La Colomba – Venice

May 24, 2007

La Colomba is sort of like “21” or Sardi’s in NY; one goes for the tradition, not the cuisine, although the cuisine can be surprisingly good. Our dinner on May 19, 2007, was our fifth time at La Colomba, the first was in 1983, and it did not seem to have changed one bit. Opened in 1946, it had an artistic clientele. Like its namesake in St-Paul-de-Vence, La Colombe d’Or, it accepted art as payment for meals; the art isn’t at the same level here, but there is a Picasso, a Chagall, a Morandi etc. They are displayed all around the main dining room, many of them with dove motifs. The valuable ones have been replaced with reproductions, but the effect is unique and lovely. The ambience is enhanced by suitable, calm period music. 

We were served a glass of prosecco right away and felt like we were where we belong. We discussed the menu and the specials with the friendly waiter. After four nights of fish, seafood and white wine, we decided to have red wine and a meat main course and so ordered a 2001 Banfi Brunello di Montalcino; fortunately they were out of it and so offered us the 2000, a better year, at the same reasonable price. ac1.jpg

The waiter brought bigger wine glasses and then went through the traditional Italian decanting routine. He poured a small amount of the wine into one of the glasses, then from that glass into the next glass and finally into the decanter, swirling it each time. The wine was delicious.

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The amuse-gueule was small shrimp on greens with olive oil.

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Linda started with an excellent risotto of small scampi and artichokes.

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My starter was the evening’s dramatic and delicious special: spaghetti with lobster, cherry tomatoes and a light tomato sauce.

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Linda went on to the duck breast with little vegetables and fresh peas on the side.

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My main course was on the menu as suckling pig, but I think it was just sautéed pork loin. It was served with a chestnut purée and a little salad of chopped sweet Sicilian oranges. The combination worked well, but the dish was nothing special. I had a plate of seasonal white and green asparagus on the side.

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As the portions had been quite big, we skipped dessert, but a plate of four delicious chocolate mignardises was brought. It is usually a mistake to order meat instead of fish or seafood in Venice. That was the case here. If we had followed the waiter’s suggestion for the main course, the evening’s special of swordfish with peas, we probably would have been happier. 

Our total bill was 260 €. Of course, most tourists can easily find less expensive restaurants nearby; we could see they were packed as we walked past La Fenice, the rebuilt opera house, and over little canals to our dinner. And for those who don’t mind paying more it is obviously not trendy, either among the locals or among guidebook-following tourists, to go to La Colomba nowadays. The two dining rooms were only half full on a Saturday night. But there were two private rooms with groups of about twenty dining. I couldn’t tell if they were from the hotel group which owns La Colomba now or were local people. We would plan to keep going back when we are in Venice. The ambience and tradition are exceptional. If we hadn’t misordered our main courses, we would have had a very fine meal.  

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