breakfast in Venice
Forget finding a place to sit in a European café -- standing at the bar is where it's at. The food and drink is significantly cheaper and that's where the action is.
But a sugar and caffeine diet demands its due a couple of hours later. By mid-morning, I was ready for my mid-lunch. We were wandering near Piazza San Marco when we found an All’Arco. A tiny osteria, no seating, serving up mini sandwiches, stacked on plates on the counter.
the Osterian at All'Arco
Starving, I ordered a vegetarian panini from the Osterian. I am not sure what to call this character - he's making sandwiches in a tiny osteria, but he's not a minimum wager. He's likely the owner, or maybe the chef, but he's more than that even. He's a performer, moving with grace and style on his stage behind the counter. He takes my urgent order with panache. I'll call him the Osterian.While I waited for that I snarfed down a tiny tuna and tomato sandwich on a crunchy ciabatta roll. The texture of the crunch was perfect and a sense of culinary bliss overcame me.
Locals, all men, stood around eating, talking and drinking. Everyone was drinking wine. I know. It's only morning. And I am pretty sure it was mid-week, so it wasn't any kind of Sunday brunch boozing.
A cluster of people next to me ordered Prosecco. Why not! Celebrate happy hour any time of the day. The Osterian asked if we wanted something to drink. "Acqua," I said. "Acqua! How about some wine?" Clearly they needed to finish off the Prosecco and clearly we need some to accompany the panini down to my stomach. When in Venice, drink Prosecco.
As in the rest of Italy, most of the sandwiches include varieties of sliced pig by the names: prosciutto, bresaola, crudo. So anytime there’s something non-meat, I want to know what it is.
Behind the counter pan of some kind of sautéed vegetable. Fennel? Onions? No. Radicchio. I must have that on one of those crusty rolls, too.
When the Osterian has a sandwich ready he holds his arm up straight overhead and shouts something I don't understand. The radicchio and cheese sandwich is as incredible as the others.
The controlled chaos, the careful preparation of the food, the ease with which the osterians flow and I float make this my favorite place of 2009.
Standing there, I imagine opening an osteria just like this one in Denver. Not a chi-chi osteria like the ones in Colorado, but this kind of place - a stand-up, simply delicious, relaxed kind of place. I bask in the fantasy of it while I finish my mid-lunch.
Three tasty sandwiches, two glasses of Prosecco, a ringside spot at the sandwich bar, total satisfaction, cost only 13 euros. The osterians were friendly, explaining what things were (so what if they spoke in Italian and I only understood 50% of it), and I left wishing I could stay and eat all day. If in Venice, make sure to go to All’Arco.