A Priceless food fare in Timeless Venice.

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A maze of waterways, bridges and tiny squares abound the magical city of Venice. Gondolas strung along canals in front of ageless buildings had been the hallmark of this timeless city. I waited with baited breath to witness this unique cityscape. Being a person who likes to tread the untrodden path, I wanted to wander along its alleys among the dilapidated but brightly hued buildings. The city of Marco Polo, Titian and Vivaldi with age old history and splendid views unfolded all at once before my eyes. The picture fitted perfectly into the frame of Venice, I had in my mind since childhood. The dream and reality all merged in this fairy tale journey. Knowing the fact that Venice is the city to stuff oneself with spectacular art and a distinctive fish based cuisine, I set out to venture authentic Venetian food. Unfortunately, Venice is an expensive city to eat, with lots of rip-off restaurants targeted at tourists.   Apprehensive of the authenticity of food served at fancy restaurants, I usually opt for places where the locals flock.

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With a little help from the reception desk at my hotel, I decided to explore and find my kind of fun in the not so touristy areas of Venice. I experienced the fun of being lost in the countless alleys. The thrill doubled as I stumbled on Piazza Santa Margherita in the Dorsoduro district of Venice. The piazza being in the vicinity of University of Venice is characterized by a variety of cafes, restaurants, gelato shops and student bars. It is starkly different with a neighborhood lacking any historic illustration. A cobble stone town square with gothic architecture is visible with open courtyards and stairways. The church of Santa Margherita can be seen in the northern side of the square. According to locals this church now mainly serves as the auditorium for the university. The ambience is young, hip and happening .The mood is festive. I could clearly draw a parallel with College Street, Coffee house and university area back home in my town Kolkata.  It is also a market place where the locals buy their daily fish, fruits and vegetables. One gets to mingle with the locals and enjoy the true flavor and essence of Venezia. The location appealed to my senses and confirmed my conviction that this was the home to some of the best food I would ever find in Venice. With the guidance of some friendly locals we headed to sample some simple, inexpensive and hearty food. The open air seating arrangements with fluttering colorful shades   was inviting indeed. To top it we had the warm and friendly welcome of an attendant to escort us within.  It was one of the many inconspicuous restaurants  but it is a place I am certain to head back time and again. The decor within was very basic with brick and wooden tables and chairs. Venetian cuisine is known to be based on sea food, crabs mostly the soft shell variety and cuttle fish are the most favored ones. The Bengali within me lurks out with the smell of fish in any form. Italian food is known for being soul food cooked with very few basic ingredients sans the frills.  As we flipped through the menu, we were baffled by the five pages of pizza varieties .The toppings could boggle the most imaginative of customers.  There were choices galore even with the pasta, meat and fish options. The choices on wine were lucrative and we settled for their exclusive house wine. This rambling restaurant had an amazing range of antipasti of seafood salad, prosciutto and pickled vegetables. When in Venice eat like a Venetian and we did savor the Risotto, the creamy rice dish prepared with vegetables and shell fish. The trade mark dish of fried sardines pickled in olive oil, onions, pine nuts and raisins had been my personal favorite. While my companion delighted himself with the raving regional delicacy of polenta with calf liver and onion. I decided to go with the Cod creamed with milk and olive oil suggested by the attendant,which too was truly delicious. Not to try and miss  on the baccala and bigoli, a local short and thick spaghetti served with Nero Di Seppio, which is squid ink sauce would be a sacrilege. To wrap up this ultimate Venetian dining experience there was the tiramisu. The generous portions served and the quality of food had been much higher than the prices here. The friendly accommodating service, the low prices and the pleasantly surprising absence of cover and service charges”the corpeto “and “servicei” made it a memorable value dining experience.

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