As some of you may have noticed, I’ve been going up to Venice a lot lately. I love Venice, and so it doesn’t take much to get me there. But I hadn’t been in the last year or so, and thought a trip was long due.
That, plus the fact that I’m writing a new app. Yes, EAT VENICE is almost done. So many of you have asked for a Venice version of EAT ROME and EAT FLORENCE, that I figured the time was right. I’m just finishing up the last bits and pieces, and hoping it will hit the App Store in mid January.
Just in case you’re wondering: yes, I do eat in pretty much all the places I write about. So that meant a lot of eating in the last few months. (Loving my Eileen Fisher stretchy pants these days) But I’m also going back and looking at notes of places I’ve been to in Venice over the last few years. And one of the most amazing dining experiences I had was at Venissa.
While I was always planning on including Venissa in Eat Venice, this choice was confirmed a few weeks ago when the restaurant received a Michelin Star.
Venissa is not, strictly speaking, in Venice. The restaurant and attached locanda are located on the island of Mazzorbo. If you’ve never heard of Mazzorbo, don’t worry. Not many people have. It’s a tiny island in the lagoon, connected to Burrano by a bridge. And before Venissa, there really was not much reason to go there. No restaurant, no shops. Just the feeling of having stepped back in time and into a rural agricultural landscape that happens to be in the middle of the lagoon. In other words, the complete flip side of the Venice you know.
Venissa was the brainchild of Bisol, makers of some of the best prosecco and wine in the Valdobbiadene. They won the city of Venice’s competition to run the estate on Mazzorbo, and have turned it into something truly magical. Working together with local agronomists, they have managed to revive one of the oldest vineyards in the Veneto as well as the walled vegetable gardens. Today in addition to the hotel and restaurant, there is also a center for agricultural research, vocational training and an education center.
I had the great pleasure of staying there for two full days. While I love the drama and beauty of Venice, my time on Mazzorbo made me want to buy a house and spend the rest of my life on the lagoon. The combination of being on a farm, but also on the sea, was so magical that it’s hard to describe. I woke up each morning to the sound of a rooster. In the early morning light I walked around the perimeter of the entire island, where if I looked one way I saw old men tending artichoke patches, and if I looked the other I saw fishermen laying out nets.
While the island and the life there is from another century, the restaurant is definitely part of this one. When I was there Paula Budel, the chef, had established a menu that was firmly rooted in the seasonal and local products of the lagoon. Much of the produce came straight from the municipal vegetable garden located right outside the door of the restaurant, or else from nearby San Erasmus to the south. Wild greens, miniscule onions, local fish and seafood, and fresh cheeses all turned into the exquisite dishes that have since earned the restaurant a star.
I would certainly suggest staying at Venissa. The handful of rooms are modern and beautifully designed, but are not super fancy (and so pretty affordable) and give you an opportunity to get to know Mazzorbo. Burrano is only a short walk away, across the charming wooden bridge, and Torcello is easily reached by boat.
If you do stay overnight, the breakfast is one of the best I’ve ever had anywhere, ever. Freshly made pastries and vegetable/fruit juices, heavenly yoghurt and jams made from local berries and fruit.
If you don’t stay at Venissa, but want to experience it anyway, it’s very easy to get to Mazzorbo from Venice. You can come for lunch or dinner, or else just stop by for a drink on your way to Burrano. A glass of Bisol prosecco, some crostini from the kitchen, as you watch the sun set over the field of cabbages and artichokes. What's not to like about that?
Venissa Ristorante Ostello
Fondamenta Santa Caterina, 3,
30170 Isola di Mazzorbo
Tel. +39 041.52.72.281
Fax +39 041.52.72.323
GPS: 45.439639, 12.322887
(Why the GPS? Because if you are cruising around, you can drive your boat directly to their dock)
For more information about eating in Venice download my app, EAT VENICE, available at iTunes.