My main aim in exploring the islands in the Venetian lagoon was to get away from the massive amount of tourists that clog the alleyways of the main part of the city. Heading out to Mazzorbo, Torcello, Burano and beyond was my idea of getting off the beaten track. This usually worked very well. But like anything, timing is essential.
While an island like Mazzorbo remains pretty much empty all day long, Burano is another story. The island used to be home to famous lacemakers, and up until recently most tourists came here to visit workshops and bring home a doily or two. These days I have a feeling that most of the lace is probably coming from Asia. But the island continues to draw its share of tourists because of its unique kaleidoscopic technicolor buildings. The two and three story homes are each painted a distinct and bright color. My understanding is that the locals – who were fishermen – painted their homes so distinctively so that they could see their homes from far out at sea. The tradition still continues (as does the fishing) but in these days of social media sharing, they also provide the perfect backdrop for one-of-a-kind selfies.
It was actually kind of fun to watch people posing. Emma and I followed a few groups of tourists around as they posed in front of almost 20 different buildings. One after the other. In those completely ridiculous selfie poses.
Avoiding the tourists is pretty easy though. Either head to Burano after 4pm (for some reason they all head home in the evening) or else duck into one of the oldest restaurants on the Island: Da Romano.
Even though it was about 100 degrees outside, most of the tourists opted to sit on the blazing outdoor terrace. Instead Emma and I ducked in to the main dining room. Not only was it blissfully cool, it still preserved the ambiance of the original osteria.
The crazy marble terrazzo floors and central columns dated to the last century and the walls are filled with the artwork of the artists who used to exchange their work for meals. Yes, there were tables filled with tourists inside too, but the bar located at the back was populated by locals stopping by for a pre-lunch ombra.
The kitchen is still very much overseen by a nonna and the dishes haven’t changed for decades. Their most famous dish is one that comes from the fishing tradition of the island: Risotto di Pesce. Made from a local, boney fish called go, the broth is delicate and takes a special skill to result in a clear, strong base for the risotto. Don’t be deceived by the blah looking plate of white rice: it is packed with a delicate fishy flavor unlike any other risotto I’ve had.
For my main course I chose the Frittura di Nonna Gigia: a mix of calamari, shrimp and a few little sardines. The lovely idea that made it different was the addition of strips of fried pepper and carrots.
Back outside the tourists were still taking selfies in the by now brutal midday heat. Risotto di pesce doesn’t get as many ‘likes’ I guess. Their loss.
Via Galuppi 221
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