Incredible food experience in Venice
UPDATE: AS OF NOVEMBER 2021, ZANZE XVI HAS BEEN AWARDED ONE MICHELIN STAR.
This came after meeting many people who were so disappointed after their visit to the city and their food experiences while they were here. So I embarked on a mission: to show the world that Venetian cuisine was not only good, but exceptional, if you just knew where to go and taste it!
Why am I telling you this?
Simple, because you would think that after 13 years in tasting and testing food for you, I will not get easily impressed when eating out, having tried most of the good restaurants here.
Well, not all of them, of course, and yes, I do not get easily impressed, but when I do, oh boy, am I going to tell you about it!
So, grab that cup of coffee or tea, put your feet up and read on about my next food expedition in Venice!
How I ended up eating at Zanze
Running a restaurant in Venice in any era is a herculean task: the logistics of a city on water, the high rental prices and the different kind of people who pass through the city.
People love eating out and trying the local cuisine, and recently, in Venice, a few contemporary casual restaurants have emerged. Some of them simply stand out for their excellent ingredients, wine pairings, concept, ambiance, eco-friendly protocols, and unique healthy food options featuring fusion cuisine
And, occasionally, an X factor that gives a place its own particular spirit.
I am usually the one who does the interviews, but every so often some journalist asks for my opinion on this or that topic on Venice. So a couple of month ago Martina Tallon, Italian journalist and food blogger, interviewed me for an article she was writing for Corriere del Veneto/ Corriere Della Sera about the best places for cicchetti, aperitifs and dinners in Venice. One of her questions was which restaurant I would have loved to try out next and was still missing from my list.
Well, it took me a nanosecond to reply: Trattoria Zanze XVI.
The interview was published, I shared it in my various social medias and then I totally forgot about it. That is until a few days later, when I received an email from Zanze XVI inviting me for dinner, just like that.
Turned out, my dear friend Marisa Convento had posted on her Instagram stories a screenshot of the article with the word “My friend Monica is not asking for the moon”, tagging the restaurant in the post.
Skip a few weeks, mid July 2021, and Marisa and I are sitting along Fondamenta dei Tolentini, tucked away in the sestiere di Santa Croce, sipping on a cool sparkling glass of white wine, watching the boats and gondolas go by, waiting to start on one of the best food experiences of my life!
Trattoria Zanze XVI in Venice
Trattoria dalla Zanze has been a city landmark where local Venetians and people passing by have been eating since the end of the sixteenth century.
In 2015, after more than 500 years of service, it closed down. But in 2017, Nicola Dinato, starred chef (Two Forks on the Gambero Rosso guide) and pulsating soul of the Feva restaurant in Castelfranco Veneto, together with his partner Nicola Possagnolo, digital strategist and founder of the Paduan tech company Noonic as well as a great passionate about food, reopened Zanze XVI, bringing back the typical conviviality of Venetian taverns and mixing it with haute cuisine.
It is a small restaurant, with just 30 seats, furnished in an essential and contemporary way with wooden tables, soft lights and a small open view kitchen. Few outdoors tables also along the Fondamenta.
The restoration has kept the panels on the walls, used to protect the walls in case of “high water”, as well as the marble floor and the ceilings in wooden beams; the exposed brick walls have been decorated up to a certain height with Venetian marmorino in a very delicate gray: a modern note that contrasts well with the past, which can be perceived, from the bricks and the ceiling. The tables in beautiful wood are often made with ancient bricole, the wooden poles that indicate the waterways in the lagoon.
A small, contemporary, tavern run by young people, offering an informal setting and a tasting menu in which the dishes are created by the chef based on the best products available daily and that come from trusted local vegetable gardens and producers.
A 7-course meal at Zanze XVI
On our arrival we got to choose if eating out or inside and since it was a beautiful summer evening, we opted to sit by the canal.
And that is all we got to choose, since the whole food experience had been planned as a total surprise: a seven-course dinner, completely in the hands and whims of the chef and the available ingredients.
So we started with a homemade Focaccia with sourdough and oregano, a proper course in itself.
Focaccia uses more yeast, which gives it a lighter, fluffier texture than traditional bread dough. This sourdough focaccia had a chewy and soft interior and a deliciously crispy exterior. We had to force ourselves and stop eating it, otherwise we would not have been able to carry on with the rest of the meal.
The first course was a warm Minestrone, which recalled minestrone only by its name, since the actual dish was a center of diced vegetable, cooked but kept slightly crunchy to enhance their taste and maintain their nutritional values. Served on a green curry sauce base, with smoked buffalo mozzarella, comfit tomato, toasted sunflower seeds and basil, topped with achiote powder.
