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Report 1085: Venice For Five Weeks
By Boleskine from NJ, Spring 2006
Page 22 of 34: Martedi 9 Maggio 2006
Arches on Rio di San Felice Entrance to al Fontego dei Pescatori
It is raining hard at 6:45 so I go back to bed; it is raining, at 7:50, and so I go back to bed again; it is raining at 8;45, but I cannot sleep anymore so I get up and get dressed.
There are three huge workboats outside of our window; they seem to be preparing to remove the floating dock from the Pisani Moretta, but when Martin gets up, the dock is still there although one boat has left. In fact, I had actually thought the dock was already gone because the third boat was blocking it. Every once in a while, the workers stop and bail out their boats, and then go back to whatever it takes to prepare the dock for transit.
Suddenly the men knock over one of the gray mooring poles, and now that too has to be loaded into a boat. By 10:30 they are finished and pull away; we are still sitting there, having been joined by Sarah, hoping the rain will let up a little before we walk to Ciak's. It finally seems to have decreased from a downpour to a light rain so the three of us slosh up to Ciak's which is mobbed.
There has been another political demonstration in the Campo San Toma. The flags look similar to the ones people had last winter when they were asking the Comune for more money, but since the flags are either furled or wrapped around people as rain jackets, it is hard to tell for sure. We work our way in towards the counter, and suddenly there is a gap big enough for three people. The crew at Ciak's is remarkable. They really work as a team, and they have obviously noticed us because almost as soon as we belly up to the bar a kiefer appears in front of me and another in front of Martin. Martin snags the last croissant in the case for Sarah, and immediately the warming case is removed from the counter opening up another two or three places at which people can stand with their coffee on the counter. Quick as a wink we have our espresso and Sarah has her caffe americano.
We all appreciate how the staff works like a well oiled machine - I seem to be on a cliché kick today - but they really do seem to anticipate customers' wishes and needs, and also go about their business without getting in one another's way and needing very few directions.
We pay up and leave to make room for more soggy demonstrators; some are standing outside under the overhang of the building and others are still arriving from the nearby campo.
Sarah and Martin go off on an errand, and I walk over to Artemisia to check my e-mail. Davide's father is there, and I enjoy listening to him speak Italian; he speaks slowly and clearly even to those who also speak Italian, and I can follow a lot of what he says.
When I am done, I tell him I heard him mention Pozzuoli, and that although the woman with whom he was speaking to did not know it, we had been there five years ago. We talk for a few minutes, and then I walk back home. It is still raining but not very hard, and I have never minded getting wet. There are lots of overhangs for protection, and right now on the calle, leading to the supermarket, there is scaffolding up and that gives shelter for quite a distance along the calle. In the very narrow calles, there is always some protection too; in fact, I get the wettest as I walk across the open courtyard from the gate to our building.
Brian is up and everyone is reading or finishing reading the IHT. Waiting for me is a huge bouquet of flowers that Sarah and Martin have bought as an early Mother's Day gift so I will have lots of time to enjoy them. There are big orange daisy like flowers, white roses, peach/apricot roses, tiny little yellow flowers and another sort of delicate white flower the name of which escapes me. It is a lush and lovely bouquet with unusual colors in the oranges/peach/apricot hues.
Martin arranges them for me in our umbrella stand; he even improvises a frog so they stand tall above the rim of the stand so we can really see the shape and graceful arrangement of the flowers.
After I have finished the paper, I make some French toast for Martin and me. Sarah and Brian want a pizza, and Brian has already tried once to get one, but the calles and the stand were so mobbed, he came home. He goes back abut 30 minutes later; he returns promptly this time with a pizza topped with the spicy salami Sarah and he both like.
I cook our last four pieces of affumicata, and then make French toast with some of the bread we got yesterday. We use the apricot jam Martin had bought at the supermarket, and it is wonderful; there are actually little chunks of apricot in it.
In the early afternoon, we observe that the traghetto does not seem to be running, yet the rain must have stopped because a lot of the workboats have lowered their little zip up compartments, and on those that do not have compartments, the workmen have bare heads and are no longer holding umbrellas. It is still very gray, but maybe the day will improve.
It is cool now, which is nice too. Tonight we are going to Al Fontego dei Pescaori, which is the restaurant across the Rio San Felice from Vini da Gigio; we do not have a long walk from the vaporetto but it is always easier if it is not raining. A stiff breeze seems to be coming from the north, but I do not know if that is a good or bad omen.
Several times in the afternoon I think about going out for a walk, but I have started reading Kazuo Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go', and it is as oddly compelling as his other novels and a lot creepier than the ones I have read so cannot bring myself to put it down. Eventually I stop reading and iron all the pillowcases and the duvet cover we have washed. When Sarah and Brian leave, no one will be using their bed since Tom, David and Lorena are not coming, but we will still want to change our bed once or twice before we go home.
