If by the old industry axiom, the three most important things for a restaurant are “location, location, location,” then the restaurant called De Pisis at the Hotel Bauer on the Grand Canal in Venice pretty much has it covered. Executive chef Giovanni Ciresa welcomed me in for a tasting overlooking the water at the Bauer’s ancient Palazzo, and there’s a lot to be said for enjoying terrific food and wine with a view of Santa Maria della Salute and San Giorgio Maggiore. In fact, if gluttony is a sin, either church might come in handy for confession after my ten-course tasting.
I have to admit I had a head start, riding in the Bauer’s launch across the festive canal to Giudecca Island to the hotel’s Paladdio garden property complete with spa, a favorite of princes and princesses everywhere. Here I am, in fact, finishing a tasting of the wines from Colmello di Grotta in the nearby Friuli region with the owner of both hotel and winery, Francesca Bortolotto Possati. Our smiling server from Cameroon was fluent in English, French and Italian, with some German and Spanish thrown in.
Among the highlights of a ten-course dinner tasting, it might seem strange to bother mentioning the bread. But at De Pisis, named after an Italian artist, even this collection of breads was an indisputable work of art. When in doubt, I always prefer the thin and crispy.
Major league interest came from the chef’s little items sent out to enjoy with your glass (or, in my case, glasses) of sparkling prosecco. All seemed to involve pastry and all seemed to involve some variety of Italian cheese. Not a bad way to begin a meal, watching the gondole slip by on the Grand Canal.
By this point, just about everybody’s had risotto somewhere – usually with Parmesan cheese and, if you’re lucky, a little asparagus. Yet any ranking of risotto in Italy that’s worth its salt has to include Chef Ciresa’s version made with carnaroli rice, carrot, a touch of orange zest and chicory leaves.
Lamb lovers of the world unite! Chef Ciresa’s meat course featured at least four versions, from the tender and flavorful chop to the spicy sausage. I usually don’t like dishes that even potentially might be called “a study of,” but this lamb dish was amazing.
What really made my ten-course tasting sinful was having the three final courses be devoted to dessert. No boring mainstream tiramusu for De Pisis. Each of the first two entries involved fruit in some way, orange in the first with creamy gelato and then pineapple.
But I especially enjoyed this cookie platter that showed up at the very end.
Typically I walk everywhere in Venice. But since the wine tasting followed by the food tasting lasted five hours, from 7 p.m. till just after midnight, I figured I’d better splurge and take the vaporetto water taxi home. And this, in case you’ve ever wondered, is what the Grand Canal in Venice looks like in the dark after too much wine.