Osteria Al Cantinon: hidden corner of Venice
First day of February 2021 and the Veneto Region is back in the Yellow Zone!
What does it mean for Venice? Simple: a little more freedom.
We can move without restrictions around our lovely region, between 5 am till 10pm, kids are back to school, many museums will soon reopen during week days, many bars and restaurants will reopen for lunch.
It is not a “Olly olly oxen free!” for all situation: it is not all back to normal! But it might be the beginning of it!
So, now it is the time for me to start writing again of the beautiful places that are waiting for you when you will finally get back to Venice.
Ah, and stay tuned because I am in the middle of organizing a big virtual event in the city for March/April (Covid-19 restriction allowing)!
This time I would like to introduce you to a lovely place I discovered just before Italy went on the second lockdown, in Fall 2020.
Where to find passion in food in Venice
What inspires you the most when choosing a restaurant? What is the essential element you are looking for in a perfect dinner or lunch?
The atmosphere? The quality of the products used? The refinement in the presentation of the dishes? The gastronomic tradition?
Personally for me it is a mix of all the elements listed above with the addition of one, the most important: the unique personality of the chef!
What if I told you that there is a restaurant in Venice that combines everything I have listed and that, moreover, offers a very romantic and exciting location?
Osteria Al Cantinon is located just behind Campo della Maddalena, hidden in a portico, along the bank of a small canal, away from the confusion of Strada Nova, the main road that leads from the train station to Rialto.
The place is not very large: under normal circumstances there are thirty-four seats; these days, only twenty, but well organized in the context of an intimate and romantic atmosphere, memory of the ancient Venetian taverns, with a non-negligible added value: the tables outside, along the canal, perfect location for a lunch in the open air or, when you can again, for a romantic dinner with a view.
Serghei Hachi, Russian, and his wife Lucia, Moldovan, both young but in Italy for decades, took over the Osteria Al Cantinon in February 2020, after managing for years the Osteria Al Giorgione in Venice and Il Bistrot Al Lido.
Chef for over 19 years, Serghei comes from fusion and “extreme” cooking experiences, as he defines them, but with Al Cantinon he decided to return to a traditional cuisine, to be closer to the residents. In fact, during lunch it is always possible to sit near some gondolier or some shopkeeper enjoying a nice plate of fish of the day with a nice glass of wine.
The cuisine of the Osteria Al Cantinon, however, offers also many innovative touches, with clear influences from Eastern Europe and the French cuisine, given by Serghei’s stays in various European countries. But his focus is only one: total freedom of use of local products, with little or no processing, but above all, without covering the true flavor of the ingredients.
A return to authentic Venetian quality cuisine, with fish that comes directly from the Rialto market and vegetables from Sant’Erasmo and the Venetian hinterland.
I had proof of it a few months ago, with a friend, for lunch.
We were greeted warmly by Serghei and Lucia: he was super busy in the kitchen, while Lucia was managing the dining room and reservations as well as the wine cellar. Their wine selection probably boasts 90% of Veneto and Friulian wines, with some labels from other regions. The bottles were well arranged in the beautiful bottle holder at the entrance and only from small quality producers.
Because quality above all is the priority at Al Cantinon, whether it is the ingredients or the service.
A great meal in Venice
Being a beautiful sunny day, when it was still possible to eat outside, we chose a table along the canal, so as to maintain both the social distance, but at the same time, enjoy the view!
After a look at the menu, we followed Lucia’s advice and took a glass of Garganega di Piovene Porto Godi: fresh and fruity.
We started with an appetizer consisting of a seared Mullet on chestnut cream, with Treviso radicchio and courgette flowers. An excellent combination of sea and autumn: the lean, digestible and nutrient-rich mullet meat was perfectly balanced with the sweetness of chestnuts and the bitterness of radicchio. An unexpected but tasty combination: despite having very contrasting flavors, the combination of fish and chestnuts in a single dish enhanced a totally innovative dish, created with seasonal and local products.
The best chefs allow their personality and creativity to shine through in every dish they create, just like Serghei.
For a second course, Lucia recommended an Octopus cooked at low temperature on a cream of celeriac, broccoli and mushrooms. Seasonality is central to Serghei’s cuisine, so of course the dish was created with typically autumnal ingredients and unusual combinations. Very generous portions and an octopus with a unique and intense flavor, cooked to perfection.
While we were enjoying our lunch, the gondoliers continued to parade along the adjacent canal and after having “parked” their gondola, they all entered to stop for lunch at Al Cantinon.
We finished with two desserts: a small 72% dark chocolate cake with caramelized pears and aniseed and the classic tiramisù.
The word divine does not do justice to the cake: chocolate and pears, a perfect combination, experimented over and over again in kitchens all over the world, but with the addition of anise, an oriental touch given by a spice widely used in historical Venetian cuisine. The tiramisu was very delicate.
From the whole menu and the quality of the dishes tasted, the deep-rooted passion that Serghei has for his job shines through. A passion that began at the age of eleven, when he wanted to come to Italy to eat a nice plate of real spaghetti, made “As God intended”.
It is always nice when you meet a great chef who wants to make people happy through his food. And you are definitely leaving happy after a gastronomic experience at Osteria Al Cantinon!
For more great restaurants and food places in Venice, see my section Where to Eat in Venice!0