Whenever anyone talks about l’Anice Stellato they first mention how out of the way it is. As if that’s a bad thing. It’s actually one of the things I love about this restaurant, that it’s located way off in a corner of Venice that most tourists don’t bother with: the northern reaches of Cannaregio.
The cozy wood-paneled interior opens right out onto the super quiet Fondamenta della Sensa. There are a handful of tables right on the canal, but the inside is so charming you will probably choose to sit there. That’s where we sat, during a recent visit I made to Venice while working on my latest app EAT VENICE
Fish is the star here, but transformed into creative interpretations of Venetian classics.
Instead of the same old sardine in saor, during a recent visit we enjoyed scampi in saor profumati allo zenzoero e al pepe rosa: litte balls of barely cooked scampi, covered in sweet sour onions, perfumed with ginger and pink peppercorns. Next up was tuna, almost raw , in a crust of hazelnuts and served with a tart red cabbage salad. The crunch of the nuts was a rich and crunchy counterpoint to the tender tuna, and the citrusy salad the perfect acidic balance.
I have to admit it was hard to choose our second course. Everything sounded equally good. We decided to follow the waitress’s advice: “We are very well known for our risotto and fritti”. Well, ok. Twist my arm. I figured we could wait out the twenty minutes that the risotto required. I usually don’t have the patience, but it was Sunday, and lazy and unhurried seemed the right course to take. And there was the prosecco we had ordered to keep us busy….
Very glad I listened to the waitress. The risotto di pesce con scampi, vongole veraci e cozze was one of the best dishes of our trip. Full of fresh, plump seafood and cooked until just al dente in a rich fish broth. Seafood risotto is, I think, one of the most difficult kinds of risotto to get right. So much depends on the broth (which is time consuming to prepare) and the timing of adding the seafood. (how many times have you had a seafood risotto full of hard, over cooked shrimp and mussles?) L’Anice Stellato got it just right.
By the time our Frittura Mista di pesce con le vedurine came we knew what to expect. Since absolutely every other table in the place had ordered it. A massive – yet at the same time incredibly delicate – tangle of baby shrimp, squid and fish, with thin slivers of zucchini, peppers and onions. All coated in batter that was fried perfectly crisp and light.
We were way too full to even consider dessert. But a plate full of anise (of course!) flavored homemade cookies appeared at the table. So we nibbled away, finished our prosecco and just enjoyed the end of a perfect Sunday in Venice.
Fondamenta della Sensa, Venice
For more information about eating in Venice download my app, EAT VENICE, available at iTunes.