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Dorsoduro: Trattoria ai Cugnai

Calle Nuova Sant'Agnese , Phone: 041.528.9238

Reviewed by: kaydee from TN, review #1623

When: 2005

Small family-run restaurant with an appealing menu. Good seafood selection (though the seafood is expensive).

Directions: Between the Accademia Bridge and the entrance to the Guggenheim Museum (on a street filled with shops and eating places)

Trattoria ai Cugnai in Dorsoduro, photo by

We spent a week in Venice based at the Palazzetto da Schio in Dorsoduro. We passed this little trattoria almost every day walking to the Accademia Bridge. They usually had seafood displayed in their window and they had an appealing menu with reasonable prices. Our daughter Kelly doesn’t like fish or seafood at all (I’m not sure she’s ever tried it, other than fish sticks) and Charley doesn’t care for it much, so we don’t eat fish or seafood at home very often, but I absolutely loved it. My family decided that there would be other options for them, so we decided to eat here as a treat for me.

We arrived a bit after seven and fortunately early enough to get a table. (Ideally we should have stopped in earlier in the day to make a reservation.) We were seated at a table for six in the back of one of the two small dining rooms. An American couple was eventually seated with us and we chatted with them for most of the meal.

Early on we found out that they only took cash, and Charley and the other man at our table walked down the street to the cash machine together while we waited for dinner. This was definitely a family-run place. Our waiter was a nice young man with a happy smile who spoke good English. His Italian mama was really running things. An accordionist we’ve seen performing out on the streets came inside and played for a while. It seemed just perfect to hear "Arrivederci Roma" on the accordion while we were eating our Italian meal in the little family trattoria.

I got carried away on the seafood and ordered a crab appetizer I had seen in the window and then grilled scampi for the second course. The crab was a big portion of crabmeat actually served in the shell. It was good, but a little dry. I had gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce for my primo. This was recommended by the waiter, and would become one of my favorite things to order during our 11 weeks in Italy. Kelly wasn’t that hungry and just had some buttered pasta. Charley had ravioli for his first course and roast chicken for a second course. We both had dessert, but Kelly even skipped dessert.

When Mama came to our table to figure out our bill, it all was a bit confusing and our bill came in at €88, over 100 US dollars, which shocked Charley and me, even though we had really enjoyed our meal. Mama just kind of came over and scribbled all these numbers on a piece of paper-- then showed us the numbers. I think Charley offended Mama because he questioned the bill. It turned out that my two seafood courses combined were €30. I should never have ordered the crab appetizer. Stupid me; I saw the pile of crabmeat in the big shell and didn’t even ask how much it was. It never occurred to me that it might be that expensive. (This price may be just fine for people on a "normal" vacation, but we were on a 14 month trip and weren't in a position to spend over US$100 on dinner at a little trattoria.)

As a postscript, I'll mention that on our last morning in Venice, we passed "Mama" on the street. I nodded and smiled and said "Buon Giorno, Signora." She recognized us and gave me a big smile.

Despite our shock over our bill (our own fault), we would definitely recommend this little place. We would have gone back the next night if we hadn't blown our budget on our first meal!

Reviewed by: Annie M from NY, review #1361

When: 2005

We enjoyed a delicious, reasonably priced dinner at Trattoria Ai Cugnai, a smallish, family-run trattoria with comfortable indoor & outdoor seating.

In June, 2005, upon our arrival in Venice, we took a water taxi from the airport to our hotel (Pensione la Calcina) and asked our water taxi driver if he knew where we could get a good fegato alla veneziana. He thought and thought and at first came up blank, explaining that most young people don't care for the old style Venetian dishes and a lot of restaurants are now serving more modern fare. We had a nice conversation about the pleasures of trying piatti tipici from different regions. Then he remembered Trattoria Ai Cugnai, and we were very glad he did. It's in Dorsoduro, a very short walk from La Calcina.

The two of us had an excellent fegato alla veneziana, seafood fritto misto, spider crab (the meat was picked clean, mixed with seasonings and stuffed back into the shell for serving), sauteed shrimp, dessert, espresso, limoncello - all delicious. Our bill of €95 included a liter of house red wine.

Service is by Edde - one of the sisters who, along with their husbands, run Ai Cugnai. Edde is funny, quirky and charming in her own special way as she quickly moves from table to table, chatting, making suggestions, taking orders, serving food, never skipping a beat and never writing anything down.

One night, after a not-too-satisfying meal elsewhere, we stopped in again at Ai Cugnai, explained that we had already eaten but had a craving for their spider crab. They were sweet, friendly, welcoming and had no problem serving the two of us just one spider crab and a quarter litre of white wine.

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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