During my most recent trip to Venice I had two objectives. The first was to explore the lagoon, getting out of the main city of Venice to visit some of the lesser known islands far from the hoards of tourists. I’ll be telling you more about that later.
My second objective was in some senses easier, but in other ways more difficult. I wanted to finally visit some of the restaurants that for whatever reason I’d been avoiding. I always have a working list of places that will most likely eventually make it into my apps or blog. These are places that I’ve read about on various forums and/or that friends and locals have recommended. The places on my list this time around were the leftovers. That for various reasons never got ticked off my list year after year. Dalla Marisa was one of those. Just a bit off my beaten track, this time around I planned my day around visiting its slightly out of the way location and was very glad I did.
Trattoria La Zucca, situated in the more centrally located Santa Croce neighborhood has been at the top of my ‘to do’ list for years. I’d even gone so far as to reserve there, and then cancel at the last minute. Why? Even though it makes the list of top recommended restaurants by a lot of people, every time I read a description of the food it sounded just a bit too…..heavy? Which is strange since one of the main things it has going for it is i’s focus on vegetables. Yet almost all the reviews mentioned dishes that were baked, and it all just sounded too late 1970’s Vegetarian Restauranty for my tastes. Even the photos I’d seen of the wood paneled interiors looked a little chalet-like for my idea of a Venetian restaurant.
This time around though I finally made it there. Emma and I found refuge from this summer’s heatwave for lunch one day, eschewing the charming (but way too hot) canal side tables for the dimly lit (and welcomely air conditioned) back room.
As it turns out I was right about most of my preconceptions. The food does feel a bit dated, as if one of their main sources of inspiration was the original Moosewood cookbook. And the interiors do feel a bit like I should be drinking spiced wine after a particularly vigorous downhill run. But despite all of this? The food was really good.
Although they weren’t serving their signature Pumpkin Ravioli that day, we stuck with the zucca theme and ordered both the Saor di Zucca e Melanzane and the Flan di Zucca con Ricotta Stagionata .
The Saor di Zucca was a welcome change from the usual fishy saor that I was used to. Slices of pumpkin and eggplant were fried, drained and then dressed with a sweet and sour dressing, that included lots of pine nuts and raisins. The Flan di Zucca was fluffy and light, and topped with an abundant dusting of ricotta salata which offset the natural sweetness of the pumpkin perfectly. The toasted pumpkin seeds provided a bit of crunch.
Since there was a heat wave going on we just ordered a couple of side dishes to complete our meal. Braised artichoke hearts were done perfectly and a plate full of frigitelli peppers were pan fried and then drizzled with a yogurt hummus dressing. Not at all Veneitan, or even Italian, but very good none-the-less.
Somehow Emma convinced me that we needed dessert, so there was tiramisu as well.
If you’re looking for a typical Venetian trattoria this is not it. While they have a few meat dishes, there is no fish in sight. But if you’re looking for a change of pace, and a lot of vegetables, then La Zucca hits all the right buttons. Even if those buttons are from 1979.
Santa Croce, 1762, Venice
Open for lunch and dinner. Closed Sunday.
For more information on dining in Venice and Italy download my app, EAT ITALY. EAT ITALY is a free app, and contains guides to Venice, Milan, Rome, Umbria and Florence (and an ever expanding list of regions and cities) available as in-app purchases for both iPhone and iPad.