Here’s a recap of previous posts and a list of what’s upcoming for our recent trip to Italy.
- United Airlines To Rome
- St. Regis Rome
- Osteria 44
- Photo Essay of Angels & Demons
- A Quiet Meal At Cul de Sac
- Trevi Fountain (Semi) Closed For Business
- A Fast Train To Venice
- Tips For Sightseeing In Rome
- St. Regis San Clemente Island, Part 1
- St. Regis San Clemente Island, Part 2
- Hotel Danieli
- Antico Pignolo
- A Quick Trip To Murano
- How To Ride The Vaporetto (Water Bus) In Venice
- Getting Lost In Venice
- British Airways 787 Flight Home
Venice is a city with a number of highly acclaimed restaurants though it’s specifically not known for being a culinary hotspot. And, traveling with kids doesn’t generally lend itself to long, leisurely meals. We had kept our meals short throughout the trip, which ultimately meant compromising on quality a few times. The only saving grace there is that as long as you avoid the tourist traps on the main drag you can generally still get a really good meal. And, most of the tourist traps are still better than run-of-the-mill Italian in the US.
But, my wife and I couldn’t go back to Venice without a return to Antico Pignolo.
A brief recap on why it’s special for us. It was a recommendation for us the first time we ever went to Venice. It’s definitely not in the thick of the tourism areas, though it’s not too long of a walk from San Marco Square. On our previous visit, we were seated at a quiet table in an enclosed courtyard and enjoyed a fabulous meal. We were invited by the sommelier (who was named Achilles, no joke, and built like a fire plug) to go upstairs to see their wine cellar. It turned into one of those surprise magical dinners that we weren’t expecting and we both remember it fondly. I’ve had a card from the restaurant in my passport holder for years, so it was a must for our return. While I’m sure eating inside is fine, you definitely want to ask for a table in the courtyard.
Rarely are sequels as good as the original, but our second time around was a solid meal that the kids enjoyed as well. The wine list at Antico Pignolo is massive and has 20-year verticals of some awesome wines. The great thing is that the list also contains wines for virtually all price points. There are wines by the glass that are affordable and match well with certain entrees, bottled wine at every price point imaginable up into the thousands of dollars (no, the bottle we chose cost nowhere near that much). We did get a little lucky on our wine selection, though. We picked a bottle out that wasn’t too pricey but was something we hadn’t tried in the past. It was supposed to be a bottle from 2003 and should have aged really well. When the bottle came to the table it had the requisite amount of dust you might expect for something being in a wine cellar for over a decade. After cleaning the label up a bit, I pointed out to the waiter that the bottle was from 1993, not 2003. I wanted to clarify I wasn’t buying some obscenely expensive bottle since it was older than what we had ordered. As luck would have it, this bottle was inventoried as a 1998, a mistake by someone years ago. So, they sold it to me for the advertised price of the 2003 with the agreement that if it was no good they would take it back.
I don’t drink many 20-year old bottles of wine, but this one was quite good. It was obvious it was a bit past it’s prime but enjoyable nonetheless. The kids enjoyed a steak while Michelle enjoyed some Mediterranean Sea Bass. She and I split a shrimp risotto and I had a veal chop for dinner that was cooked perfectly. As an aside, risotto is just something Italians prepare exceptionally well, certainly better than almost every plate of risotto I’ve had outside of Italy. It was the star of the meal for me (well, except for dessert).
Dessert was a cream puff with fresh fruit and a freshly prepared souffle. Both were absolutely awesome. Catherine especially enjoyed getting her first taste of a souffle as the waiter plated it tableside and she poured a generous amount of chocolate syrup and creme anglaise on top.
Bottom Line It For Me, Ed
I plan to piece together another post on meals and activities around Venice but Antico Pignolo stuck out for us a second time around. It’s a different kind of meal with two kids as opposed to a romantic couple without children, but it’s still a special place. The courtyard is one of the elements that makes it a great place to eat. Most of the al fresco dining in Venice is in crowded areas where you have people walking by. Antico Pignolo takes advantage of the secluded courtyard surrounded by buildings to serve less than a dozen tables a great meal in a quiet setting.
This isn’t what I would regard as a “cheap” restaurant but it’s why I enjoy the miles and points game so much. When airline tickets and hotels are free, springing for one special meal doesn’t hurt nearly as much!
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