folks just hanging around not buying anything and taking up table space is a mystery I'll never understand.
In summary, I can't say we had great pizza in Venice. I remember in Rome I had some really good ones and the crust was thinner and crispier, almost like a cracker and I had hoped to have that here. Alas it was not to be and while they were thin crust they did suffer the soggy middle syndrome that can affect even the best of pizzas. But let's face it, as I've said before, when pizza is good, it's really good. When it's bad, eh, it's still pretty good. And ultimately when you break it all down it's bread and cheese and that will definitely feed the hunger.