One wet Sunday I visited Mazzorbo, another island in the Venetian lagoon, about 35 minutes on the vaporetto north from Venice.
It’s a very quiet island so there’s not much for visitors to do here, except for eating at one of its excellent restaurants, more of which later. The next ferry stop is Burano which has a lot more eye candy, and the best restaurant of all (see coming posts), so if you’re short of time on your holiday, you could probably skip Mazzorbo. If time isn’t an issue, you can do both on foot as there is a bridge connecting the two.
You’ll find everywhere I mention on my map (key top left).
The most interesting sight for a foodie is the walled vineyard at the eastern end of the island. Once a working farm it was bought by the Venice council, restored and opened to the public.
The Campanile di Sant’Angelo watches over the bucolic setting. The vineyard produces an ancient grape varietal called Dorona which can only be found here and on the neighbouring island of Sant’Erasmo (ask for it at your restaurant).
The vineyard is also the location of Venissa venissa.it, a Michelin-starred restaurant. I was tempted to go for a meal there at sunset (recommended) but I felt the experience would be best in the company of another person, so I left it for another time. Venissa also has a cheaper osteria next door if you can’t stretch to Michelin prices.
My first choice for lunch was Trattoria Al Gatto Nero on Burano (see next post), but I couldn’t get in on this occasion, so I went instead to my third choice, just a couple of doors down from Venissa…
Trattoria alla Maddalena (Intermediate B), 7/b Fondamenta di Santa Caterina, www.trattoriamaddalena.com
Sadly though I didn’t have the experience I was hoping for here (unlike my good foodie friend Nicky who loved it) but I think I was just there at the wrong time (on a rainy day in the off season during a Covid lockdown) and I didn’t make the best dish selections.
Being a huge lover of prawns I’m always intrigued to try local varieties so for my antipasti I went for the Gambretti di Laguna Olio, Limone con Polenta (16€). I wasn’t prepared for the extreme simplicity of this dish, boiled prawns and (for me) virtually flavourless Biancoperla polenta (as opposed to yellow Polenta Gialla), so I didn’t score it very highly (C-).
Thankfully things picked up however with the next dish; Moeche Fritte con Polenta Grigliata (20€); local lagoon crabs caught at a specific point in their development when, for just a few hours, they have soft shells. This is the traditional preparation, dipped in a batter of egg and flour, deep-fried and served with the more tasty grilled version of Biancoperla polenta (B).
This was the Dolci del Giorno, no doubt delicious, especially with a glass of Passito of some description (notes lost, apols, but a B for both at least I’m sure).
So not a perfect meal but I would still return with Nicky if we could snag a table in the garden on a summer day and share their Risotto di Gò, a traditional rice dish made with ghiozzi fish (known locally as gò). She also loves the starter of steamed Canoce (local mantis shrimp).
A final Grappa Segnana sent me on my merry way.
After lunch I finished my walk around the island. At the western end I looked in on Chiesa di Santa Caterina, a 13th century church, the only one of ten that once stood on this tiny island. The church bell is the oldest in the lagoon, dating from 1318.
Although these northern islands were the location of the original settlement in the lagoon, they became depopulated when Venice began to be developed. In 1979 in an attempt to help to repopulate the island, the architect Giancarlo De Carlo built a new neighbourhood of brightly painted houses here. It’s nothing like Burano but it does help to brighten the place up a bit.
Next to the houses there is a small cemetery.
From in front of the cemetery gate you can get nice views across the water to Burano.
Shortly after this you come to the footbridge over to Burano, more of which in my next post…