Divine? Absolutely, and a perfect starter!
The sommelier decided to pair this part of meal with a sparkling white wine from Trentino Alto Adige, called Vulcanite Piffer by Neno Produttori d’Elite.
A champenoise method, 24 months on its own yeasts, called Vulcanite because the grape grows on volcanic soils. A wine with a bright straw yellow color and a very fine perlage. On the nose it expresses fruity and floral aromas, with hints of vanilla and pastry.
Marco Polo Meets the Orient at Zanze XVI
As second course we tried Zanze’s version of Laksa, a curry and coconut milk soup base from Malaysia.
A dish where Marco Polo met the Orient: a Malaysian inspired sauce with coconut, turmeric and ginger with a leek stew in the center, with grilled baby octopus, olive crumble, yogurt and parsley sauce, crunchy green beans and paprika oil.
Chef Stefano Vio, born in 1988, has worked all over the world, especially in Asia and South America and this has led him to combine Oriental and Latin cuisine with local Venetian tradition. And trust me, this was only the beginning!
The third course made its entrance and it was none other than a very typical Venetian dish: Pasta e Fagioli. Or so we thought!
But since nothing is typical or simple at Zanze, this Pasta e fagioli was made with rigatoni Benedetto Cavalieri sitting on a Borlotto bean cream, mussel ragù, basil sauce, mussel powder.
The chef called it Cozzabushi inspired by Katsuobushi, the Japanese dried fermented fish – cozza in Italian means mussel.
What can I say: I told you I do not get easily impressed, but after three courses both Marisa and I could not stop going: Wow!
We tried another wine: Cercanome Marche Bianco Tomassetti, an organic white Verdicchio from the region of Le Marche. On the nose floral and almond hints alternate with a marked iodized note, giving the sip consistency and personality.
For the fourth course Marco Polo returned to Venice and we tried Zanze’s risotto that is a risotto creamed with Baccalà Mantecato and topped with yogurt powder. If you think this is a simple dish, think again: first you have to get the best quality dried cod, soak it for at least 48/72 hours, then you have to prepare it perfectly and only then you can prepare you risotto, which must be cooked al dente!
A very subtle and delicate dish, compared to the previous courses, but probably one of my favourite.
More dishes to try
We kind of were quite happy to finish with that, but forward came the fifth course: a Japanese Chawanmushi proposed in a Venetian style, with a celery cream base, grilled cuttlefish, cuttlefish black ink cream, diced fresh celery and piece of celery, fermented with the typical Korean method, kimchi, all completed with nori seaweed.
I must admit this was the only dish that I would not order again, but that is my personal taste. I found it tasted too much of celery and the combination with the kimchi was not to my liking. But this is very personal, since the Umami taste is a very particular flavor.
The sixth course consisted of a Sea bass grilled on the barbeque, with grilled broccoli sitting on polenta mousse with black garlic powder, glasswort, moleverde broccoli sauce, lime and coriander.
Absolutely my favourite dish of the evening: the crunchy grilled skin of the sea bass was incredible and the flesh was cooked to perfection and it tasted nearly sweet, it was so good! And it was so nice to find the glasswort featured in the dish! It is a local herb from the lagoon of Venice that I love.
The whole incredible food experience ended with the last course, the dessert: a carrot cake with mascarpone cream, white chocolate, oat biscuit, candied rhubarb, bread ice cream, Tonka bean with yogurt powder and passion fruit sauce.
One of the most delicious desserts I have ever tasted: the most wonderfully creamy ice cream ever. The combination of all the ingredients was so perfectly balanced, I literally had to stop myself from licking the plate!
The dessert was paired with a Villa Puri 2004 wine, called Lunico, from the Bolsena Lake in the Lazio Region, a lake of volcanic and tectonic origin. It is the largest volcanic lake in Europe.
This wine at the sight is a deep straw yellow with golden reflections. The nose is intense, with notes of ripe fruit such as apricots, figs, bananas and honey; excellent salinity and great persistence.
We loved it!
The X Factor of Zanze XVI
Kudos to all the staff: highly prepared, totally professional but without being too formal or uptight, on the contrary, all ready to give clear explanations of the dishes with a nice and kind disposition. And trust me it takes a great memory and preparation to list all the ingredients and the different cooking techniques used by the chef of the dishes that were presented.
The staff is made up of a group of young people in love with their profession who tell the city that hosts them in an original and innovative way.
You can pick your dishes from the à la Carte menu, but my suggestion is to choose one of the two tasting menus: Taste of Venice and Anima and let the chef surprise you!
If you want to treat yourself to a special evening in Venice, absolutely this is the place to go!