Once again, I consider going out for walk, but this time Tom calls just before I leave. He wants to tell us that cousins of Lorena and the boy fried of one of them all are coming to Venice from Paris to see David, who will now not be here. Tom wants to know if we are willing to show them around, which is no problem, and in fact, should be fun. He adds that Lorena would like us to offer them our spare room, which is a bit of a problem. We do not know them at all, and to reach that back room it is necessary to walk through our bedroom. I am very comfortable doing that with our children and a few very close friends, but it is a little too cozy for me to share with strangers. Tom says Lorena is not even sure whether they have hotel reservations; she just knows they have already bought their plane tickets.
I am really very upset; each conversation makes me realize even more how much I miss that little guy, and how much it hurts to know it will be at least two weeks more before I see him. We settle for telling Tom that we will be glad to spend time with Lorena's cousins, and if they do not have hotel reservations, we will try to find them a place to stay, but we think it is better if they stay some place on their own especially since the bed in the back room is a queen sized bed, and there are three of them.
We take a vaporetto down to Ca D'oro. It is cooler than I expected, which is fine with me. We notice the water seems higher than usual, but since we do not know the hour of high tide, we are not sure if it is at its peak or will be continuing to rise while we dine.
It is a short walk to Fondaco dei Pescaori. We just go down the calle past the Ca’d’ Oro to the Strada Nove, a left turn on the strada and then a right turn into the little campiello just before the bridge. We follow the Calle de Felice to the Calle del Priuli. A quick right and we are at the garden entrance. There is another entrance to Al Fontego dei Pescaori almost directly opposite Vini di Gigio, but in spring and summer, they prefer people to enter through their garden.
The room in which we are seated has lots of paintings of Venice on the walls; it is warm and bright with the colors from the paintings and pink and white tablecloths.
Almost at once, we are given glasses of good Prosecco and menus. There is also a menu with a special tasting dinner, and some special daily plates. Sarah and I opt for the special pasta of orecchiette with seafood and white asparagus, which is sensational. Martin and Brian go for the bigoli with duck sauce. The bigoli is superb but the duck sauce at Vini di Gigio was better, although this is very good. With this, we drink a 2005 Muller Thurgau from the Alto Adige from Franz Haas. It is crisp, clean, and fresh and goes wonderfully with the pasta.
For our secondos Sarah, Brian and I all have the Pesce San Pietro with spinach. The San Pietro is excellent, and the spinach is so good that even Brian eats all his and he is not a big veggie eater. Martin has the branzino which comes topped with a wonderful frizzle of zucchini that is outstanding. With this course we drink a 2004 Falanghina, Villa Matilda, Rocca dei Leoni, Benventano. This wine is similar to a better balanced Pinto Grigio, and goes beautifully with our fish entrees.
For dessert, Martin and Sarah have the tiramisu which is excellent; once again, I must admit it is a serious rival for my own version which I make following the recipe of a friend who lives outside of Bologna. I ask for the biscotti, one of the other offerings, and am brought a plate with several small vanilla and chocolate almond butter cookies. They are good, and I eat more of them than I should.
Brian asks what dessert wines they have. We are offered a fragolino and another dessert wine - a red that is called a Moscato Rosa; it is from Franz Haas in the Alto Adige and is a 2002 vintage. It is not inexpensive, but, wow, is it wonderful! The owner stops by to talk to us. He tells us he has had a stand in the fish market for over 20 years, but only worked in a restaurant for a little over a year before buying this restaurant three months ago. He apologizes for his English which is really quite good. I tell him in Italian that his English is better than my Italian, and he responds that he thinks they are equal. Then, I tell him I must speak very good Italian.
He makes sure we know that at least one of the waiters speaks fluent English should we prefer that to trying to speak or understand Italian. We tell him that Martin and I will be back soon, and Sarah and Brian will be back on their next trip to Venice. We also mention that Luca at Riviera recommended both his place and Vini da Gigio which we had already visited. In fact, we can see one of the waiters from Vini da Gigio, which is closed tonight, is eating in Fontego. When we are brought the conto, Sarah and I each are given little Murano glass candies. A few years ago, these glass candies were everywhere, which is precisely why I had never bought any, but they are very pretty. Mine is clear glass with vivid green striations and the bow tie ends are a rich green. It is a lovely souvenir.
It is raining lightly when we leave, but we make it to the vaporetto stop without getting too wet since we have thought ahead and brought umbrellas. The #1 arrives almost at once, and we enjoy the fresh cool air for the short ride back to San Toma. When we are inside, Sarah and Brian finish packing and set their alarm for 5:30 YIKES! They will have a very long day tomorrow; we have another 12 days before facing the same early rising and long day ourselves.
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