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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Magical Dining in Venice

Lucky me that I’m currently in Venice for the week of Carnivale.  Some of you Italian foodies may recognize the name Fred Plotkin, author of one of my favorite books, Italy for the Gourmet Traveler.   I had long been a raving fan of his before our paths happen to cross 10 years ago in a bakery on the Italian Riviera.  When he learned I was heading to Venice, he shared one of his new favorite restaurants:  “No one knows about La Zucca and it’s hard to find.”  Sounded like my kind of place.  I’ve been dining at this gem of a place ever since.

La Zucca is now on every gourmand’s radar.  In Fred’s latest edition of his Bible on where to eat in Italy he writes, “This restaurant is no longer a secret and has become immensely popular.”  Indeed, it’s the kind of place one wants to keep private, but on the other hand, the food is so magnifico that it begs to be shared with other food lovers---especially in Venice where moderate-priced restaurants of its caliber are sorely lacking.

Months ago before I started getting my masquerade ball costumes made, I made sure the concierge of our Venetian hotel called to snag us a reservation at La Zucca (note: the restaurant only accepts phone reservations---neither faxes nor emails).   Originally opened as a vegetarian restaurant, (La Zucca means pumpkin) it has expanded its menu to include items such as rabbit and lamb.  My favorite dish out of them all is their pumpkin flan---it’s easy to understand why this magical plate is their signature dish. 

Fred Plotkin was right in that La Zucca is difficult to find, so be prepared for an adventure.  It’s located about 50 yards from the church of San Giacomo dell’ Orio (which sits on one of the most beautiful residential squares in all of Venice—come here if you want to see what it’s like to be a true Venetian).  Ask for directions from one of the locals in the square.

With only 35 seats, an advance reservation is imperative.  If you’re in Venice in the summer months, request one of their few highly coveted outside seats along the tiny canal.  And, don’t leave Venice without tasting their pumpkin flan.  Buon appetito!

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