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Second Impressions…

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I visited Venice for the first time in January 2008. It was misty, cold, and quite dreary, but you could imagine what the city would look like bathed in a sunny glow. That vision became a reality today as my train crossed over the bridge. As the sun filtered through the many canals and Murano glass shops, I hurried to my hotel to get ready for my cooking lesson: a second visit to Ristorante Avogaria.

Venice is an intricate maze of narrow streets and bridges, and I’m convinced that even the locals tote around a map to confirm their way back home at night. I inquired with my hotel about how to get to Dorsoduro (where the restaurant is), but in true Kyle fashion, I bucked their advice and decided to blaze my own trail. I know what you’re all thinking…I walked so far in the wrong direction that I ended up in Mestre. Wrong! I actually arrived at the restaurant an hour early, took stock of the gorgeous place where I had dinner over two years ago now, and was whisked back to the kitchen to begin cooking.

On the menu today was Ravioloni di Pasta Fresca Caripieni di Burratta e Branzino con Sughetto di Crostacei and Pennette Limon con Pecorino Romano e Lievito Biologico. In case you don’t have your Italian dictionary handy, those dishes are large raviolis stuffed with sea bass and burratta cheese with langoustines in a cream sauce, and baby penne with a pecorino romano lemon sauce with yeast. For a blip in time, I had a flashback of yesterday when Francesco said we would be making homemade pasta for the ravioloni. My arms began to throb, and my back began to ache, but in the end, it was fine because this pasta recipe was a fast-forward version of yesterday’s activities, and he handled all of it. The recipe differed slightly in that we used both semolina and 00 flour, and mainly the yolks of the eggs to make the pasta a sunny yellow color. It was quick, easy, and while it chilled in the fridge before we slid it through the pasta machine, we got to work on the rest of our lunch.

We beheaded and filleted the sea bass (okay, he did), and sautéed it in some olive oil before shredding it up delicately (and checking for eye bones) to add to the burratta for the stuffing. We also cleaned the langoustines, zested and juiced a lemon, sampled some amazing pecorino romano cheese, and discussed our Salice Salentino Rosso wine. It’s a blend of Negroamaro and Malvasia grapes, and has notes of plum and blackberry with a bit of spiciness. It was great with the cheese.

Francesco moved about the smallish kitchen while I feverishly scribbled down notes, and took pictures. The lemon pasta tasted like a savory version of Lemonheads (sidebar: I love Lemonheads) and elicited a silent reaction from me…because I was so busy shoving my face full of the lemony masterpiece. And the ravioloni were a close second. The sea bass flavor was subtle, the burratta silky, and after we plucked them off their ravioloni rafts, the langoustines tasted like lobster.

Perhaps you’re wondering how I scored the opportunity for a backstage pass at Avogaria. I wish I had some dramatic answer, like I purchased a scratch card on Ryanair and won the afternoon with the chef, but the truth of the matter is quite simple: I just asked. Francesco remembered me from two years ago when I dined in their restaurant, so when I told him about Culinary Hopscotch and told him I would love for the Venice edition to include Avogaria, he graciously offered to have me as their guest. My second impression of the restaurant was better than the first. It’s off the well-worn tourist path, and the food that comes out of Francesco’s kitchen paints the perfect picture of Venice. It’s light, it’s tempting, and like the jagged streets of this picture-perfect city, there is a surprise at every turn.

Ristorante Avogaria 

Next Stop: Ljubljana

One response »

  1. This is amazing Kyle! Your pictures are so awesome too. You are doing a great job of writing it all up. I feel like I'm right there with you. (And wishing I was, too!) It's pretty hard work you are doing…really. Trying to learn how to cook, take notes, take photos, enjoy the experience and then write it all up, with great metaphors, adjectives, etc. Impressive! Please keep it up!


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