And sometimes you just want to sit down and have a good meal, without spending oodles of money. It’s oddly difficult to do the latter in Venice. Most of the places that people talk and write about are either fancy (expensive), creative (expensive) or just special (expensive).
Alberto is nothing ‘special.’ It is simply an unassuming, relaxed restaurant located between Campo San Giovanni e Paolo and my favorite church in Venice, the Santa Maria dei Miracoli. It’s not new, and you’re not going to find any modern twists on classics. Instead – especially if you go at lunch – you’re likely to find regulars (tourists and well as locals) tucking into heaping plates of the daily pasta.
The small, cozy, timber-beamed cielings make the rooms warm and inviting. The glass case at the entrance displays a large and tempting assortment of cichetti: polpette di manzo (meat balls), fried vegetables and fish; bacala manticato (pureed bacala) and – in the winter – museto (cooked sausage).
You can stand up at the counter and enjoy these goodies with a glass of wine. Or else arrive at lunch or dinner and sit down at one of the wooden tables for a full meal. Primi usually include spaghetti alle seppie nere (squid ink pasta); spaghetti alla busara (scampi) but make sure you listen to the daily specials. The day I was there I was unfortunately alone, otherwise I certainly would have done what every other table was doing: ordering the day’s risotto of scampi for two. (I almost ordered it anyway, since my pants were pretty stretchy)
The main courses are straightforward, and heavy on the bacala, including (for people like me who can never make a decision) bacala three ways: mantecato, alla vincentina and in umido. If you don’t feel like fish, their fegato alla veneziana is excellent.
My most recent meal started with a classic: sardine in saor. Lightly fried sardines smothered in a sweet and sour mix of onions and raisins. The second course, spaghetti alla Busara was a tangle of spaghetti piled high with plump scampi, still in their shell. And yes, I ended up attacking them with my hands and making a totally delicious mess.