TALES FROM VENICE, POLPO AND BEYOND

Eat Dessert And Give Back

Spring is one of our favourite months, not least so because gloriously pink rhubarb can jump on the menu. £1 from every panna cotta with rhubarb goes to the charity Refuge.

We initially partnered with Refuge for a month long campaign we hosted to celebrate women within the hospitality industry… we thought it was important to support a charity whilst we were exploring issues around women’s rights (hospitality focused and otherwise) and Refuge seemed like the natural fit. Throughout the campaign month we hosted several events with speakers from the charity discussing the work they do – these engaged and motivated us so much that we quickly decided that our partnership needed to remain past the campaign month.

The work that Refuge does is vital, and our support is more crucial than ever due to government funding ever decreasing. The team that work within the charity are incredible and have engaged with all of our management teams to make sure the message in why we are doing what we are doing remains strong. We raised nearly £5,000 in March, this figure equates to the equivalent of 94 nights in a refuge for a woman and her children and we are determined to get this figure up and up!

Aperitivo Time Relaunch!

Our relationship with Campari goes way back. When we opened the doors of POLPO, Beak Street way back in 2009, we KNEW that our tribute to the Venetian bàcaro had to showcase the luminous orange and red favourite red cocktails of the floating city. These were our hero products and we were proud of introducing the spritz to the thirsty streets of Soho. A slug of Aperol or Campari, a slosh of white wine and a top-up of soda water – perfection.

We opened and many customers expressed curiosity. Few were used to seeing Campari as a component of cocktails, but the vast majority of Londoners hadn’t come across it before. Our little restaurant in Soho was pumping out more Campari and Aperol than any other unit in the UK… fast forward nearly 10 years (!) and you cannot leave the house on a sunny day without seeing happy faces with glowing drinks in their hands. We love it.

You will notice that our restaurant walls are adorned with vintage Campari and Aperol artwork. Naming of three of our underground bars is dedicated to our relationship – Campari Room, Aperol Bar and Negroni Bar.

POLPO, Campari, Aperol. We are synonymous with each other.

So we thought it was about time we celebrated our friendship by relaunching Aperitivo Time with the extended hours of 3-6pm. Throughout this time you can get a cocktail and bar snacks of black truffle crisps & Bella di Cerignola olives for just FIVE POUNDS, select cicheti pieces can be bought additionally at £1 each.

Come and celebrate with us! We will see you at the bar!

The Best Places to Eat and Drink in Venice – 2018

My two favourite restaurants in Venice at the moment are Alle Testiere and Antiche Carampane. The first is tiny, extremely friendly and has an impressive market-to-table philosophy. It concentrates on fish and seafood and has an excellent daily-changing menu. Good wines too. The second place has a similar approach, but focuses on traditional Venetian dishes and local recipes. Both usually packed with locals and food tourists – always a good sign. Booking essential. Ask for my friends Luca at the first and Francesco at the second. Both places are closed Sunday and Monday.

Another favourite restaurant, Al Covo, is also highly recommended, with a very warm welcome from Cesare and his American wife Diane. Excellent cooking, very classy service. Do make sure you check all their winter opening times – Alle Testiere, for example, closes on 24 December and doesn’t reopen until late January! Ai Artisti is a relatively new place near Campo San Barnaba and is very good indeed. Small (20 seats) so booking is essential. The young Japanese head chef, Masahiro Homma, cooks Venetian classics with real precision and flair. Front of house run by the lovely Kiko (who used to run Antiche Carampane, above) and the owner Vincenzo.

I have had several really brilliant times at Paradiso Perduto recently. Lively, scruffy and fun with great home-made pasta. Cacio e pepe is excellent and prepared at the tableside. Cash only but it is not expensive. Live music on Mondays when there is always a large crowd. The rest of the menu is good but it’s definitely the most fun place to be in the evening. Full of students, artists, poets, philosophers and actors. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

A nice way to spend a bright afternoon is to go to La Cantina, ask for my friends Francesco or Natasha, and drink local wines with a plate of two of excellent cold cuts and Venetian sashimi. It is one of the best places for simple but delicious food and great for people watching. (Disclaimer: I have heard rumours that this place is changing hands soon.)

A really excellent place for proper home cooking is Dalla Marisa. It is small and cramped with no frills or refinements but the cooking is honest and delicious. It’s always packed with local workers at lunch, and has more the atmosphere of a works canteen than a restaurant. I love it. Terrific value for money.

The best bacaro (snack & wine bar) is All’Arco. Ask for Matteo. Also go to Alla Vedova for a glass of wine and a meatball at the counter and Cantinone già Schiavi for traditional cicheti. All excellent and great fun! For drinks, if you want to get down with the kids, go to Caffè Rosso in Campo Santa Margherita. Spritzes to your heart’s content. There’s a wine bar near Rialto called I Rusteighi – hard to find but really lovely and romantic at night. Ask for Giovanni – quite a character!

Finally, remember that Venetians are proud of their history, heritage and culinary traditions. If someone recommends a dish at one of the places we mention, it is usually because it’s fantastic, it is fresh in, or it is seasonal/important. Despite what you read, the vast majority of serious Venetians want you to have an authentic experience and are not out to rip you off.

Do mention my name and POLPO; we are well known to most of the food heroes of the city.

Russell Norman, March 2018

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